Adult education provision to end by 2020?

Published on Thursday, 26 March 2015 10:24
Written by Vicki Mitchem

New research reveals that over 190,000 course places for people aged 19 and over could be lost next year alone with Health, Public Services and Care hardest hit.

Adult education and training in England will not exist by 2020 if the Government continues with its swathe of cuts to the adult skills budget warns the Association of Colleges (AoC) as it announces new research findings today.

As funding for adult education decreases by 24% for the 2015-16 academic year, AoC, the membership organisation for further education colleges across England, estimates that over 190,000 adult learning places could be lost next year alone.

Health, Public Services and Care, and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) could be among the hardest hit courses. At a time when the country's health and social care system is in crisis, Health, Public Services and Care courses could see a reduction of over 40,000 places next year. ICT courses could potentially lose over 10,500 places.

Adult education and training has been squeezed by funding cuts in recent years, with the number of adult students participating in Level 3 courses falling by 17.9 per cent between 2012/13 and 2013/14. If the Government continues to cut adult skills funding at the same rate, AoC is concerned that there will no longer be an adult education system remaining to support students aged 19 and over. This comes at a time when the proportion of over-50s in the workforce is set to rise to a third of the workforce by 2020 (from 27 per cent at the moment) and 50 per cent of workers aged over 55 are proposing to work beyond the state pension age.

Martin Doel, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, said: "Adult education and training is effectively being decimated. These cuts could mean an end to the vital courses that provide skilled employees for the workforce such as nurses and social care workers. The potential loss of provision threatens the future prospects of the millions of people who may need to retrain as they continue to work beyond retirement age as well as unemployed people who need support to train for a new role. Adult education and training in England is too important to be lost, to both individuals and the wider economy."

Gerry McDonald, Principal at Tower Hamlets College in London, commented: "Colleges are being forced to make tough decisions about the adult learning courses they can deliver and we're trying to prioritise the needs of all of our students. But this level of cuts can't continue; in a few years' time, if you're over 19 years old and want to train for a profession such as nursing or gain new skills for your career, you could struggle to find a course available in your local area."

AoC is calling for the Government to build greater equality into the education system by introducing education accounts for all students aged 19 and over through which the Government, individuals and employers can contribute. This would ensure that all adult students, whether studying at university or college, have equivalent access to loans and grants.

Further education colleges in England have a reputation for providing adults with high-quality technical and professional education and training. Adult students aged 19 and over can take courses that lead to basic skills qualifications right through to Level 6 (degree level), including GCSEs and A Levels. Courses range from Construction and Engineering to History and English. Currently 230,000 unemployed people undertake education and training in colleges.

Funding for adult learning courses is provided by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) via the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).

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