Activities outside Parliament

Wales Labour Party Conference, Swansea

Education and Lifelong Learning Debate - Recognising the Needs of Part-time Adult Learners

2nd March 2001


I am proud to speak here in this debate as the Prospective Parliamentary Labour Candidate for Aberavon, not least because of the constituency's long-standing commitment to education – and very proud with the recent successes of Cymmer Afan and Sandfields Comprehensive Schools.

Conference should warmly welcome the Education and Lifelong Learning document and particularly its emphasis on the importance of a Labour Partnership between the Governments in Westminster, in the Assembly and on putting into practice our core Labour values of social justice, equality of opportunity, employment for all, equal access to education, and health care.

The Adult Learner

I want to speak specifically about the adult learner in Wales and the progress made under Labour since the 1997 and 1999 elections.

I believe the revised document needs to be more focussed and more challenged by the needs of part-time adult learners in Wales and the diversity of their needs.

I understand delegates being concerned about full time eighteen year old higher education students, but we need to remind ourselves of the growth and diversity of lifelong learning in Wales and the progress made by Labour at all level since 1997.

NIACE Dysgu Cymru

To begin with we have a new adult learners body in Wales. It is called NIACE Dysgu Cymru (NDC) and it acts as an advocate for adult learners.

And this new body has been given substantial new funding thanks to support firstly from Tom Middlehurst and more recently Jane Davidson. NDC has helped set up an all party Assembly Advisory group which meets for the first time next week.

NDC's vision of Wales: A Learning Country and of active citizenship has been enthusiastically adopted by the National Assembly's Communities First Strategy.

Diversity: the Aberavon Way

And to illustrate the diversity of part time adult learning now being encouraged thanks to the Labour Government just look at a few examples from my own constituency of Aberavon.

Labour controlled NPTCBC has given priority to its Objective One funded New Learning Network. The Network is in many ways inspired by the community groups like the DOVE Workshop which grew out of the struggles of the 1980s. Now new community initiatives like the Glyncorrwg Ponds ICT programmes will benefit from this new network.

Then there are the Shaw-Trust training programmes at Llandarcy which provide disabled people with confidence and skills to live more fulfilled and abundant lives. And we should acknowledge Glenys Kinnock's sterling work in Europe in assisting this development.

And then the work of the Port Talbot Muslim Welfare Association assisting their members with proposed programmes from Arabic to ICT, in partnership with local providers, again thanks to Objective One funding.

Across Wales

Across Wales again thanks to Labour working in partnership we have unions like GPMU, ISTC and UCATT all renewing and rebuilding their educational programmes through Labour's Welsh Union Learning Fund.

Again, the idea of the Community University for part time adult learners is now encouraged across the whole of Wales from Banwen to Tredegar to Blaenau Ffestiniog – all responding to the needs identified by the Assembly's Multiple Deprivation Index.

And lastly, the forthcoming National Assembly and Westminster funded, 'Let Paul Robeson Sing!' exhibition at the National Museum in April will have an array of associated community based multi-cultural anti-racist educational programmes – supported by unions, business and the Bevan Foundation.

Conference should welcome the social justice and partnership ethos of the consultation document but let's be even more radical and identify and meet the diverse equal opportunity needs of all learners whether they are challenged by lack of income, by cultural background or by disability.

Hywel Francis, 2nd March 2001

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