Learning Unlimited – 3rd annual seminar

L U’s 3rd annual seminar stacked up the soapboxes and invited ‘manifesto’ pitches for educational ideas and actions. In a speakeasy-type atmosphere, six invited controversialists each made a two-minute pitch – reasoned argument, or impassioned rant – for their suggestion; this was followed by carousel table discussions with a very participative audience during which the talk and wine both flowed liberally as positions were made clear, rationales delineated, and rejoinders riposted.


NIACE’s Sue Southwood made a strong case against the replacement of Functional Skills with GCSE’s, arguing that the practical emphasis, and contextuality of functional skills made them far more learner and teacher friendly. Meanwhile, over on another table, Jennie Turner of Greenwich Community College demanded a full scale review of ESOL qualifications……both these exam-related proposals elicited strong support from the highly participative audience.


Errol MacGlashan, performance poet and much missed ex-colleague from the old LLU+ days, asked what we should be doing about books in prison; binning, banning or burning them for instance? Or perhaps none of these? Errol’s mischievous take on some of our government’s weirder ideas delighted everyone. Ann McDonnell from Barking and Dagenham argued that Family Learning should be compulsory for parents. Such educational opportunities are transformative and too few currently take advantages of the existing offer.


And Learning Unlimited’s very own Graham Griffiths and John Sutter eagerly leapt onto a couple of in-house soapboxes; Graham to argue for a switch of focus in mathematics teaching away from dry ‘skills’towards an appreciation of  what is in fact intrinsically interesting about maths, and John to argue that institutional education by the state has become so ideologically colonised by neo-liberal capitalism that we now need an end to schools, colleges and universities. That’s right, he did say that.

So much talk generated, so much lively discussion! It therefore seemed highly appropriate – and entertaining –  to have the evening brought to a close with a stunning performance by our guest poet Errol of his brilliant piece, “Words” – see a performance of this below

and check out his Facebook page if you’d like to see more.

Thanks to all who came – and how are we going to follow that next year?