We hope as many of you as possible are contributing to the consultation on the next PfG – closing date 22nd March.
While you will of course have specific responses in line with your organisations, we would hope that you would include a message that adult learning should be recognised as a key enabler of the fulfilment of all the PfG’s outcomes.
We would also encourage you to urge the NI Executive to not only commit to improving the wellbeing of all our people, but also to creating a culture of lifelong learning.
We have suggested that there should be an additional Key Priority Area – Access to Learning.
Here is what we said in the Additional Information section:
FALNI is pleased that the Exec is continuing with an outcomes-based PfG as this is very much in line with the cross-disciplinary, cross-departmental support that is required by adult learning. We hope that this will now be matched by outcomes-based, as we believe this will be essential to successful implementation.
We would welcome more information on how accountability will be assured. Any one KPA can be split across three+ depts and therefore scrutiny could involve three+ committees. If an external agency such as the Forum seeks to ask questions or lobby relating to a KPA will there be both a lead dept and a lead committee?
Mervyn Storey MLA commissioned a briefing paper from RaISe which took recommendations from the report Healthy, Wealthy and Wise: the impact of adult learning across the UK (2017) – Healthy-Wealthy-Wise-Report. and cross-referenced these to the last draft PfG and developments elsewhere in the UK. We would recommend that the current draft PfG takes cognisance of the findings of this paper – Adult Learning in Northern Ireland: key policy-making considerations.
FALNI is disappointed that learning is not explicitly mentioned under any of the outcomes or KPAs – hence our suggestion that there should be an additional KPA on Access to Learning. Learning will be the key facilitator for all aspects of the Programme for Government and deserves to be foregrounded. Making only implicit reference to learning is not enough when this document should be encouraging people in NI to be actively involved in the fulfilment of the PfG objectives and engaging in all sorts of learning will enable such involvement. Action needs to be taken as data from OECD and the Learning & Work Institute shows that NI has the lowest adult participation in learning rate across the UK and lower than Ireland and the EU average.
In addition to having the key aim of improving the wellbeing of all our people, we believe the NI Exec should take the opportunity of the new PfG to make a commitment to declaring and creating NI a learning society (which indeed will actively contribute to wellbeing – see Learn Well, Live Well. As well as the benefits this would bring to the people of NI, enabling, we believe, the fulfilment of all nine outcomes, it would make NI stand out as an attractive proposition for external investment.
By making such a commitment core to the PfG the Executive would be endorsing the OECD recommendation (re a new Skills Strategy) to create a lifelong learning culture and aligning Northern Ireland with developments and investment in adult/lifelong learning in neighbouring countries.
FALNI will be engaging its members (stakeholders in adult learning from across all sectors) in the exploration of how to create a culture of lifelong learning and would welcome collaboration from the Executive and all government departments. We look forward to working with the Executive and the Assembly in creating a lifelong learning society, where Northern Ireland moves to the forefront of adult learning policy and development in these islands.