A few weeks ago I had an absorbing discussion with a friend who works at a college, about the systematic reduction of funding, and other obstacles introduced by government, to minimise the contribution of further education institutions to community education. My friend's college, with a distinguished tradition of socially-committed work at local level with people on low-incomes, is being forced to abandon it.
It's hardly contentious to record that the present government has presided over a shameful starvation of learning opportunities for people who lack chances, in spite of the originally earnest tone of social inclusion educational policies ten years ago.
Since that conversation, it happens I've started doing some work under the current lottery-funded programme for community libraries, and been surprised at how many of the bids I've seen include the provision of spaces and activities for various forms of stuctured and semi-structured learning. One legitimate response to many of these might be, how come the education sector is not already doing this?
And then I spotted a note in Monday's Guardian in which it is claimed that:
Schools are having to give moral guidance to pupils which should be given by their parents at home... For some children, schools have had to take the place of the institutions that used to set the boundaries of acceptable behaviour.
This is from a report of a speech by the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, who says that:
For many children, school and its values, its clear boundaries and moral framework, are the only solid bedrock in their lives.'
Well, something's going on here - schools claiming they have to carry out a parental role, libraries expected to do the work of schools and colleges, colleges obstructed from providing community education... The roles of institutions are shifting, and I suspect that most of those within the institutions think they occupy terra firma.