“Bring back Life-Long Learning” says Penny Remfry, Green Party candidate for Elected Mayor.
North Tyneside used to have a lively adult education sector, but it has been decimated by government cuts and reduced to a focus on qualifications for employment only.
Penny says: “There was a wide range of classes people could go to, from all sorts of crafts, languages and literature to basic skills in writing and maths. They were a great way to develop knowledge and skills, meet people with the same interests and make friends.”
Penny has personal experience of the benefits of these classes; she joined a class when she first came to North Tyneside and the spice rack she made in her woodwork class still has pride of place in her kitchen.
These classes are also of benefit to our community elders. Penny previously worked with an organisation which supports older people and developed a learning and activities programme which was very popular. People of all ages benefit from affordable access to these kind of classes, developing skills and interests, keeping fit, and widening their social networks.
Penny explains: “For many older people who wanted to get out and socialise, meet new people and either keep fit, or learn something new, these sessions were really valued.”
The adult education budget is now held by the North of Tyne Combined Authority who contract with North Tyneside, Newcastle and Northumberland to deliver an adult education programme.
The current programme is very much focussed on developing skills for employment to support the Combined Authority Mayor’s vision of “building a green, prosperous economy in the North of Tyne”.
However the Combined Authority’s Mayor also says: “learning enriches people’s lives…. we have to make it as easy as possible for everyone to pursue their ambitions in work and in life – whatever their age. Lifelong learning equips people to acquire new skills and knowledge. It increases job chances and enhances life opportunities. “
Penny says she agrees with the North of Tyne Mayor’s views on what adult education is about. If elected as Elected Mayor in North Tyneside, Penny will work to broaden the classes on offer at a cost which ordinary people can afford.
Penny says: “I would like local communities to be able to determine their own learning – widening people’s experience of what education can be about is really important. We have many challenges ahead in terms of responding to the climate crisis, repairing the damage to people’s lives from the 10+ years of austerity and the pandemic, developing the new technologies and products needed to live more environmentally sustainable lives. Lifelong learning classes can contribute to all this – and bring back some fun and creativity into our lives.”