From education to employment

Creative and craft courses must be funded, adult- learning organisations tells government

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Creative and craft courses, such as cookery and jewellery making, support the government’s ambitions to get people into work, improve wellbeing and boost community integration – and should therefore be fully funded, says the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA).

At the moment, the government funds level 3 qualifications that teach skills directly related to specific jobs, such as accounting and finance, hospitality and catering and manufacturing technologies.

And the Department for Education recently announced that it was looking to extend this funding to courses that boost wellbeing and community integration.

But now the WEA is urging the government to fund all adult-learning courses equally, rather than excluding those categorised as “leisure learning”. Though the term “leisure learning” remains undefined, the new funding arrangement is likely to exclude creative and craft courses, which WEA research shows can boost wellbeing, build community and develop skills that lead to employment.

As the new academic year starts, the WEA is therefore calling on the government to recognise the value that creative and craft courses offer.

Simon Parkinson, WEA CEO, said:

“There’s an assumption that leisure learning means middle-class people studying art history. But it might equally mean a retired person or someone with caring responsibilities, for whom doing an adult-learning class is a vital connection to the world. These courses can have mental-health and community benefits.

“Creative and craft courses, such as cookery and photography, can also teach vital literacy and numeracy skills, which encourage people into more formal learning. This, in turn, opens up employment opportunities and economic benefit to the wider community.

“Educational inequality still pervades all areas of society, influencing where people work, what they earn, where they live and whether they are likely to continue learning later in life.

“People who had bad experiences at school can be wary of traditional learning. But a course that allows them to pursue their interests is not simply leisure learning – it can transform their view of education.

“Such courses also teach core concepts. For example, cookery requires an understanding of measurement, volume and fractions – all integral to basic numeracy. A photography course requires participants to understand how to use the digital interface on the back of the camera.

“And crafting courses, such as jewellery-making, require an understanding of shape and symmetry, and an ability to count – as well as offering clear wellbeing benefits to participants.

“This is why the WEA is calling upon all political parties to prioritise adult learning in their election manifesto.”

The WEA believes that all adult-learning courses can have a number of positive outcomes.

These outcomes are:

  • Skills for employment and local economic growth  
  • Boosting individuals’ income 
  • Reducing social exclusion
  • Improving wellbeing and issues related to adult mental health

Mr Parkinson’s comments were made as the WEA prepares to celebrate its 120th anniversary this year.

Founded in 1903, the WEA offers courses, ranging from Tudor history to jewellery making, to more than 32,000 students a year. Many of these courses also aim to enhance students’ literacy and numeracy skills. 

Mr Parkinson said:

“I am very proud to be marking the WEA’s 120th anniversary year. Unfortunately, however, our founders would still recognise the need to close the gap between those who leave school with good qualifications and those who leave with few or none.

“We need a national lifelong-learning strategy that recognises the value of learning at all levels – not just those courses that lead directly on to employment.”

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