A new campaign has launched to create a wide-ranging debate about adult education today and what it should look like in the future.

The Adult Education 100 campaign follows the launch of the 1919 Commission to mark the centenary of the Ministry of Reconstruction’s Final Report on Adult Education– a significant milestone in the history of adult education in the UK.

Original 1919 report

Ruth Spellman, CEO of the WEA, Simon Parkinson, Chief Executive and Principal at the Co-operative College and Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK launched the campaign at Holyoake House, Manchester alongside adult learners from the co-operative movement and the WEA.

The Adult Education 100 Campaign will include a programme of activities leading up to November 2019 to mark the centenary of the milestone report.  The campaign, alongside the 1919 Centenary Commission, is supported by the WEA; Co-operative College; Raymond Williams Foundation; University of Nottingham, Kellogg College and the University of Oxford.


The Adult Education 100 patrons include:                     

  • Baroness Joan Bakewell, President of Birkbeck University of London
  • Mary Beard, Professor of Classics, University of Cambridge
  • Lalage Bown, Prof. Emeritus, Adult & Continuing Education, University of Glasgow
  • Andy Haldane, Chief Economist, Bank of England
  • Sir John Hayes, MP
  • Mel Lenehan, Principal and CEO, Fircroft College
  • John Sentamu, Archbishop of York
  • Michael Sheen, Actor
  • Ruby Wax, Mental Health Campaigner

How you can take part

The campaign encourages all adult education supporters to take part and to run events, coffee mornings and lectures that centre around adult education – past and present. Supporters are also encouraged to join in the debate and share their opinions online and across social media using #AdultEducation100.

You can see more about the project itself via the button below.

Adult Education 100

Our Principal and Chief Executive Simon Parkinson commented:

100 years on from the release of the original report, the launch of today’s campaign serves as a reminder of the importance of adult education, not only to the individuals who study and learn but also to the communities in which they live. As an organisation that itself celebrates 100 years of delivering education and training in 2019, the Co-operative College knows only too well the transformative power that education can have. With a number of challenges on the horizon, including the ever changing nature of the world of work, we’re confident that co-operatives can lend a powerful voice and expertise to what is undoubtedly a matter of national importance.

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.

 The 1919 report came at a pivotal time when Britain faced immense economic, political and social challenges. Today’s challenges 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. We encourage all those who understand the value and importance of adult education to take part in the campaign.  As we know without those opportunities for learning, individuals, communities and the nation as a whole will be much poorer.

Ed Mayo, Secretary General, Co-operatives UK, said:

A focus on education is a fundamental part of being a co-op, and lifelong learning opens doors and opportunities. I would encourage everyone to support the campaign to celebrate 100 years of adult education, continuing this important legacy into the 21st century.