My strong commitment to adult and community learning is well known. It is shared by my Secretary of State and the Prime Minster, who in a recent interview with “Adults Learning” made clear his belief that learning is
“about broadening the mind, giving people self-belief, strengthening the bonds of community”.
That is why in 2010-11 we are developing a skills strategy with increasing importance placed on those with disabilities, learning difficulties and disadvantaged families and communities, spending £210 million in that year alone.
But that is insufficiently elegiac for you, Mr Speaker, and for this House. Lifelong learning feeds hope—builds and rebuilds lives by seeding a hunger for knowledge. It shapes people, families and communities and feeds social justice.
I thank the Minister for that response. Does he agree that the success and value of adult education is measured not only in terms of qualifications and certificates? Will he assure us that, as this Government move forward, the past cuts in adult education, for courses that do not lead to qualifications, will if possible be reversed, and that value will be placed on all layers of community adult education?
I welcome my hon. Friend to the House. I know of his rich experience in learning as a former teacher, and he, like me, understands that learning has a value for its own sake. I do not want to be unkind to my predecessors, because that would be slightly vulgar; nevertheless, it has to be said that the dull utilitarianism that permeated the previous regime’s thinking on this subject has now, thankfully, come to an end.
I am not only an admirer but, I would go so far as to say, a devotee of the WEA. The value that learning brings, in elevating lives and building strong communities, is exemplified by such organisations, and I look forward to an early meeting with the WEA to discuss how we can move forward together.