City halls likely to use adult education as part of wider strategic aims

With the adult education budget set to be devolved, the role of lifelong learning is likely to increase, says one sector expert

The role of data will become increasingly important for lifelong learning providers in areas braced for devolution of the adult education budget

The role of data will become increasingly important for lifelong learning providers in areas braced for devolution of the adult education budget, a senior researcher at the Learning and Work Institute has said.

Mark Ravenhall, a senior research fellow at the Learning and Work Institute, was speaking to leaders from the lifelong learning sector at a conference held at Morley College, a South London-based adult education college.

The adult education budget is set to be devolved to six metro-mayor areas across England and London from next year. It is believed that almost half of the total amount government currently spends on adult education will be devolved to these seven areas, according to Mr Ravenhall. 

'Cross-cutting' of adult education

He said: “There is going to be more thought about the cross-cutting role of adult education. Devolution gives us the opportunity to link strategies." He pointed to the example of London, where there are links between adult education and the mayor’s Skills for Londoners, Better Health for Londoners, Social Integration Strategy and Cultural Strategy.

“I would say adult education plays a role in delivering all of those,” Mr Ravenhall said. “They are at the consultation phase so there is an opportunity now, in London in particular, to influence those strategies and bring adult learning into them.

“They, in turn, will help to define the sort of outcomes you want to achieve through those strategies. I think when adult learning funding is delegated you might be asked to deliver on a cross-cutting range of strategies.”

Mr Ravenhall said the importance of counting outcomes and collating data will become increasingly important in the post-adult education budget devolution landscape, as providers become accountable to policymakers at city halls across England.

He warned that it is up to the sector to lead the conversation, otherwise the localities will set the agenda. “Will devolved areas say, 'We will decide what the outcomes are and you try and address them,' or will we as a sector come up with our own framework of outcomes," asked Mr Ravenhall. 

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