ECA Chair & CEO Bernard Godding attended the official launch of the DIUS White Paper ‘The Learning Revolution’ on the 23rd March.

The event which took place at the Tate Modern in London also saw the launch of the Informal Adult Learning Pledge.

Bernard contributed to the authorship of the Pledge advocating the inclusion of the term resilience as a means of gaining recognition that only through adult learning processes will the global challenges for sustainability be met, or our ability to cope with the impact of climate change be effectively responded to. Visit DIUS here to find out more and to sign the pledge online.

The White Paper aims bring to life a new 21st century vision to help adults learn for pleasure and personal and community development.

The White Paper outlines what the whole of Government can do to support learning for pleasure, including funding innovative new ideas and projects, helping to broker access to learning, especially for disadvantaged groups and older people, and building a culture of learning across society.

People who want to organise their own groups and classes will be supported. Public and private buildings all over the country will throw open their doors to learners in the evening and weekends, from pubs, shops, cafes and churches to workplaces, libraries and galleries. The buildings will be identified by the new "Learning Revolution" logo and at least 7,000 rooms will be available, with the number expected to grow.

The campaign is backed by organisations ranging from the Women's Institute, the Church of England and the National Trust to Microsoft and BUPA. They have all pledged to support this movement and where possible, to open their doors so that groups of adults engage in learning to expand their horizons.

Key elements of the White Paper include:

• A £20m transformation fund which will support the development of new adult learning partnerships and innovative ideas. This could mean helping local people breathe new life into empty shop premises by setting up artists’ studios or theatre workshop spaces, or issuing learning vouchers to people who are unemployed;

• Working across Government departments and local authorities to get all kinds of new spaces opened up for self-organised learning activities. These shared spaces will include libraries, museums, arts galleries, faith spaces and local UK Online centres, as well as schools and colleges. Learners say not finding a low-cost, accessible place to learn can be a significant barrier to learning;

• Making it easier to find a space by setting up a competition to design a new web directory of learning spaces and places that are available at free or low cost, working with umbrella organisations like NAVCA (National Association of Voluntary and Community Action).

Skills Secretary John Denham said: “Learning in all its many forms improves our quality of life, happiness and personal wellbeing. While improving people’s skills is one of the most powerful things they can do to realise their career aspirations, we recognise the importance of learning for pleasure and the enormous contribution it makes to the well-being of individuals, neighbourhoods and wider society.

“Over the past few years, there has been a quiet learning revolution, but the Government wants to ignite this, raising the profile and take-up of learning wherever it happens, so that all adults and communities can benefit from high-quality, innovative learning that is accessible to all. This is ever more important during a downturn.

“The informal learning picture has always been bigger than just publicly funded learning delivered through traditional adult education classes in colleges. This form of learning will continue and does suit some people. But the world has changed considerably. We need to go beyond this narrow vision and make sure such learning is not left behind in the technology stakes. And we need better links between different kinds of learning – public, private, voluntary and self-organised - to create a rich mix of opportunities for people at local level. “

The last few years have seen an explosion of online access to education resources, the establishment of book groups, huge growth in the University of the Third Age and the introduction of free access to museums. Many of these developments are supported in one way or another by Government. Free access to museums costs £28m a year, while Government funding for UK online centres in libraries and children’s centres stands at £10m a year, as well as £21.5 million a year to fund union learning reps.

On top of this, DIUS has ring-fenced £210m to support adult learning and will continue to protect funding for specialist adult education colleges and institutions, such as City Lit.

And to support the growing importance of digital skills at home and in work, we have asked Baroness Estelle Morris to chair an independent review of ICT Skills for Adults.

A host of organisations, including five Government departments and several local authorities, will today show support for the campaign by signing the learning revolution pledge. By signing the pledge, these organisations will:

• Support the core principles of the learning revolution and encourage others to sign up

• Advocate wider participation, especially by those who have benefited least from learning

• Find flexible ways of using our existing spaces, or opening up new spaces, for learning

• Encourage and support learning activities organised by people for themselves

• Embrace new ways of learning, including the use of information technology and broadcasting

• Find and work with new partners to increase adult learning opportunities; and

• Celebrate successes.

The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, who signed the Learning Revolution pledge today, aim to help open up 3,000 spaces and will set up a new £100k challenge fund offering small grants to enable museums, libraries and archives to develop capacity and encourage innovation in supporting self-organised learning.

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said:

"Learning shouldn't stop when you leave school or college. It should be a natural part of everyone's life, throughout their whole life. Public libraries are ideally placed to play a big part in promoting it and I challenge the 149 services across England to get behind the campaign, and display their 'Learning Revolution' logo with pride."

Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said:

“Informal learning often goes unnoticed and unrecognised when it deserves to be acknowledged, celebrated and supported."

“Whether through book groups in the local library, cookery lessons in the village hall, or language clubs in the café, informal learning creates a sense of community. It brings people together from different backgrounds. It lets them learn new skills and build social networks, both of which are doubly important in these difficult times. Above all, of course, it's fun!"

"The White Paper includes a new challenge to, and new support for, local authorities to play their part. Together we can help make sure that informal learning isn't a privilege reserved for the few, but an opportunity enjoyed by many.”

Date Added: March 27th 2009