Series 3, Episode 5 of the Let’s Go Further Podcast


Uniting the education sectors – adult, further and higher – behind the common purpose of improving the mental and social health of society should be a priority for policymakers, according to guests on the Let’s Go Further podcast.


In episode five of this series, The Rt Hon. the Lord Blunkett, a former Secretary of State for Education, and Emma Beal, Principal and Chief Executive of Northern College, discussed the role of adult education in accessing higher education.


Lord Blunkett argued that education is key to tackling the biggest health problems in the country:

If we want a society that is healthy and is free of dementia as far as we can - reducing the impetus of dementia, mental health, depression, and isolation - it's education that's going to make that possible.


Similarly, Emma Beal said that investing in adult education will benefit all parts of society:

This is about understanding what adult learning does in the round rather than seeing it in a siloed position…understanding the broader benefits of adult learning, rather than just seeing this on a kind of money-in, money-out perspective is really important.


Both guests said that our current adult education system needs to change if we are to help learners reach their full potential.


Lord Blunkett said there is “an obsession with pushing people down tramlines” and that funding cuts have reduced the options available to learners. Learning provision needs to be more diverse to meet the needs of all individuals:

We learn at different paces at different times of our life, we mature differently, and we learn differently.


Furthermore, Emma said there are not enough former adult learners involved in policymaking, leading to adult education being treated as an afterthought:

We question why is it that adult education gets missed out from policy. And I think it's because there aren't enough adults who've been through the system who have that lived experience in the decision-making process.


Echoing points made in previous episodes of this series, Lord Blunkett and Emma say that we need to support learners to overcome the practical challenges of returning to education as adults. This means they can access the numerous benefits of lifelong learning – as Lord Blunkett says, “Education is for life not just for jobs.”


You can listen to this episode of Let’s Go Further here. It is also available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever else you receive your podcasts.


This third series of Let’s Go Further is focusing on adult education and is asking whether, as a nation, we are still committed to the century-old vision of adult education as being both universal and lifelong.


Let’s Go Further is a podcast that aims to challenge the way we think about skills and education. It was first launched in the autumn of 2022 with a series focused on social mobility. The second series was published in the spring of 2023 and looked at issues around equity, diversity and inclusion. To date, the podcast has had approximately 2,500 downloads.


Listen to the Let’s Go Further back catalogue here.


The Let’s Go Further podcast is produced by the Skills and Education Group in collaboration with Research Podcasts and is available wherever you receive your podcasts, including YouTube. You can follow the Skills and Education Group on LinkedIn and X (formerly Twitter) and subscribe to our email newsletters.


For all media enquiries please email

Listen to all episodes of Let's Go Further.

Let's Go Further together!