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The wide interest in education, which undoubtedly exists in Wales, can be seen not only as an outgrowth of its cultural tradition but as a consequence of its economic poverty. (quoted in Istance and Rees, 1994, p 11) By the 1970s, however, some observers were suggesting that these attitudes to learning were changing. After the 1944 Education Act, it was suggested that the grammar school tradition, which dominated Welsh secondary education, produced a polarised distribution of attainment, with a substantial ‘elite’ of high attainers, but equally a very large proportion of school-leavers with no formal qualifications at all, leading to a waste of talent and social division (Istance and Rees, 1995).

And equivalent arguments can be made with respect to the demise of community-based learning through the Miners’ Institutes. There is a real sense, then, in which substantial sections of the population now have learning opportunities which are significantly worse than their parents (or, more correctly, their fathers) enjoyed (Rees, 1997). This emphasis on the necessity of locating the concept of the learning society within an analysis of the complexities of change in social patterns of participation in learning necessarily draws attention to the specificities of 22 Lifelong learning trajectories place too.

Then came the Irish and English, leading to a net gain in population of 129,000 from 1901-11 and the consequent destruction of some Welsh-speaking areas, especially those to the east (Howell, 1988). Booming economic conditions, therefore, produced almost instant new communities, concentrated into ribbon-like developments along the valleys (Nash et al, 1995). The dominant of the staple industries was coal, with around a quarter of a million miners employed in, 1913. In good times, the wages in mining were relatively good (especially compared with agriculture) and there was a high demand for men.

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