Drastic drop in numbers attending adult learning courses after government funding cutbacks

Significantly fewer adults are attending further education and adult and community learning courses according to Learning & Skills Council (LSC) figures.

Recently released LSC statistics show there were 315,000 learners enrolled on adult and community learning programmes in October 2006, 12.3% down on October 2005. The number of adult learners in further education during the same period fell by 12.6% to 1.19 million in October 2006. The LSC defines an adult learner as one aged 19 or over.

For over-60s, according to the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), the year-on-year decline was one third. NIACE said there were now less than half the learners aged 60 and over than there were two years ago.

NIACE director, Alan Tuckett, said: “A million adults have been lost to learning in just two years. How many more have we got to lose before the government wakes up?”

The government has cut subsidies to adult learning in recent years as it spends more on education for under-19s, and from October, adult learners will pay 37.5% of course costs, up from 27% now.

Meanwhile NIACE revealed that 10,000 events have been organised for this year’s Adult Learners’ Week (ALW) which runs from May 19 to 25. Events include taster sessions, demonstrations and workshops held at various locations including colleges, shops, factories and libraries.

One event will be Quick Reads held at local centres such as colleges and libraries. Here adults with reading difficulties will be encouraged to read books specially written for them. These are 80-100 pages long, feature short sentences and words of fewer than four syllables.

One such is Reading My Arse by TV personality Ricky Tomlinson. ALW is also backed by comic Jo Brand who said: “learning changes lives. Give yourself a chance to succeed and try something new during this week. You’ll soon realise that nothing’s impossible.”

Skills minister Phil Hope said Adult Learners Week is “the single biggest event in the adult learning calendar.”

A full¬†list of Adult Learners’ Week events can be found online.

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