From education to employment

LSC report received well but concerns raised over adult learning

Adult learners are not getting the full benefit of a £10 billion fund dedicated to further education, adult and work-based learning.

Leaders across industry have praised the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) following the publication last week of its first progress report, but have voiced concerns regarding adult provision.

Liz Smith, unionlearn Director, commented on the report: “There is much to welcome in the LSC’s progress report and both learners and staff in the FE sector should be congratulated for their achievements. However to continue to build progress we need to ensure funding for adult learning is expanded”.

“In the workplace we also need radical measures to engage the 1 in 3 employers who dont offer any training to their staff. The Leitch Review of Skills provides a great opportunity to address these issues and unions are playing a very important role in encouraging employees back into learning”.

“Change is also crucial to support the demand for learning which nearly 15,000 union learning reps are tapping into all around the country”.

The University and College Union’s (UCU) National Head of Further Education, Barry Lovejoy, said: “This progress report has much good news for young learners but for adult students the picture is not so positive”.

“On the face of things, adults seem to have done well as overall funding for them has risen by 4.6%. But a closer look shows that there has been a fall of 671,000 adults studying in further education colleges and in adult and community learning over the past two years”.

“This fall has happened because most adults study low level courses and the government has told colleges and adult education services that those courses are not a priority. Much of their funding has been swapped over to work-based learning ““ also done by adults”.

“But the reality is that these entry level and Level 1 courses are often a first step back into education for people who have been out of education for a long time and are also out of work, and so play a very important role in promoting social inclusion”.

“They are also the first step towards a Level 2 qualification which the government has made a top priority. How can learners get to Level 2 if there is no Level 1?”

Alastair Thomson, Senior Policy Officer at the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), said: “The LSC deserves congratulations for what it has achieved but NIACE calls for more openness about the price of that success”.

“A critical question is, “Who is missing?” and we call on the LSC to report on the wide variations in adult participation by age. This is a serious equality issue”.

“The LSC must also consider whether its targets are getting in the way of its wider statutory duty to promote post-16 education and training more generally”.

And Lawrence Miles, Chief Officer with the Independent Organisation of Licensed Verifiers and Assessors (IVA), commented: “There are plenty of statistics to justify whats happened and whats afoot. As I read it a decision has been made to cut the adult learning budget by some 7%”.

The inbalance is intensified between those colleges serving the 16-19 year old and those colleges committed to lifelong learning. An additional half a million adult learning places will have to be cut between now and 2008″.

“25% of colleges are going to get a funding increase that is less than inflation. Thats what we call a cut not an increase”.

“There is an assumption that rich students will pay more – What is that based on? Theres also an assumption that Government knows best what local needs are. Many disagree. The notion of “low priority nationally”; reduced spending on courses not leading to Government targets; protecting Learndirect are all worth closer scutiny”.

“Where a high/medium/low matrix is in use Colleges have to follow the bouncing ball”.

Vijay Pattni.

Related FE News articles:

“We Should All Be Proud” ““ 17/10/06

LSC Progress Report ““ 16/10/06

Govt Reaches 2006 Adult Skills Target ““ 12/10/06

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