Cultural Playing Field

‘The craft so long to lerne: Skills and their Place in Modern Britain’ by Robin Simpson
October 28, 2010, 10:22 am
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , , , , ,

On Tuesday evening I was at the RSA to hear the Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, John Hayes, deliver a speech titled ‘The craft so long to lerne: Skills and their Place in Modern Britain’. John Hayes wanted to stress the importance of practical skills and the need for greater parity of esteem between academic learning and practical craft. This was not just about the economic need for a better skilled nation. The Minister said “there’s plenty of evidence to show that raising skills levels brings social as well as economic benefits, like better public health, lower crime-rates and more intensive engagement by individuals in the sorts of voluntary and community activities that improve everyone’s quality of life”. He spoke passionately about the “power of learning for the common good” and said he was proud that the Adult & Community Learning budget had been protected in the Comprehensive Spending Review. The Minister said “we must not forget the role that informal learning also plays in teaching skills. Acquiring skills make our lives, not necessarily wealthier, but definitely fuller. It raises our self-esteem and often also the esteem in which others hold us”. He finished by saying “skills, craft and dexterity give our lives meaning and value. They are at the heart of our society. Craft should be honoured and those who master it revered. So while we work to encourage the learning of practical skills, we must also work to build demand for and recognition of them.” John Hayes is a passionate advocate of learning for learning’s sake. He was even more eloquent once he departed from his script and started answering questions from the floor, stressing the effect that informal learning has on health, mental health, civic engagement and much more. Though ‘craft’ in the context of this speech encompassed a broad range of practical skills, from carpenter to software engineer, it was clear that developing skills in the arts and crafts is very definitely something that the Minister is keen to encourage.

Robin Simpson.


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