Learning for life

A rare sighting of adult education in your second leader (26 February) connects with Alan Johnson's "adult skills . . . closing the social class gap". Johnson is right to be proud of the achievements of Sure Start but wrong that it is only a matter of working with children of a very young age. Sustained work with their parents is critical, too, and at present a rich heritage of adult education is being emaciated by the focus on adult skills. We must pay full costs for courses judged not to be part of this latest strategy.

To quote Michael Stern, "The government is heir to one of the great Tory delusions: to achieve instrumental outcomes - vocational qualifications - you require narrow instrumental inputs. They seem unable to encompass the economic benefits of intellectual growth."

That reminds me of the response of the Daily Telegraph to the Russell report on adult education (another ill-fated Labour initiative) in the late 1970s. The headline of its editorial was "More money for hobbies".

David Browning
Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

This article first appeared in the 05 March 2007 issue of the New Statesman, The great generational robbery