Why Kirstie Allsopp has a point (about life-long learning)

'As a passionate feminist, I feel we have not been honest enough’: Allsopp, above with Dandy, lives in west London with her partner, Ben Andersen, and their two sons, aged five and seven

Kirstie Allsopp has been trending today for expressing her views that society lies to women about fertility, and the somewhat irresponsible argument that women should focus on finding a partner, forget about university, and achieve motherhood during their fertility window before they reach 35.

That’s the Honourable Kirstie Allsopp, daughter of the 6th Baron Hinslipp. I think we can assume that a life where you can’t just abandon work to focus on motherhood is probably not on her radar, even if it is the reality for a huge number of mothers in the UK today of various ages.

She’s absolutely wrong to suggest that motherhood needs to be at the heart of women’s life long plans, and I don’t know the science on fertility but I think there are different age related barriers faced by women who have children when they are younger or older than average, without having to contend with more judgement on the decision itself.

But she does make a valid point in amongst the other stuff. Education can and should happen at any age. The government she allegedly very much supports have wreaked a massive amount of destruction on adult learning, and it is (working class) women who are receiving the worst deal out of it. I’ve worked in Access education for some years now and I completely believe that it is partly a culture that distinguishes between “normal” and “second chance” education, devaluing the experiences younger women have had as mothers and automatically framing those who enter education later on as already having failed, which is the biggest part of the problem.

At UCU annual congress last week West Mids region successfully brought a motion calling for national campaigning in defence of adult education. When should women have children? Up to women. When should education be available? At any age. While we continue to allow adult learning funding to be destroyed and courses to be lost, we continue to shut valuable adult learners (most of them not children of barons) out of society, and it is everyone’s loss.

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