'Vandalism' against courses needs a robust response

9th May 2008 at 01:00
However much he dresses it up, Bill Rammell, the Lifelong Learning Minister, cannot deny that there has been a loss of 1.4 million adult places on publicly funded courses over the past two years

However much he dresses it up, Bill Rammell, the Lifelong Learning Minister, cannot deny that there has been a loss of 1.4 million adult places on publicly funded courses over the past two years.

To make matters worse, colleges, fearful of being called unresponsive to government diktats, are often destroying even the "protected" adult courses.

It is absurd to equate the passive "informal learning" of watching television with the social interaction of a formal class that develops thinking minds. Lifelong learning is about an educated people as much as a skilled workforce. It is the middle-income groups, who cannot afford the increased fees and don't benefit from fee exemptions, that are most affected.

To shoot the messenger - Alan Tuckett, director of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education - is strategically inept. He is the friend who tells you the uncomfortable truth.

Part of last week's electoral swing to the Tories is a reaction to top-up fees for higher education. There are millions of tax-paying voters who have good cause to be equally aggrieved by the educational vandalism being perpetrated on adult courses.

Those of us who have spent our lives developing a lifelong learning culture feel isolated and betrayed. It is important that we respond robustly to the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills' consultation on informal learning. www.adultlearningconsultation.org.uk

Paul Mackney, Former general secretary, University and College Union.

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