Issues for Post-16 Education, Employment, the World of Work and Retirement

The Campaign for Learning's latest paper brings together specialists from mental health and post-16 education and employment who set out what needs to be done to prevent or limit a mental health crisis in 2021. In the wake of the government’s recent ‘roadmap out of lockdown’ announcement and the Ofqual consultation outcomes for exams and assessments, the paper highlights how learners and people whose jobs are at risk or are unemployed can be helped in a post-pandemic world. 

‘Understanding and Overcoming a Mental Health Crisis in 2021’ presents the issues for post-16 education, employment, the world of work and retirement. Whilst much attention has been rightly paid to the pandemic’s impact on school education, this paper looks specifically at the mental health implications and needs of older students and adults.  

Some of the issues and concerns for mental health existed prior to the pandemic, but Covid-19 has caused additional pressures on young people and adults. These range from feelings of isolation from the need to study and work at home, to job insecurity and financial stress from unemployment. 

The contributors make specific recommendations to support apprentices and students at colleges, university and in adult learning, as well as people in and out of work. The important role of education, lifelong learning and good work in promoting mental wellbeing and reducing mental health problems is also addressed, with calls for lifelong learning to be put at the heart of the nation’s mental and physical health recovery post-pandemic. 

Julia Wright, National Director at the Campaign for Learning said: 

“Our mental health situation is complex. Yet, as our contributors show, there are clear steps we can take to mitigate pressures and respond to need. These responses highlight the need for a multifaceted approach and include high quality support for students and apprentices, assessing the mental health impacts of education policies and focusing on practice that promotes mental wellbeing.  

Supporting young people and adults to benefit fully from education and lifelong learning promotes mental wellbeing further as it builds confidence, increases skills levels and helps people move into employment and better jobs.

We are grateful to our authors for their analysis. We hope by bringing together their perspectives, it will add to the high degree of joint work that already exists between their sectors and provide an added impetus to further good work, good practice and good policy.”

See below for the list of contributors and to download the full paper.  


  • Sophie Corlett, Mind: Preventing a Mental Health Crisis    
  • Paul McDonald, Samaritans: Preventing Suicide and Self-Harm amongst 16-24-Year-Olds     
  • Lucy Thorpe, Mental Health Foundation: Meeting the Mental Health Challenge of Mass Youth and Adult Unemployment     
  • David Hughes, Association of Colleges: Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Post-16 College Students   
  • Liz Bromley, NCG: Improving Student Mental Health at NCG   
  • Anna Morrison, Amazing Apprenticeships: Protecting the Mental Health of Young and Adult Apprentices   
  • Amy Dicks, Universities UK: Creating a Whole University Approach to Mental Health      
  • Arlëne Hunter, The Open University: Supporting the Mental Health of Mature Higher Education Students   
  • Larissa Kennedy and Tiana Holgate, NUS: Grasping At The Root of the Student Mental Health Crisis 
  • Nick Bennett, Fika: Rebuilding Post-16 Education around Mental Fitness     
  • Jenny Sherrard, UCU: Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Post-16 Staff    
  • Elizabeth Taylor, ERSA and Richard Brooks, SETAS: Minimising the Mental Health Crisis through Job Creation and Employment    
  • Matthew Percival, CBI: Changing ‘Work for the Better’ through a New Focus on Mental Health   
  • Shelly Asquith, TUC: Organising to Reduce Workplace Stress   
  • Fiona Aldridge, Learning and Work Institute Preventing a Mental Health Crisis through ‘More Jobs’ and ‘Better Quality Jobs’   
  • Simon Parkinson, WEA: Tackling the Mental Health Crisis through Adult Learning 

This paper was published in February 2021.

Download the paper