TUC 2012: Team GB's stunning performance at the London Olympics should be studied closely by politicians and policymakers.
In the space of just 16 years Britain has gone from being sporting also-rans in Atlanta, where we achieved just one gold medal, to world leaders in London, where we amassed a staggering 29.
The key factor behind this remarkable turnaround, besides the tremendous hard work and dedication of our athletes, has been sustained public investment in sporting programmes and infrastructure.
It is essential now as we try and emerge from a double-dip recession that we apply the same principles to our economy and that ministers recognise the importance and benefits of funding success in areas like education.
We need to see an end to the regressive funding reforms that have blighted further and higher education over the last two-and-a-half years.
Since coming to power the coalition has slashed college and university budgets, axed the education maintenance allowance (EMA) and tripled the price of tuition fees.
Its latest backwards step is to make going to college for older learners more expensive.
From 2013 anyone over the age of 24 wanting to study for A-level qualifications and above will be forced to take out loans, as in higher education, to pay for the full cost of their tuition.
This will effectively double the price of studying for people over 24 and result in thousands of people being priced out of education.
Even by the government's own estimates we are likely to see over 100,000 fewer learners taking up college places.
This would be disaster for a sector already reeling from huge spending cuts and would lead to course closures and redundancies.
The evidence shows that if you make studying more expensive fewer people will be able to learn.
We have seen this already following the withdrawal of the EMA with over two-thirds of colleges reporting a drop among 16-18-year-olds and in higher education where higher fees have resulted in a 10 per cent fall among English applicants.
We cannot afford a repeat of this among over-24s or we will face a huge skills gap that will prevent us from competing on the global economic stage.
Britain is already languishing at the bottom of the international tables for post-16 education participation, with the vast majority of OECD countries boasting a higher rate of 15-29 year-olds in education.
With 80 per cent of jobs in the future likely to require A-level qualifications and above we need to be making it easier for people to study, not harder.
By removing funding and access for young people and adults who need a second chance the government is condemning a generation to unemployment and benefit dependency and risks turning us into economic also-rans.
Only through increasing public funding can we promote access to education, improve social mobility and stimulate economic growth.
Increasing public funding for areas like further and higher education really will help us to capture the spirit of London 2012 and ensure that we continue to compete in the global skills race.
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