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Lifelong Learning (Coalfields)

Volume 300: debated on Thursday 13 November 1997

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What assessment he has made of the coalfields learning initiative partnership; and if he will make a statement on the long-term financial security of grassroots lifelong learning projects in coalfield areas. [14331]

It is too early to form an assessment of the coalfields learning initiative partnership, but we welcome its provision of adult education learning opportunities in former coalfield areas. Lifelong learning and the creation of a learning society are at the heart of our education and training policies.

Projects within the partnership have been an excellent vehicle for driving forward the Government's commitment to lifelong learning processes and the reduction of unemployment, especially in places such as the Acorn centre in Grimethorpe in my constituency. Does my hon. Friend agree that such schemes are now established as a key component of post-16 education in the coalfield areas? Will he make the Further Education Funding Council aware of their success?

My hon. Friend has drawn the attention of the House to an important project which is operating in a hard-hit area. Indeed, nowhere has been hit harder than Grimethorpe. I know that my hon. Friend is doing an excellent job in representing the interests of his constituents.

I hope that the partnership will look to European structural funds for support and examine every opportunity to use partnership approaches for funding in future when the present arrangements come to an end. I shall certainly bring my hon. Friend's suggestion to the FEFC's attention.