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Officers predict loss of classes

LOCAL authorities will "pull the plug" on adult and community education as a result of last week's post-16 White Paper, education officers warned this week.

The guarantee given to sixth form funding would hit other services such as family literacy, basic skills, libraries, orchestras and community schools, they predict.

At the Society of Education Officers summer meeting in London last weekend, president Christine Whatford, of Hammersmith and Fulham, said there was a real danger that the rigid division into pre- and post-16 education would undermine the concept of lifelong learning.

Faced with the prospect of losing the Government grant in two years' time, there was almost no chance that councillors would provide more funds from the rest of their education budgets for post-16 education, once the duty to provide the service had been removed.

Chris Trinick, from Lancashire, foresaw the most vulnerable members of the community may have to suffer from the transfer of funds to the new learning and skills councils. He said: "I suspect that the training interests will dominate the councils and squeeze out evening class learners."

Sir Michael Bichard, permanent secretary at the Department for Education and Employment, admitted that the disruption could create chaos and mean the Government would miss their ambitious lifelong learning targets. But he said: "We have to acknowledge that no amount of selfless dedication on the part of local authorities, training and enterprise councils and FE staff could compensate for the failures of the system."

He comforted the education officers by saying they would have seats on the 50 local learning and skills councils and would be able to bid to provide services through the local lifelong learning partnerships.

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