Schools as the creators of lifelong, life wide learners

Sunday 29th November 2020

As part of the annual Festival of Learning, I recently had the opportunity to contribute, as a panelist, to an excellent Workers’ Educational Association webinar involving over 300 participants, drawn mainly from the spheres of adult and community learning, vocational training, lifelong learning and Further Education and entitled The Ages of Learning.

Each of us offered a perspective on the challenges of building, post pandemic, a wider culture of learning, and I offered the first reflection – on how schools might play a role in building such a culture. Here are the twelve observations that I offered in my seven minute time slot:

1. Those entering Reception Class this year will find their careers in industries that don’t yet exist, producing goods and services not yet invented, serving needs we don’t (yet) know we have

2. Schooling is a part of our lifelong learning journey, not a pre-cursor to it

3. If the social and community functions of schooling are downplayed, learning suffers

4.Good grades are important but wholly insufficient

5. Ten GCSEs amounts to ten variations on a theme, not educational breadth

6. The curriculum is a statement of what we believe is sufficiently important to pass on to the next generation

7. The obsession with “coverage and catch-up” can inhibit the development of a culture of learning and the proper concern for wellbeing

8. Developing a love of learning and the capacity to learn, unlearn and relearn is vital

9. Learning in adulthood has to build on schooling, not simply act as a corrective to it

10. The education-employment “work hard and get on” contract must be urgently revisited

11. Our schools are descended from industrial models of organisation, rather than grown from bespoke learner needs; what kind of system might we create if we started with learner need?

12. We need to shift our focus from ‘attainment-first’ to ‘inclusion-first’, if we are to widen participation and engage all learners for the long term

Feedback welcome, both from those concerned with education during the statutory school years and those who focus on working with adult learners, of various ages, needs and motivations, in a variety of settings.

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Lessons From Lockdown
For too long, changes to the education system have been driven by political considerations, short -term difficulties and even, at times, nostalgia. Lessons From Lockdown sets out why this piecemeal approach to reform needs stop and provides an invaluable contribution to the debate that now must take place.
Rosemary Bennet
Former Education Editor, The Times