Social movements, social media and manipulation

Speaking at the WEA Scotland’s AGM in Edinburgh on Saturday, Professor John Field focused attention on the decline of some traditional social movements that supported the WEA’s birth, the flourishing of social media and adult education’s role in promoting democracy, fairness and social justice.

Can social media give us the means to reconnect, rethink and revive social movements or develop new ones? Can they help to reverse the decline in adult learning shown by recent research, such as the 2012 NIACE Adult Participation in Learning Survey? (http://shop.niace.org.uk/2012-participation-survey-headline-findings.html)

Jayne Stuart, Director of the WEA in Scotland talked of, “great strength in connections”, as she introduced the “world of difference” theme at the AGM and encouraged people to tweet from the event. John Field reinforced the view that it’s never been easier to connect and to create online educational movements and opportunities for civic engagement.

We soon saw Twitter connectivity in action as people way beyond the room commented on proceedings in Edinburgh’s City Chambers and joined in discussions from near and far. The WEA’s AGM in Edinburgh was linked to the WEA’s Southern Region AGM at the Wellcome Institute in London. People from the Northern College for Adult Residential Education, NIACE, the University of Cambridge and Edinburgh City Council joined in the communication, which reached people as diverse as Members of the Scottish Parliament and a genealogist in Harrogate.

This unprecedented level of instant networking reinforces a feeling of collective agreement and shared purpose. This is very encouraging but we might need to stop and think about whether we are reaching, influencing and listening to people whose views might be different from ours. We can become complacent if we don’t see the challenges.  As John Field said, “education is a social process and is most exciting when we’re challenged and confounded”.

With this in mind, are we sufficiently aware that social media and web search engines such as Google actively filter out views that we might disagree with? Eli Pariser’s book, The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, makes interesting reading on this issue. It’s described as, “An eye-opening account of how the hidden rise of personalization on the Internet is controlling – and limiting – the information we consume.”

Pariser describes how Google began customising its search results for each user in December 2009, presenting us with the predicted links that we are most likely to click on. In effect, Google, Twitter, Facebook and other web-based systems now manipulate how we access and share information on an individual basis.

Knowing this kind of information is highly relevant to how we work and also to the kind of education that we offer. How big is the leap from personalisation to propaganda? Understanding society, communication, censorship and control is fundamental to high quality and relevant adult education that encourages critical thinking.

Is the internet controlling how much we are confounded and challenged? If so, what are the likely consequences?

Democracy and voice

We sang at the WEA’s Yorkshire & Humber Region AGM in Leeds today. You don’t get that kind of exuberance in most shareholders’ meetings.

The (fully booked) get-together before the business part of the meeting focused on ‘Democracy, Active Citizenship and the Role of Voice’.  Prof. Stephen Coleman set the scene very engagingly in his William Alderson Memorial Trust Lecture on this theme.

Prof. Stephen Coleman

Prof. Coleman got our attention straight away, saying that, “Voice is the foundation technology of democracy but not all voices are equal.” In a rousing performance, he talked of the need for all sorts of voices that are, “confident, unbound and efficacious”. Quoting from John Milton and Edmund Burke, he went on to describe, “an entire history of disrespect built on prejudice”, with a “spurious connection” between people’s style of pronunciation and their authority to speak.  He warned that we shouldn’t mistake sullen and silent anger in society for civic contentment. Identifying 6 civic capabilities, he showed excerpts from a website at www.youthamplified.com, which he urged people to explore.

Various examples of  ‘WEA Experiences’ followed his lecture. These were impressive in showing how students and volunteers had gained confidence and found voices with the WEA.

Students from an Asian Women’s Sewing Group showed their skills in a stunning fashion show. The soundtrack encouraged some impromptu Gangnam Style moves from several people as well as nods of admiration and enthusiastic applause. The women from Crosland Moor also won the Learning Group of the Year award and were full of praise for Judith Boardman, their ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) Tutor.

Award winners’ acceptance speech

In a change of pace and tone, we watched a short film that WEA students with experience of homelessness had made. They described some changes that they would make to Doncaster if they had a million pounds to spend. The film was an excellent practical illustration of people speaking about what’s important to them in their community.

Mark Goodwin and the Bumble Bee Barbarians then had us spellbound as they talked about the triumphs and impact of mixed ability rugby and the creative training that the WEA is building around the sport. Students with a learning difficulty or disability gave a presentation that was both moving and funny. They challenged several stereotypes and managed to make some serious messages entertaining.

They showed how they are tackling inequality, in a very literal way, and finding their voices.

Mark Goodwin (R) & some Bumble Bee Barbarians

Rob Hindle, Nicola Thorpe and Victoria Beauchamp’s presentation about Digability, a WEA Community Archaeology Project, was another example of inclusion that builds on people’s interests. They showed clips from a film about the project. This is available at http://youtu.be/rccUF2VuhA0. They emphasised how important it is for organisations to work together and the key role of volunteers like Beth Deakin.

Beth Deakin, Volunteer of the Year

Lindy Gresswell, Yorkshire and Humber Region’s Chair, presented regional awards to even more applause.

As well as the people mentioned already, Lindy presented certificates to:

  • Julie Harrison – Nominated for WEA Student of the Year
  • Jill Iles – Nominated for Special recognition award: Education
  • Janet Driver – Nominated for Special recognition award: Administration and support services
  • Ron Moreton – Nominated for Special recognition: Long Service Award
  • Open Door Hate and Mate Crime Group – Nominated for Most Innovative Partnership Activity

Energy levels were kept high by the WEA’s ‘Easingwold Sings’ Choir. Some of us thought we might be sitting back to be entertained – which we were – but taking part is in the WEA’s DNA so we had a quick singing lesson and found our voices quite harmoniously.

‘Easingwold Sings’ Choir

The high spirits and sense of communal activity were an excellent curtain raiser for the business part of the meeting.

A bad week for equality

The Church of England’s complex voting system has led to a decision that women can’t become bishops. This is perplexing to an outsider. If a woman can be a priest, why can’t she make other people priests? A bigger issue for democracy is the political impact of this decision at the heart of the UK Government. Today’s vote affects policy-making way beyond the Church.

26 seats in the House of Lords are reserved for Church of England Bishops. They will now continue to be men-only roles for the foreseeable future. Figures from January 2011 show that 181 (21.7%) out of 833 members of the House of Lords are women, so this reinforcement of gender imbalance is very significant.

Information provided by ‘Counting Women In’ shows the scale of gender inequality in government. Their statistics show that women hold 22 out of 122 of ministerial roles in the House of Commons. Nine Government departments are male only decision-making domains.

During the same week that the Church of England made its decision about Bishops, the Prime Minister announced the axing of equality impact assessments that the previous government had introduced to make sure that officials took account of disability, gender and race in their decision-making.

David Cameron said, “We have smart people in Whitehall who consider equalities issues while they’re making the policy. We don’t need all this extra tick-box stuff.” How representative are these ‘smart people’? The all-white cabinet is made up of 19 men and 4 women, with 18 millionaires. 60% of the women in cabinet were sacked during the last reshuffle.

The WEA is non-party political but equality and democracy are central to our recently refreshed vision: “A better world – equal, democratic and just; through adult education the WEA challenges and inspires individuals, communities and society.”

Whatever your views on politics or religion, thoughtful consideration of these issues and their impact on society has a place in community-based adult education.

Sources of information:

http://www.cfwd.org.uk/uploads/pdfs/WomenIntheHouseofLordsJan11.pdf

http://www.countingwomenin.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Cabinet-reshuffle-A-Broken-Promise-dossier-Sept-2012Final.pdf

Tweeters against hate crime – take action today

Two events are coinciding on 15 November.

  • Police Crime Commissioners will be elected to the 41 policing areas in England and Wales.
  • The WEA’s Open Door Group will be attending the TES FE Awards ceremony as finalists for the ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community’Award.

Adults with a learning disability formed the Open Door Group and talked very openly in a video about how hate crime has affected them. You can watch the video, which features advice from MENCAP on what do if you are the victim of hate crime at: http://youtu.be/z_VJdAuYmKw. It is shocking and moving. The abuse survivors are taking action themselves to deal with the issues and using the video as part of a training scheme. There’s an earlier blog about them at: https://annwalkerwea.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/people-with-learning-disabilities-care-crime-and-a-community-education-campaign/

Please watch the video if you haven’t done so and then take just a couple of minutes to show your support today or tomorrow.

How can you help to stop hate crime?

My Life My Choice, a learning disability self-help organisation based in Oxfordshire, has set up a ‘Thunderclap’ social media campaign so that we can let newly elected Police and Crime Commissioners know that hate crime against people with a learning disability is a priority.

People who sign up for the Thunderclap will send the same tweet simultaneously to draw attention to the issue

The link is at: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/518-pcc-s-prioritise-hate-crime

People with learning disabilities are taking action themselves.

Let’s show them our support.

Please sign up now.

‘Making a Difference’ – WEA Parliamentary Event and Awards

This blog is a bit different. I’ve experimented with Storify software to make a narrative out of tweets. It’s my first attempt so it’s very much learning in public.

I’ve collated some tweets about the WEA’s ‘Making a Difference’ Parliamentary event last week to capture some of the comments that people made as the event unfolded. There’s a link at:

http://storify.com/AnnWalkerWEA/wea-parliamentary-event-7-november-2012?utm_content=storify-pingback&awesm=sfy.co_bB02&utm_medium=sfy.co-twitter&utm_campaign=&utm_source=t.co

I’d be grateful if anyone has any hints and tips about using Storify or any comments on it.

Twitter is still a foreign language to many people so the Storify’s introduction has a link to a site that explains twitter symbols and acronyms.

(The WEA runs social media courses if you want to find out more. You can find regional contact details at http://www.wea.org.uk/local if you’re interested in a course about twitter or other new media. There are many online resources for independent learning too.)

The WEA Awards Ceremony followed the Parliamentary event. It was an inspiring and emotional event.

The winners were:

Olive Cordell Skills for Life Tutor

  • Laraine Clark

Olive Cordell Skills for life Student

  • Luzayadio Mputo

WEA Volunteer

  • David Dennehy

WEA Student – Joint Award

  • Alec Buchanan
  • Julie Harrison

WEA Learning Group

  • Tammy Spriggs, Lisa Harrington and Janine Ginno

Diversity in Practice

  • Tandrusti

WEA Campaign

  • Why Vote?

Contribution to Sustainability

  • Women’s groups at Clovelly

WEA Tutor

  • Janet Henson

Innovative Partnership

  • WEA and Horizons

Innovative Branch and WEA South West

  • Activ8 for Carers

Special Recognition: Education

  • Sahira Tariq

Special Recognition: Support services and WEA Eastern

  • Kathryn Coles

Special Recognition: Long service

  • John Hurst

WEA Scotland

  • Bathgate Once More

WEA North East

  • Elizabeth Langdown

WEA North West

  • Ties to the Past

WEA Yorkshire and Humber

  • Beth Deakin

WEA East Midlands

  • Learning into Leadership on the Internet

WEA West Midlands

  • Shiyalini Mohan

WEA Eastern

  • Kathryn Coles

WEA London

  • Mike Bradley

WEA South West

  • Activ8 for Carers

WEA Southern

  • Adler Mosaicists

WEA Ambassador

  • Nigel Todd

There’s a wonderful booklet outlining their stories. It should be available soon at www.wea.org.uk.

Parliament, Politics, Emily Wilding Davison and the WEA

Several threads are weaving together in the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) this week.

We have a Parliamentary celebration coming up on 7 November with WEA students, volunteers, staff and supporters joining MPs, peers, funders and partners at Westminster. Our Trustees will be taking active roles at the event, which we’re holding during National Trustees’ Week.

The WEA is also backing a new campaign for a minute’s silence at next year’s Epsom Derby to commemorate Emily Wilding Davison’s death in 1913. Emily made the ultimate sacrifice as a suffrage campaigner fighting for women’s rights to vote. She was one of our own, having been active in the WEA.

100 years on and the WEA is still campaigning for greater equality in politics. We launched a ‘Women into Politics’ project in Nottingham last Friday.

Parliamentary event, 7 November

There are more details about our Parliamentary event at: http://www.wea.org.uk/News/parliamentaryevent.aspx

We’re looking forward to celebrating award winners’ achievements, including recognition for a campaign encouraging people to vote. The event is causing a lot of excitement and will give many people a chance to visit the Palace of Westminster, building on educational visits that we continue to organise in partnership with the Parliamentary Outreach Service.

It’s timely to know more about Emily Davison’s story and her links with Parliament.

Emily Wilding Davison (1872 – 1913)

Emily Wilding Davison

Emily Davison’s challenges and campaigns are still all too relevant a century after her death. She couldn’t afford the tuition fees to complete her first course of higher education and faced discrimination because she was a woman. Famously, she died four days after being trampled by the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby in 1913. She was making a dramatic protest in support of women’s right to vote.Her personal experience of discrimination fuelled her campaigning zeal.

Having won a place at Royal Holloway College to study literature when she left school, she had to withdraw because she couldn’t pay the fees. She worked as a governess before taking up higher education again and achieving first-class honours in English in the Oxford University examination for women. Oxford degrees were closed to women in 1895 so she couldn’t graduate. She became a teacher and returned to higher education, graduating from the University of London before working as a teacher again. Emily joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1906 and gave up full-time teaching in 1907 so that she could devote more of her time to the WSPU. She also became involved with the WEA during this period and is reported to have been a member of the Marylebone Branch’s Executive. Emily was a militant suffragette and was jailed several times for some of her attention-grabbing protests, being force-fed in prison.

Penni Blythe-Jones (@WofWWW on twitter) is organising the petition for a minute’s silence at the 2013 Epsom Derby. There’s a link at http://emilywildingdavison.org/?page_id=11. Kate Willoughby (@2FCPlay on twitter) is working with her. There’s also a lot of background information on the internet about Emily’s life and death as well as the more traditional sources of biographical information.

Suffragettes and the Palace of Westminster

Emily Davison plaque

One of Emily Davison’s most creative campaigning activities involved her hiding overnight in a cupboard in the Palace of Westminster on the night of the 1911 Census so she could record her place of residence as the “House of Commons”. A plaque in the building commemorates this event. There’s a permanent display about the suffragettes located off the Central Lobby, on the way to the public gallery of the House of Commons. It includes a suffragette medal and a scarf belonging to Emily Davison.See http://www.parliament.uk/visiting/exhibitions-and-events/exhibitions/suffragettes/ for more details.There’s also a case study of Emily’s Parliamentary campaigns at: http://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/electionsvoting/womenvote/case-study-emily-wilding-davison/

The WEA, Women and Politics

The WEA has a very long record of political education and of encouraging men and women to take an active part in democratic processes. We are non-party political and work in partnership with several other organisations to promote political education through initiatives such as the recent Democracy Week. Some of our educational projects and courses are specifically for women as they are under-represented in local and national politics.

We launched a new ‘Women into Politics’ project in Nottingham on 2 November. You can follow the project’s blog at: http://womenintopolitics.wordpress.com/. The project builds on a tradition of many linked activities in England and Scotland. We have developed ‘Women Be Heard’ courses with various groups and we also use history as a way of raising awareness of a range of current equalities and social justice issues.

Many WEA students, members, tutors and staff in Scotland took part in a memorable Edinburgh Procession in 2009 in support of ‘Gude Cause’. They dressed in period costume, carried banners and wore sashes to identify themselves with one or other parts of the Women’s Suffrage movement. See http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/Images/WearingtheColours_tcm4-672114.pdf.

The WEA can be proud of its early record on gender equality. We began life in 1903 as the ‘Association to Promote the Higher Education of Working Men’, changing to our current name of the ‘Workers’ Educational Association’ (WEA) in 1905 to be more inclusive of women.

It’s important to reflect and learn from history, to celebrate achievements and to reassess the challenges. There’s still a great deal to do.

People with learning disabilities – care, crime and a community education campaign

Six care workers were jailed last week and five more were given suspended sentences because they neglected and abused vulnerable patients in their ‘care’. A BBC Panorama investigation had exposed cruelty at the Winterbourne View private hospital near Bristol, which the Castlebeck group ran. A serious case review and a damning 150-page report followed, cataloguing dozens of assaults on patients. Abuse like this is not isolated and too many people with learning disabilities live with fear and humiliation.

Recent events show that we need advocates for the most defenceless people in our society. We should also support people in speaking out for themselves when it’s possible so that they’re able to share their experiences and have some influence over their own lives. Stephen Green’s election as England’s first parish councillor with Downs Syndrome is a significant step. Stephen from Nutthall, Nottinghamshire, is challenging the stereotypes of local politicians being explored in the Department of Community and Local Government’s ‘YBaCouncillor’ inquiry.

Other people with learning disabilities are speaking out about the discrimination that they face in their everyday life.

Twelve WEA students with learning disabilities have made a powerful and poignant short film about hate and ‘mate’ crime to raise awareness and to change attitudes towards disability hate crime. The TES FE Awards have recognised the Open Door – Tackling Disabilities Hate Crime project, shortlisting it for the ‘Outstanding Contribution to the Local Community’ award.

There’s more information about the project and a link to the film at http://www.wea.org.uk/news/opendoor.aspx. The film’s first hand accounts of hate and ‘mate’ crime are very moving. The Open Door group presented their film at the WEA Yorkshire and Humber Region’s Annual General Meeting last year and as part of Ruth Spellman’s induction to her role as the WEA’s General Secretary, giving updates on what’s happened since they’d made the film.

Winning a TES Award would be a wonderful achievement for the students but changing other people’s attitudes and behaviour is the real prize that they’re after. Wanting to live without pestering and persecution shouldn’t be too much to ask.

Educational Thinkers’ Hall of Fame – Paulo Freire

And so to Paulo Freire (1921-1997), a towering figure in adult education for social purpose.

Freire was the Brazilian educator, political philosopher and writer, best known for developing his highly influential Pedagogy of the Oppressed. He used his own experience to shape his educational practice, having suffered from poverty and hunger as a child and imprisonment and exile as an adult. He spoke movingly about how hunger had limited his own ability to learn in school – an issue that’s all too relevant for some children and schools today.

A persuasive man with an impressive intellect and strong convictions, he was determined that the world’s poor and exploited people should have better lives, especially in his native Brazil.

Freire believed that education has an essential role in relieving poverty and transforming lives. He developed methods of encouraging literacy while also raising social and political awareness through his educational work with impoverished Brazilians. He showed that oppressed people could become involved in democracy even if they hadn’t known about the concept before. He won poor people’s trust and attention, convincing them that they should and could have a say in the day-to-day decision-making that affected their lives.

Freire firmly opposed the idea that an education system should be like a bank, with students expected to withdraw specific types of knowledge that more powerful people had decided were necessary. (E.g. UK education policies of recent years?) Instead, he believed that there should be dialogue between the student and teacher and that the teacher should never impose their views of a problem on a student.

In Freire’s approach, literacy workers studied their students’ lives and derived a curriculum that promoted their sense of dignity and self-worth in their own knowledge. The educators encouraged students to develop literacy skills while they explored issues of exploitation, the meaning of culture and the power of written language through critical action learning. He and his colleagues created more than 20,000 ‘culture circles’ throughout Brazil using these principles. They worked on the basis that ‘understanding the world was as important as understanding the word’ and that students’ increased awareness of political matters could provide a basis for action to improve community wellbeing and resilience. (These concepts are highly relevant to the current review and development of the WEA’s curriculum .)

Freire proposed that the use of his ‘see-judge-act’ student-centred methods could raise critical consciousness and create change by inspiring students to:

  • see the systems that preserved injustice
  • judge the assumptions that maintained those social systems
  • act to achieve equality and democracy.

The Paulo Freire Institute was created in Sao Paulo in 1991. It brings scholars together to foster dialogue about new educational theories and interventions in a Freireian tradition.

Freire was a brilliant thinker and his ideas about education and society were original and effective, so it seems odd that his writing (or his translators’ interpretation) is unexpectedly complex for someone so interested in making ideas more accessible to the masses. Evidently he wasn’t a fan of dumbing down. He didn’t patronise the poor, but worked with them to broaden their horizons and to make sure that they could be involved actively in democratic processes.

This is a very condensed summary of Freire’s work. Please feel free to add any comments about his relevance to current educational policy developments at a time of austerity, pointers to other resources or any other thoughts on Freire’s contributions.

Pedagogy of the NEETs?

A tale of two cities (Nottingham and Chelmsford)

I spent last Friday morning at the launch of the WEA’s “Women Leading Learning” project in Nottingham. It was one of those mood-boosting days that happen in adult education when people share their stories. Students gave their testimonies about how learning had transformed their lives for the better. Occasions like this are almost evangelical. Each person’s story could be the makings of a novel, drama or film. Some women had got jobs, some had overcome depression and some had gone into local politics as a result of adult education courses. One had done all three. It was a joyful celebration.

Antonia Zenkevitch was an expert compère as WEA tutors, staff, volunteers and people from partner organisations added their voices and took part in creative activities. There are more details about the event, links to photos, including the one above, and some video clips at http://womenleadinglearning.wordpress.com/5th-october-launch-event-programme-and-details/ You can also scroll down ‘Other WEA Blogs’ in the right hand column of this page to a find a link to ‘Women Leading Learning’.

(For the record, I also support the Men’s Sheds movement http://menssheds.org.uk/.)

On Saturday I joined branch volunteers and staff at the WEA Essex Federation’s Annual General Meeting in Chelmsford. I’m grateful to their Chair, Ron Marks, for inviting me and for the opportunity to share thoughts on teaching, learning and assessment and our ambition for WEA education over the next 3 years.

There was a good turnout from the county’s 43 volunteer-led branches with reports, presentations and group discussions. Colchester MP and WEA Patron, Sir Bob Russell joined the meeting, where people raised issues about democracy and change as key themes for discussion. As well as reporting on the year’s highlights, people debated various concerns and niggles. This is natural in a democratic organisation where students, volunteers, members and staff can express their views and they can now be explored further through the appropriate channels.

WEA Essex Course Brochure 2012-13

It was encouraging to hear and read about branch activities and educational projects in Essex including a Cultural Olympiad and plans to digitise the Region’s archives. People from at least two branches mentioned that they had 96-year old students in their courses. This reminds me that I should re-check how many WEA students are over 100 years old. It’s amazing that there are some.

The balance of work done in the previous year was interesting and there were yet more descriptions of great tutors and of adult education that had given people a fresh start when their lives had seemed almost without hope. An account of student Tammy’s aspiration to become a midwife against all odds had people spellbound. Tammy had been in and out of care as a child, left school at 13 and was on a life path that seemed destined to repeat the same cycle for her own children. Her story, like Alice’s, Mel’s, Keren’s and other women who spoke in Nottingham on the previous day, offer living proof that education can be an escape route from one life path and onto a better one. We also saw evidence that learning helps to keep people active in their communities as well as stimulating their brains into their 80s and beyond..

Over the two days I heard about some of the WEA Award winners who will be honoured at our Parliamentary event on 7 November. That will definitely be another day with a feel-good effect.

Cooperative problem solving, local democracy and family learning

A better world – equal, democratic and just; through adult education the WEA challenges and inspires individuals, communities and society”.

This is the WEA’s vision. Many people and organisations are working for the same aim and we’re often invited to collaborate with others so that we can make a bigger impact by working together.

I’ve been involved in three separate events in the last couple of weeks with people who recognise that adult education helps to address inequalities for families and communities. These wider aspects of lifelong learning show that education isn’t just for children and young people and isn’t only about preparation for employment – important as that is.

Cooperative Problem Solving

The first event focused on cooperative problem solving. Youth and community organisations, cooperative champions, educators and academic researchers from the UK, USA, New Zealand and Sweden met at the Cambridge University’s Forum for Youth Participation & Democracy. We shared practical examples of effective community-based action to tackle unfairness and we have agreed to work in an alliance, building on shared approaches to cooperative problem solving. People who use Twitter can look out for the #CoopPS hashtag as ideas develop.

YBaCouncillor

I joined WEA volunteer Alan Bruce and manager Jol Miskin at a well-attended meeting organised by Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Department for Communities and Local Government Select Committee. The Select Committee’s meeting was part of a campaign to find out why some people become councillors and what puts others off. A 2010 report on English councillors prompted this campaign as it showed that 96% were white, the average age was 60 and that over two-thirds were male.

The WEA isn’t affliliated to any political party but we have a long tradition – over 100 years – of political education and community engagement, encouraging people to take part in politics, public life and activism, so we have been active in supporting this campaign.

Inquiry into Family Learning

Finally, I attended the first meeting of commissioners for an independent Inquiry into Family Learning, led by the National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education (NIACE) and chaired by Baroness Valerie Howarth, who made sure that the meeting was inclusive and focused.

There’s more information on the Inquiry at:

http://www.niace.org.uk/current-work/family-learning-inquiry

This is NIACE’s introduction to the Inquiry:

“We believe that there is a need for an independent inquiry into this area of work, not only to consider what is meant by ‘family learning’ but to ensure its place at the heart of policy, research and development. NIACE is concerned about the lack of recognition of the value of family learning, its impact on a range of policy areas and of the potential benefits for families and the wider community. We are concerned that the role of parents and carers in supporting their children’s development is not adequately recognised. Supporting children’s development is one of the major motivators that leads to adults improving their own skills.”

The twitter hashtag for the Inquiry will be #familylearninginquiry. Look out for it in coming months.

It’s reassuring to know that there are national networks of people and organisations who are promoting the importance and potential of families who learn together across generations and of education for cooperative living and democracy.

Have you got examples or suggestions of effective cooperative problem solving, engagement in local democracy or family learning – or comments on these approaches?