Adult Learning Counts! – the WEA tells Mayoral Candidates

In May, six areas of England will elect new Mayors. The Mayors will have responsibility for the overall economic strategy for their region and will have wide-ranging powers and significant budgets.

When campaigning to be Mayor, we expect the candidates to be talking about economic strategy – but we do not expect that they will make the connection with Adult Education or Community Learning and how it can contribute.

This is why we need your help as WEA volunteers and supporters.


As the race to become the Elected Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough combined authority enters its crucial last month of campaigning, the WEA is calling on all mayoral candidates to put adult skills at the centre of their election promises.

The WEA has launched a new campaign today – ‘Adult Learning Counts’ – to ensure that lifelong learning forms a key part of the combined authority’s economic strategy.

While the Government’s reforms of the apprenticeships system, which take effect from the 1st May, will widen access to training opportunities for those aged 19+, they are not the only way.

Sharon Watson

Sharon Watson, Regional Education Manager for WEA Eastern Region says:

“It is encouraging to see the Government’s commitment to widening access to skills and training through apprenticeships, but it is not a one-size-fits-all model. Adult education is often that vital first step back into the learning environment and ultimately the workplace.

“All of the candidates are making pledges in their campaigns about skills and employment, but none has so far acknowledged the wider role that adult education can have in the economic and social health of our communities. We want to see all of the candidates recognising this and saying that, if elected, they will promise that Adult Learning Counts in their economic strategies.”

Impact surveys have shown how adult learning helps people find work and helps people feel more confident in their existing jobs, and in addition leads to improvements in health and well-being and encourages people to be more active in their communities.

Adult education offers a lifeline to many people, especially those furthest away from employment, who may need to enhance their soft skills and confidence before moving on to gain the training they need for the job market.

Returning to education after a considerable break can be incredibly daunting. The informal, community-based setting of adult learning provision can make this transition easier and enable people to learn core skills such as numeracy and digital skills alongside the things they most enjoy such as art or local history.

The region’s economic strategy would be stronger if it supported a wider range of learning opportunities – for people of all ages and abilities, and especially for those living in the most deprived areas.

Writing to mayoral candidates, the press or influential community figures is a good way to raise awareness of issues surrounding adult education. You can download a sample letter template here: https://tinyurl.com/lpaeuud