Adult education 'could disappear by 2020', report warns

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Adult Education offers five key recommendations for how the government can save lifelong learning

Will Martin

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A national policy for adult education could disappear by 2020 due to adult and community learning being ignored by policymakers, a new report argues.

The report, by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Adult Education, warns that national policy for adult education could disappear in four years' time if adult and community learning providers continue to be ignored by the area reviews and skills devolution processes.

The report outlines the economic and social costs of not providing basic skills to adults, and says that adult education in England remains hidden to the government due to its “very uneven provision”.

“In the absence of the adult education providers being involved systematically in all the reviews throughout England, there is real danger that provision for adult community learning could be easily overlooked – simply left to chance,” the report states.

“The voices of adult learners need to be heard so that planned provision is relevant and linked to their individual needs. In the findings from the report...there was a stated danger that national policy for adult education could disappear by 2020.”

Five ways to save adult learning

The report offers government five key recommendations to secure the future of adult learning.

  1. The establishment of a national and regional strategy for adult education
  2. The redistribution of resources to develop a fair and cohesive adult education framework
  3. Improved awareness of adult education through careers information, advice and guidance in local communities
  4. Research into the full impact of adult education
  5. The encouragement of employers to offer more opportunities to adults to keep them in employment

Deirdre Hughes, one of the authors of the report, said: “Over the last decade, we have seen outstanding progress in adult education reaching deep into local communities and improving people’s life chances. Our research highlights the social, economic and cultural benefits of such provision. However, there is a serious danger that this type of provision gets seriously forgotten in national and/or regional policies. This would be to the detriment of millions of adults who simply want to improve their life chances and need some educational support along the way.”  

Ruth Spellman, chief executive of the Worker’s Educational Association, said: “We can see from this research that there is good work being done within the adult learning community. However it is largely going under the radar. We need to raise awareness of the work already being done and urgently address areas for improvement – the voices of adult learners need to be heard so that planned provision is relevant and linked to their individual needs. We need greater cohesion and improved strategy on a national level, and a commitment to improving awareness of adult learning services for the hardest to reach. Adult learning can transform lives, and that is why it is too important to be left to chance.”

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Will Martin picture

Will Martin

Will is a junior reporter at TES

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