From education to employment

Adult Learners Turned Away as Colleges Strive to Meet Government Targets

Concerns continue to grow for the future of adult education in England as stories begin to emerge of adult learners being turned away from courses at colleges as they strive to meet Government targets for the numbers of young people continuing in education.

The recent spending review from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) featured an absolute ““ terms cut in post 19 education funding of approximately 3%, from £1,847 million in 2004 / 05 to £1,792 million in 2005 / 06, and the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has made it clear that the focus of Government policy in the next few years will be to improve the basic skills levels, whilst making sure that all young people up the age of 18 remain in some form of education.

David Russell, Director of Resources for the LSC, told FE News upon the publication of the budget for 2005 / 2006 in May that whilst there would be provision for adults who needed Basic Skills training (up to Level 2), “since the budget available needs to be focused on Government priorities, it has been necessary to constrain the volume of other adult provision supported by the LSC in 2005/06.”

NUS Find Adults Being Turned Away; NIACE Responds

At the recent Trade Union Congress (TUC) Annual Congress in Brighton, Kat Fletcher, the President of the National Union of Students (NUS), told the audience at a Fringe meeting that she had received reports that adult students were being turned away from courses and being told that they should try again the next day, as there might be places available for them at that time. Another member of the audience, who works for a Further Education College, confirmed that she had witnessed this taking place and cited the targets set by the DfES as the reason for this.

This seems to dovetail smoothly with the indications from the budget statement from the LSC that adult education courses that do not have a direct responsibility for life skills or basic skills coaching will need to be funded either by employers or by the individual learner. In recent months there has been some outcry concerning the fears of adult learners being short changed, and with the Foster Review and the Leitch Review due to report in November and next March respectively, there may yet be further changes to the FE sector in the near future.

Speaking to FE News, Alastair Thomson, Senior Policy Officer at NIACE, said: “If people ready to enrol on courses are being turned away, the Government needs to look urgently at whats gone wrong in delivering a lifelong learning policy. A system that tells adults that theyre second best is simply not good enough.”

Jethro Marsh

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