Adult education can change lives

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I work for David Lammy MP. I was also born and raised in the North West of England in a small town that voted to leave the EU by 65:35. I also helped research and write the speech on which your article on January 14 is based.

The thrust of the debate was not that people “wrongly blame immigrants for problems”, it was that successive governments have failed whole swathes of the country and failed to equip people with the skills they need – hence the call to bring back night schools to give people in these communities opportunities:

It is not good to say that if someone does not go to university they cannot progress and are limited to a life of low paid work with no prospects of change.

It is not good enough to deny opportunities to the already marginalised and struggling, and to those who did not have opportunities when they were growing up. The bottom line is that we are obsessed with the education policy for 16 and 18-year-olds. We are obsessed with university entrants, and we are currently obsessed with apprenticeships. It is all about getting young people into university or an apprenticeship, but education does not and must not end at 18.

This was not an attempt by a member of the “metropolitan liberal elite” in London to have a go at people who voted for Brexit. It was an attempt by a Member of Parliament to say “look: successive governments have let people down – we need to sort this out”.

Rather than a clickbait-y and misrepresentative headline, we had hoped that people would be able to see that David was – rare among MPs – standing up and taking responsibility on behalf of Westminster for what has happened with regards to adult education. He was actually standing up for people in the North East:

However, my question is: How are working class people going to access those sectors and get the jobs where they can earn even the average salary – never mind a comfortable salary on which to support a family and enjoy a good life?

Millions of people trapped in low income, dead end jobs with children ​and care responsibilities have been shut out of adult education. Let me put a question to the Minister, who I know cares about the issue. I am not here, on this occasion, in a partisan way, but I want to know what he will do about this critical issue.

I don’t necessarily expect you to agree with me and I am writing to you not out of anger or frustration but out of sorrow – as the whole purpose of this campaign is to respond to the EU referendum result in a positive and intelligent way and in a way that might just make a difference to the opportunities that some people have in some of the “left behind” communities – a totally patronising piece of terminology that I resent but has become accepted parlance in Westminster.

I believe that if there were more opportunities for adults in Sunderland, South Shields and Hartlepool to retrain and gain skills it would be a good thing.

Jack McKenna