"The Survey" - Learning Towns, Learning Cities
Contents Page |
Summary of Developments |
Milton Keynes |
Other Initiatives |
Learning should be valued and practiced as part of everyday life - not just by a few people, but by each and everyone of us. Learning should not end when we leave school, college or university. It should continue throughout our lives. It should form the basis of our society in which everyone has the opportunity to succeed and prosper. These are the aims behind the Government's approach to lifelong learning.
The Green Paper on Lifelong Learning, The Learning Age invited us to work in partnership to build a new learning society - a society in which everyone's potential is realised through education and the development of their talents and skills. As this report shows, the partnerships formed by the many individuals and organisations already involved in Learning Cities and Learning Towns are bringing learning to whole communities, to young and old alike. Their example provides a firm basis on which other towns and cities can build.
The concept of the "Learning" or "Educating" city dates back to the early 1970s. It was further developed in the report of the First International Congress on Educating Cities organised by the Barcelona City Council in 1990.
This report identified some of the principles that should be adopted by the learning city: a need for integrated planning; a relationship between education and cultural development; the need to deal with inequality and demands for education throughout life.
In 1992 the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report by Donald Hirsch of the Second Congress on Educating Cities held in Gothenburg. This has been most influential in developing ideas about the learning city in Britain. The report focused on seven cities and their strategies for encouraging their citizens to continue learning throughout their lives. Thus, it illustrated the very real role that the city can play in promoting such a culture.
The European Lifelong Learning Initiative (ELLI) has also promoted the concept of the learning community, following an international conference in Rome which brought together leading industrialists and educators. At least one learning city in Britain owes its origins to the ELLI.
ELLI organised a second conference in Ottawa at the end of March 1997 on the theme of "Investing in Human Potential: Making Strategic Choices". Literacy in Canada, the "Kent Learning Strategy" from England and the "Learning Country" idea being developed in Slovenia were examples of learning communities presented at this conference.
It is hardly surprising that the self-styled learning towns and cities which have grown up in the UK have developed differently and have different focuses for action. (Inevitably, information about these developments is incomplete but it is, growing and changing all the time.)
This report outlines the findings from a short project investigating the development of a number of learning town and learning city initiatives in the UK. It was commissioned by the Department for Education and Employment from NIACE, the National Organisation for Adult Learning.
The survey began in the Autumn of 1996 and covers in some detail the activities of three learning communities: Thetford, Norwich and Sheffield.
It also involves a desk study of all the other known examples of learning cities and learning towns. Their number is increasing and interest in the idea of the learning community is intense. Thus, this report exists on shifting ground. Part of the challenge involved in its preparation has been keeping up with changes in the field.
The objective of the study were to look at the initiatives in Thetford, Norwich and Sheffield in terms of:
Every effort has been made to obtain similar information for the other initiatives but this is not always complete.