ABSTRACT

Tony Blair came into office in 1997 famously declaring that the three priorities for the New Labour Government would be ‘education, education, education’. Referring primarily to formal, school-based education for those aged 18 and under, lifelong learning has also been a priority for successive New Labour Governments although some have argued that ‘education, education, education’ actually means ‘schools, schools, schools’ (Culture, Media and Sport Committee, 2000, para. 59). Raising standards in schools and increasing the numbers going into higher education have been the highest profile features of the Government’s education policy but there are signs that vocational education and adult learning are moving up the agenda. In a speech in 2004, for example, Tony Blair said that adults wanting to return to education would be assisted through free tuition for those with low levels of skills (BBC, 2004). As indicated in Chapter 1, lifelong learning is seen by the Government as closely linked to both social exclusion and the nation’s economic prosperity. The 1998 Green Paper, The Learning Age: a Renaissance for a New Britain, defined lifelong learning as ‘the continuous development of the skills, knowledge and understanding that are essential for employability and fulfilment’ (Department for Education and Employment, 1998, para. 16), and stressed that, whilst valuable in itself, lifelong learning is a fundamental part of the process of getting people into employment or advancing their work situation, a means to ‘up-skill’ the nation in order to improve the country’s economic performance and its global position.