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New coalition fights for adult students

Conservatives and trades unions find common cause as numbers taking courses fall by 1.5m

Conservatives and trades unions find common cause as numbers taking courses fall by 1.5m

A campaign for adult education could see organisations as varied as trades unions and the Conservative Party united over a new funding deal for post-19 education.

People behind Call - the Campaigning Alliance for Lifelong Learning - include Paul Mackney, who was general secretary of Natfhe, the further education lecturers' union, which merged into the University and College Union (UCU) in June 2006.

Mr Mackney, now associate director with Niace, the adult education body, says the new campaign is likely to include a wide coalition of individuals and organisations.

It is supported by the National Union of Students, the UCU, Unison and the Workers' Educational Association. Mr Mackney has not ruled out the Conservative Party as a lobbying partner. The Tories made a policy commitment on adult education funding and Call stresses it is anxious to build itself into a large politically non-aligned lobbying organisation.

Mr Mackney said: "The pound;100 million pledged by the Tories for adult education isn't a lot of money but it is in the right direction. It is significant that they have made a commitment to adult education.

"I think the Tories have seen that there are votes in this, while for the Government, this is something which has been given away.

"If adult education was being cut 15 years ago, people would go down to their town hall to hold demonstrations, but under the system we have now there isn't that local accountability for the funding. Really we will work with anyone who is prepared to commit themselves to the pledges."

Those who join the campaign will lobby MPs through constituency surgeries and hold local events around to country - with a national event in Westminster.

The campaign will call for:

- Good access to education for all adults regardless of class, and including asylum seekers

- Universal access to English for speakers of other languages, computer courses and first level 3 (A-level-equivalent) qualifications.

- Involvement of students, lecturers and community organisations in decision-making about adult education.

- The provision of education for personal wellbeing.

- A commitment to adult education's role in the alleviation of poverty and increasing access to higher education.

- Building of a stable and well-motivated teaching workforce.

The adult education campaign follows a previous effort to raise the profile of Esol (English for speakers of other languages), which made some progress in the form of new funding from Government.

The money for Esol included pound;15m for colleges, although Niace and the UCU say some areas have benefited more than others.

The Esol campaign was boosted by voices from industry which warned that the classes were essential for workplace productivity.

The number of adult education places has dropped by 1.5 million over two years as funding increasingly prioritises 16-18, vocational training and basic skills.

The launch meeting for Call will be at 5pm on Tuesday September 30, at the UCU in Britannia Street, London, WC1X 9JP.

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