The relationship between research and policy has recently become turbulent and contentious. Into this charged atmosphere, five of the projects form the ESRC's Learning Society Programme present the implications of their findings for policy, and constitute a powerful critique of current policy on lifelong learning in this collection.
For the first time, findings are presented from a major new survey, commissioned by the Programme, which examined the skills of a representative sample of British workers and found, for example, an 'alarmingly high' mismatch between the demand and supply of qualifications.
Other chapters heal with the fragmentation of provision for adult guidance, the financial and psychological casts of lifelong learning for learners with children, and the failure of the market principle in education to create a national culture of learning. The report also contains many practical recommendations.
The new Labour government is committed to introducing evidence-based policy and practice, and so the present roles of researchers, policy makers and practitioners will be subjected to intensifying pressure to change in the next few years. These issues are debated in the first two chapters and concerns are expressed about how easy it will be in future to speak truth to power.
The report is essential reading for all politicians, policy makers, employers, trade unionists and educationalists keen to create a culture of lifelong learning within the UK.
Frank Coffield, Institute of Education, University of London
Contents: Introduction: past failures, present differences and possible futures for research, policy and practice Frank Coffield; The impact of research on policy Maurice Kogan; The impact of the manager on learning in the workplace Michael Eraut, Jane Alderton, Gerald Cole and Peter Senker; Young lives at risk in the 'Futures' market: some policy concerns from ongoing research Stephen Ball, Sheila Macrae, Meg Maguire; The costs of learning: the policy implications of changes in continuing education for NHS staff Therese Dowswell, Bobbie Millar and Jenny Hewison; Skill trends in Britain: trajectories over the last decade Alan Felstead, David Ashton, Brenda Burchell, Francis Green; Adult guidance services for a learning society? Evidence from England Will Bartlett, Teresa Rees.