Support for minority learners put at risk;FE Focus

22nd January 1999 at 00:00
Changes which place the vast majority of Section 11 money in schools threaten adult basic skills learning. Ian Nash reports

BASIC skills training for thousands of ethnic-minority adults is under threat because of new government arrangements for grants to support English language tuition.

New funding plans to improve the educational achievements of minorities, using what was formerly known as "Section 11" money, will leave adult education institutions and education authorities having to go "cap in hand" to schools, leaders of the adult education service have warned.

Under previous arrangements, schools and adult education institutions had separate grants. The new guidance assumes that all provision is through the schools. Moreover, the vast bulk of the cash (85 per cent) will be devolved to schools.

The LEAs will be left with just 15 per cent for strategic responsibilities such as regular reviews of ethnic-minority attainment, school support, staff development, training for the National Literacy Strategy and support for adults.

Alan Tuckett, director of the National Institute for Adult Continuing Education, told The TES that the plans were drawn up by Government officials on the assumption that the tiny amount(1 per cent) spent on adult education was spread evenly across participating LEAs.

"This is a complete misapprehension," he said. "Some spent nothing at all. In other LEAs, where the need is desperate, they will spend 10 per cent or more of the budget on adult needs."

Adult providers faced the prospect of having to persuade schools, who themselves had considerable needs, to give up substantial chunks of their "retained" cash in order to prevent adults being deprived, he said.

One LEA which could be badly hit is Manchester which spends up to 12 per cent on adult learners.

Dick Corbridge, director of lifelong learning, said: "We have been able to make arrangements, if need be, but other authorities are not as well placed. This is clearly not a deliberate move by the Department (for Education and Employment). I subscribe to the cock-up rather than conspiracy theory."

Leaders of NIACE, adult education institutions and LEAs are prevailing on the DFEE to rethink the arrangements by February 12, the closing date for responses to the proposals to replace Section 11 funding.

One LEA official said: "It's a classic case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. The adult and basic skills section of the DFEE is very sympathetic. We are confident that we can get a sensible solution."

Reforms have already created a headache for schools and LEAs. More than 280 teaching staff in the South-east have been issued pre-emptive redundancy warning notices since they fear that schools will not wish to hire them on an agency basis after the delegation of budgets (TES, January 15).

The Local Government Association and NIACE say that officials must give the whole delegation procedure a "radical" rethink.

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