The Kennedy Report Learning Works, published by the Further Education Funding Council, represents the findings of the committee chaired by Dame Helena Kennedy which investigated patterns of participation in, and access to, further education, and is a significant document which helped to drive the widening participation agenda. As a result of the Report, a national strategy was implemented which aimed to ensure that all UK citizens over the age of 16 would have equal access to further and higher education. The main themes of the Report were that learning was central to national and individual economic prosperity and social cohesion, and that equity dictated that all should have the opportunity to succeed. Furthermore, it was suggested that a dramatic shift in policy was needed to widen participation in post‐16 learning, and to foster a culture in which continuing learning was considered a natural facet of adult life. Dame Helena's task was to reach under‐represented groups and non‐traditional learners and to define the critical role of the further education sector in the process. The Report defined further education as ‘everything that does not happen in schools or universities’. The notion of widening participation has been superseded to a great extent by that of lifelong learning, which continues to address common barriers that adults have in accessing education, such as pressure of work; family and social life; financial constraints; and cultural and language issues.
The issue of widening participation specifically for learners with learning difficulties or disabilities was explored by the Tomlinson Report (1996).