National campaign aims to encourage debate around adult education

The campaign was designed to mark the centenary of the 1919 Ministry of Reconstruction’s Final Report on Adult Education

Co-op organisations have joined a national campaign to prompt a debate on adult education.

Launched on 11 March at Holyoake House in Manchester, the campaign marks the centenary of the 1919 Ministry of Reconstruction’s Final Report on Adult Education, which defined adult education as “an inseparable aspect of citizenship”.

The anniversary campaign will run a series of activities focused on adult education, including lectures and coffee mornings. Those taking part are also encouraged to join the debate and share their opinions online and across social media using #AdultEducation100.

The campaign, alongside the 1919 Centenary Commission, is supported by the WEA; Co-operative College; Raymond Williams Foundation; University of Nottingham; Kellogg College and the University of Oxford.

Ruth Spellman
Ruth Spellman, CEO of the WEA, speaking at the launch event

Ruth Spellman, CEO of the WEA, explained how her organisation was born in 1903 to provide educational opportunities for working people.

“The founding members of the WEA played a key role in the Ministry of Reconstruction’s Adult Education Committee,” she said. “Over the decades, we have changed and adapted but we have kept our community roots and recruited students from every background, class and age.

“The 1919 report came at a pivotal time when Britain faced immense economic, political and social challenges. Today’s challenges are no less profound and the centenary provides a vital opportunity to reflect on the needs and possibilities for adult education today and into the century ahead.

“We encourage all those who understand the value and importance of adult education to take part in the campaign. As we know without those opportunities for learning, individuals, communities and the nation as a whole will be much poorer.”

Simon Parkinson, chief executive and principal of the Co-operative College, added: “100 years on from the release of the original report, the launch of today’s campaign serves as a reminder of the importance of adult education, not only to the individuals who study and learn but also to the communities in which they live.

Ed Mayo
Co-operatives UK secretary general Ed Mayo welcomes guests to the event

“As an organisation that itself celebrates 100 years of delivering education and training in 2019, the Co-operative College knows only too well the transformative power that education can have. With a number of challenges on the horizon, including the ever changing nature of the world of work, we’re confident that co-operatives can lend a powerful voice and expertise to what is undoubtedly a matter of national importance.”

Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK, said: “A focus on education is a fundamental part of being a co-op, and lifelong learning opens doors and opportunities. I would encourage everyone to support the campaign to celebrate 100 years of adult education, continuing this important legacy into the 21st century.”