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City cash squeeze costs 100 jobs

Adult educators are paying the price of an 'inadequate' verdict from the inspectors. Fiona MacLeod reports

More than 100 lecturing jobs are being lost from Liverpool's adult education service following budget cuts and a poor inspection report.

A pound;1.5m drop in funding to the Liverpool city council service will see less popular leisure classes scrapped while those remaining are offered in larger classes and in fewer locations.

The day and evening classes take place in 250 venues across the city such as neighbourhood learning centres, schools, libraries and social clubs.

The Learning and Skills Council said pound;600,000 of the pound;1.5m was cut from the service because of the poor report.

The money will go instead to Liverpool community college in line with the Government's wish to target adults without qualifications.

The Adult Learning Inspectorate rated Liverpool's adult learning service as inadequate - the bottom rating - given when more than a third of provision is deemed inadequate.

Despite family courses being rated as good (the second top rating) and arts, media and publishing being satisfactory, too many other areas failed to impress the inspectors.

Teaching was also criticised. The inspectors said: "Much of the teaching in most programme areas is poor, 60 per cent of lessons observed in non-accredited ICT provision were inadequate.

"They were poorly planned, lacked pace and direction, and failed to challenge learners."

Sport, entry-level literacy and numeracy, and English teaching were also criticised by inspectors.

A spokesman for the Greater Merseyside LSC said: "To ensure that we are offering the best possible learning experience, it was decided to transfer some pound;600,000 to Liverpool community college which has a good track record in delivering successful courses to adults in the city in its new facilities and also in many outreach centres."

The Government offers free tuition to all adults without a level 2 (GCSE-equivalent) qualification.

Colleges have expressed concerns that, without more cash, leisure and evening classes may have to be sacrificed to satisfy the new priority.

The LSC spokesman stressed its commitment to community learning in Liverpool, citing funding of more than pound;12m for institutions including the Women's technology centre, Liverpool community college and Liverpool city council. A spokesman for the council said: "The LSC has reduced our budget from pound;7m to pound;5.5m.

"This is a shift in emphasis in the way they fund courses - the Government now is targeting courses for people who don't have qualifications.

"As a result we are in a position where we just cannot afford to fund the same level of courses, so regrettably we have to consult staff over redundancies. We estimate about 100 part-time staff and 20 to 25 full-time will go."

The job cuts will take effect from September, the start of the next academic year. Most of those at risk are evening class teachers.

The spokesman said the authority hopes classes will still be provided for the 21,000 students who use its adult education service each year.

He said: "We hope we can do this by having fewer centres and larger classes sizes."

However, he conceded less popular leisure classes which do not lead to a qualification were likely to be cut.

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