THE principal of a North-East college has added his voice to calls for further investment in adult education after revealing how it changed his life.

Darren Hankey, principal of Hartlepool College of Further Education, left school with the equivalent of three GCSEs to enter the world of work.

He returned to education aged 19, doing four years of night school before going to Sunderland University and later training as a teacher.

Admitting there were a “few bumps in the road”, he said: “For me, those four years were worth it.”

He added: “Simply put, adult education transformed my life.”

Mr Hankey has been at Hartlepool College since 2001 and became principal 12 years ago.

He said: "In my time at Hartlepool College, one thing that has saddened me is the demise of adult education.

"Nationally, the funding for this is circa 40 per cent less than it was in 2010. Similarly, participation in adult education is at a record low and report after report highlight the impact of this on those folk who could do with this service the most. Folk like me who, for whatever reason, didn’t maximise the opportunities formal education provided.

"I also think the way the jobs market has evolved in recent years has not helped. The rise of precarious jobs usually means that those who undertake these roles are less likely to benefit from work-sponsored training/education and also have limited time or finances to make these investments themselves.

"For me, this is such a shame as it leads to a waste of talent and also contributed to other issues. For example, the benefits of education are much wider than providing skills for the world of work, although this is a laudable aim of adult education.

"Education is strongly correlated to enhanced mental and physical health outcomes as well as other prosocial behaviours – such as abiding the law.

"It’s good to see policy-makers starting to talk again about lifelong learning and the need to invest in people throughout their working lives.

"Now those words need to be converted into actions and policy that can allow people to study, whether in combination with work or not, in an affordable manner."