The government will struggle to get enough adult learners to take up their entitlement to free A-level equivalent training if ministers scrap the union learning fund, says a new TUC report "Getting every adult to level 3: How the Union Learning Fund supports the government’s adult skills aspirations" published today (17 Nov). 

In September, the prime minister announced that all adults will be able to study for their first level 3 qualification (an A level or equivalent, such as a BTEC level 3) free of charge. The new level 3 entitlement will start in spring 2021. 

The crisis in UK skills and productivity is well-known – 40% of young people do not achieve a level 3 qualification by age 25. 

The TUC welcomed the new level 3 entitlement. But since this announcement, the education department have proposed scrapping the union learning fund – which helps get working people into job-relevant skills and training.  

The new entitlement will be a “paper promise” without support for learners  

The TUC says that without help to get adult learners back into learning and help them stick to the courses, the new level 3 entitlement will be a “paper promise” that only small numbers will use.   

Adult learners are often reluctant to get back into learning, facing barriers such as getting time to learn, managing their caring responsibilities, understanding their entitlements and battling low confidence.   

Even where courses are free of charge, the number of adult learners is falling. For example, the number of adults achieving first level 2 qualifications (GCSEs or equivalent) in English and maths has fallen by 30% since 2010 despite these courses being free.  

Union learning is a rare success story in adult learning. It’s open to both union members and non-members.  

Union learning reps get people on to courses who would not previously have considered learning, help them stick to the course and progress, and broker time-off with employers to train.  

This practical support is a “crucial help” that makes paper entitlements to free learning a reality for working adults who need to improve their skills.   

The independent review of the union learning fund showed unions excel at supporting less confident learners, and at persuading those with few or no qualifications to take up the training opportunities open to them. Seven in ten learners said they would not have taken part in learning or training without union support. This rises to around 8 in 10 of those with no prior qualifications. 

Union learning helps get reluctant adult learners the basic skills they need to progress – and in many cases helps working people get their first ever qualifications.  

In the last year, the union learning fund helped 37,700 learners take up level 2 training courses in English and maths. This is a 48 per cent increase on the target of 25,600 set by the education department. Getting learners to achieve at level 2 is a gateway to getting more learners onto level 3 courses.  

The TUC argues that union learning will make a huge contribution to getting a critical mass of learners to take up their entitlement to a free first level 3 qualification, through helping learners get the prior qualifications and skills to take up the entitlement, and through helping learners get back into and stick to learning.   

However, the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson has proposed to scrap the £12 million annual union learning fund from spring 2021 – just as free access to new level 3 training courses is introduced. 

“Union learning is a rare success story in adult skills. The union learning fund has helped millions of learners gain qualifications in English, maths and ICT over the last 20 years, especially those with few or no prior qualifications.  

“If ministers want their new skills policy to work, then they need to think about how to engage and support reluctant learners. That’s what union learning excels at – getting working people who missed out at school back into learning. Without this crucial help, the new entitlement is just a paper promise. 

“Union learning makes a massive contribution to the UK’s adult skills. The proposal to end it in spring 2021 is both puzzling and counterproductive. If we want to boost productivity and help the economy recover faster, then the prime minister must reject the proposal to scrap the union learning fund.” 

Frances O’Grady, General Secretary, TUC

You may also be interested in these articles:

Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page