The future of adult and continuing education in London has been a thorny topic for the relevant sector agencies for some time, especially since the proposed changes in authority.
In the closing months of 2005, it was revealed that the Mayor’s Office, led by the seemingly timeless Ken Livingstone, intended to take over the remit for adult and continuing education and skills provision in London from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). Quite apart from the impact that this could have on the capital, the decision on this area could directly influence future actions in the rest of Britain with a number of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) watching closely.
The level of funding being offered for adult and continuing education is an even more pressing concern. In an effort to meet this challenge to the education environment, NATFHE, the University and College Lecturers” Union, are hosting a meeting that will involve FE college principals, heads of adult education services, and lecturers from across the city. They will come together with a common goal; to discuss the implications of the perceived threat to adult education by the funding levels.
It is hoped that the meeting will enable the members present to hone their arguments further and come up with a single coherent argument to present to elected representatives. This will hopefully lead to MPs being fully aware of the drastic implications that cuts in funding will have on the sector, and thus on their electorate. The higher charge for adult education fees suggested by the Government as a way of making up the shortfall in funding, NATFHE fear, will lead to fewer taking up adult education courses that do not target basic skills and skills for life provision and will lead to the closure of a number of courses, with the consequent redundancy for NATFHE members.
Some of the worst affected colleges include City and Islington College, Hackney Community College and Lambeth College. City and Islington College will lose approximately 25% of the current provision of Basic Skills courses in September 2006, whilst at Hackney NATFHE estimate that up to 31 positions are at risk in such central study areas as languages, numeracy and literacy, and first aid. Lambeth College will have to make a saving of £2.3 million in 2006 / 2007, and the college has already cut the provision of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) courses amongst others.
NATFHE’s Further Education secretary in London, Louis Wood ““ also the organiser of the event ““ had this comment to make: “We can”t allow courses that are needed and valued by the communities we serve to wither and die. We”ve called this meeting to highlight how opportunities for students are being eroded. Many of the students who will be most affected are those that are least able to speak up for themselves.”
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