Matthew Taylor delivers WEA Annual Lecture 2018

Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA, delivered the 2018 Annual Lecture – ‘A Place for Learning’- on Tuesday to a packed house at the RSA.

Matthew Taylor, a former head of the Number 10 Policy Unit under Tony Blair, explored the theme of how places play a crucial role in our engagement with learning; highlighting the importance of community-based learning, through to the infrastructure which supports lifelong learning at a local and national level. 

He spoke about the challenge of raising the profile and impact of adult learning, and said that its value is currently under-recognised. He suggested we celebrate adult education by an annual award for places of learning. These could be cities but they might also be towns, countries, villages, even organisations but the competition would allow places to showcase lifelong learning. In contrast to the European Capital of Culture contest, each year would see a number of winning candidates each with different things to offer and display.

In addition to Matthew, the lecture included a welcome from WEA Chief Executive, Ruth Spellman and Trevor Phillips, WEA Chair, who joined Matthew Taylor for a Q&A with the audience. The event encouraged lots of engagement with the virtual audience through the live stream and the audience at the event and was trending on Twitter with the #RSAWEA hashtag. 

In the Q&A, Matthew Taylor highlighted how adult education is under-valued in politics but emphasised that he feels it has a huge role to play in meeting a range of rising challenges including low skills, aging population, social isolation, mental health, and political engagement. He also highlighted that we need a national framework for employability skills with adult education, informal and work based initiatives playing a major role.

Ruth Spellman, Chief Executive said: “We have to move beyond thinking that education for 16, 18 or 21 is sufficient as the current education system is not fit for purpose. We are calling for a national lifelong learning strategy, which recognises that an exclusive focus on young people will leave employers in the lurch and our economy trailing behind. In addition to ensuring adults get a fair share of new investment by rebalancing the funding. 

“The ‘place of learning contest’ is a very interesting concept and with significant investment could allow lifelong learning in communities to flourish. Being creative in how we create the jobs of the future, ensuring everyone has a fair chance in life, and developing the skills we need for future prosperity is the only way forward.

“The WEA has been delivering education for adults of all ages in local communities since 1903 and any commitment to learning on this scale would be welcomed.  There is lots of great work happening in communities across the country already and by joining forces and working together to drive local learning could be the start of something great. Focusing on where we live and how we live is critical if we are to shape the modern world and meet some of our pressing economic challenges, as well as ensuring no community is left behind.”

Watch the full lecture below.

WEA Annual Lecture 2018 - A Place for Learning