Council-run adult education providers should be eligible for urgent grant funding in the same way schools and colleges are, the Local Government Association had said.
The funding could be used to scale up the number of courses they deliver remotely, and to free up councils to support the most vulnerable, it said. It could be spent on making courses and examinations accessible online, including expanding online content to enable schools to take part, retraining staff and equipping learners with the necessary kit, such as tablets.
The LGA said that providers are already supporting thousands of adult learners to continue their education remotely, but the most vulnerable, many of whom cannot get online, are at risk of missing out through no fault of their own.
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Councillor Kevin Bentley, chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said that by not giving adult education providers the same level of support as schools and colleges, the most vulnerable were at risk of being left in limbo.
Adult education 'is a vital lifeline'
He said: “Council-run adult education providers can transform people’s lives by reducing isolation and loneliness. They also support the most vulnerable, including the long-term unemployed, or those out of work due to furlough, redundancy, ill-health or caring responsibilities, to upskill before they join the workforce.
“Adult education is a vital lifeline for learners on lockdown and will be even more important as the government looks towards its economic recovery. The government needs to urgently ensure that councils receive the financial support they need to continue to deliver courses remotely and our most vulnerable are not isolated from their online learning.”
Expected rise in unemployment
The LGA said that due to dwindling adult education budgets, councils were already facing the prospect of reducing provision or winding down their adult learning centres altogether before the coronavirus crisis.
LGA’s statement added that with unemployment expected to rise as a result of the pandemic, supporting hundreds of thousands of learners now to learn new skills and retrain remotely will be an essential part of the country’s economic recovery in the months ahead.