1919 Centenary Commission Launches

A new commission has been launched to consider the provision for, and possibilities of, adult education today and in the future. The commission marks the centenary of the Ministry of Reconstruction’s Final Report on Adult Education in 1919 – a significant milestone in the history of adult education in the UK.

Launched today at its first meeting at Balliol College, Oxford, the 1919 Centenary Commission will produce a report with future recommendations on the needs and possibilities for adult education into the century ahead. The publication of the report will be in November 2019 to coincide with the publication date of the 1919 report. 

There is a national – indeed global – consensus that lifelong learning is increasingly required, for the world of work, alongside machine learning and robotics; for a population living longer; and for an electorate facing new and complex challenges. The Commission will consider the educational provision required in the face of longer lives, changing work, and global challenges.

The 1919 Centenary Commission includes:    

  • Dame Helen Ghosh, Chair - Master of Balliol College, Oxford. Previously Chief Executive, The National Trust; Permanent Secretary at Home Office and Dept for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs.
  • Sir Alan Tuckett OBE, Vice-chair - Professor, University of Wolverhampton. Previously Chief Executive, National Institute of Adult Continuing Education; President, International Council for Adult Education.
  • Melissa Benn - Author, novelist, journalist, broadcaster. Chair, Comprehensive Future; Council member, New Visions for Education Group.
  • Lord (Karan) Bilimoria - Co-founder & Chairman, Cobra Beer; Chancellor, University of Birmingham.
  • Dr Sharon Clancy - Chair, Raymond Williams Foundation. Previously Head of Community Partnerships, University of Nottingham; Chief Executive, Mansfield Council for Voluntary Service.
  • Melissa Highton - Assistant Principal, Online Learning and Director of Learning, Teaching & Web Services, University of Edinburgh.
  • Uzo Iwobi OBE - Chief Executive Officer, Race Council Cymru. Previously Principal Equality Officer, South Wales Police; member of the Commission for Racial Equality.
  • Roger McKenzie - Assistant General Secretary, Unison. Previously Vice Chair, West Midlands Assembly.
  • Sir Ken Olisa OBE - Chairman, Shaw Trust; Lord-Lieutenant of Greater London; founder & Chairman, Restoration Partners; Deputy Master, Worshipful Company of Information Technologists. 
  • Dr Sue Pember OBE -  Director, Holex. Previously lead Director for FE, Dept for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) and Dept for Education & Skills (DfES); Principal, Canterbury College of F&HE.
  • Ruth Spellman OBE - General Secretary and Chief Executive, The WEA. Previously Chief Executive of Chartered Management Institute, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, and Investors in People UK.
  • Paul Roberts - Chief Executive Officer, Aspire, Oxford.
  • Dr Cilla Ross - Vice Principal, Co-operative College.
  • Sir Peter Scott - Emeritus Professor of Higher Education, UCL Institute of Education. Previously Vice Chancellor, Kingston University, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Professor of Education, University of Leeds; Editor, The Times Higher Education Supplement.

The Centenary Commission is chaired by Dame Helen Ghosh, Master of Balliol College, Oxford, who said:

“I was very honoured to be invited to Chair this Centenary Commission, stepping into the shoes of a former Master of Balliol, A.L. Smith, who was Chair of the committee that produced the 1919 Report. Balliol and its Masters have a long and proud record in supporting adult education, including the foundation of the Workers Educational Association in 1903 and hosting Summer Schools from the 1870s which became the annual Oxford University Summer Schools for Adults which are still going strong today.

“There are eerie parallels between the problems of 1919 and those of 2019, making a powerful case for a new Commission to look at the challenges.  My own work as a civil servant on a variety of local regeneration programmes convinced me that learning at every stage of life is key to economic security, happiness and health and to creating a society in which everyone can flourish.”

Ruth Spellman, CEO of The WEA, said:

“The WEA was born in 1903 to provide educational opportunities for working people. The founding members of The WEA played a key role in the Ministry of Reconstruction’s Adult Education Committee. Over the decades, we have changed and adapted but we have kept our community roots and recruited students from every background, class and age. Our students and tutors have been miners, teachers, housewives, suffragettes, politicians, playwrights and artists and we have seen the wide ranging benefits of lifelong learning over the last 100 years.

 “The 1919 report represented a hugely important statement of the value of adult education. It came at a pivotal time when Britain faced immense economic, political and social challenges. It not only recognised the wide impact adult education can have on society, in responding to the massive social, economic and political challenges of the time, but also gave government, national and local, a direct responsibility for ensuring its adequate supply. Today’s challenges, though different, are no less profound and the centenary provides a vital opportunity to reflect on the needs and possibilities for adult education today and into the century ahead. It’s a great pleasure to be part of this centenary commission which will plot a new course for adult education in the 21st century. Without those opportunities for learning, individuals, communities and the nation as a whole will be much poorer.

For more information visit www.wea.org.uk/adulteducation100