The 'conveyor belt effect': a re-assessment of the impact of National Targets for Lifelong Learning

Stephen Gorard, Gareth Rees, Neil Selwyn

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Although the National Targets for Education and Training in England and Wales include indicators for lifelong learning, and the progress towards the targets set for these indicators has been lauded by politicians and other observers, much of this apparent progress is actually accounted for by changes in these same indicators at Foundation level. However, once the 'conveyor belt effect' of passing increasingly qualified 16-18 year-olds into the working-age population instead of less qualified 60 and 65 year-olds, is taken into account, then progress in qualifying those of working-age is much less. In fact, there is then very limited evidence that Lifelong Learning targets have had any impact at all. Certainly work-based training has not increased, and may even have declined over the last decade, while some socio-economic inequalities in adult participation in education and training have worsened. The paper examines this apparent weakness for the current approach and its implications for the measurement of progress, in the light of a research review carried out for the National Assembly of Wales. It therefore asks increasingly important questions about targets, such as what they are for, and whether those who set and monitor them are aware of their deficiencies and artificialities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-89
Number of pages15
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2002
Externally publishedYes

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