From education to employment

Prospect of One Million Fewer Adult Learners Looming for FE Sector

The National Institute for Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) hosted a conference in London this week to begin to tackle the issues facing Adult Education in the years ahead.

2005 may have moved on to become 2006 (as the years often do), but the same issues of funding and development remain. In the previous funding statement from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) adult learning received a real ““ terms cut in funding. It seems probable that further cuts will be announced in the years ahead, and it is feared that this could lead to as many as one million adult learners deciding against continuing education.

The threat to the infrastructure of adult education may result in the whole sector becoming permanently degraded and damaged. The challenge that this represents was the main subject up for debate at the conference on Tuesday the 21st of February, entitled the “Saving Adult Learning Conference” and held at the Abbey Community Centre in London. Amongst the areas examined were the role of colleges, the effects of current funding priorities and the key recommendations of the NIACE-sponsored Committee of Enquiry into Adult Learning in Colleges.

Amongst the speakers were Susan Pember OBE, the Director ““ FE and the Learning and Skills Performance Group at the Department for Education and Skills (DfES); Chris Hughes CBE, Former Chief Executive of the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) and Chairman of the Committee of Enquiry; Denis McEnhill, Director of Inspection for the Adult Learning Inspectorate (ALI); and Alan Tuckett, Director of NIACE.

Foster Review Has Implications

Colin Flint, NIACE Director of Further Education, mentioned the importance of Adult Education in the future development of FE, saying: “Sir Andrew Foster’s review of the future role of further education – Realising the Potential – gives strong endorsement to the skills agenda. However it has little to say about the needs of adult learners, other than those in the targeted groups – those interested in basic skills and a first Level 2 qualification – or about the demographic changes which will increasingly shape all our futures.”

He went on to discuss the prospects for adult education, saying: “We are now in the lean years, as far as most adult learners are concerned.” He said the conference allowed “major figures in adult learning to discuss the Government’s current strategy, whether we need a more inclusive approach to lifelong learning and perhaps most importantly – what our response should be to the current threat.”

Jethro Marsh

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