How will funding cuts impact on the future of adult education?
he cuts to funding for adult skills in 2015-16 have been widely documented in the last month, with the Association of Colleges (AoC) warning that up to 190,000 adult education places could be lost next year and noting the possibility of adult education disappearing completely if cuts to the skills budget continue.
Funding issues have already contributed to the number of adults taking part in Level 3 courses falling by nearly 18%, and there are strong concerns within the sector that ongoing cuts could spell the end of courses that upskill thousands of employees and adults seeking work.
However, the government has reassured that although overall funding is being cut – by 24% for 2015-16 – high qualityapprenticeships, traineeships and English and maths are being prioritised to ensure that learners are literate and numerate, with vocational qualifications of prestige. These are the areas in which the government believes the most impact can be made.
At NCFE, we’re passionate about the value of adult education. In learning, one size doesn’t fit all and it’s important to offer choice and variety, enabling people of all ages to fulfil their potential and progress in their lives to higher education or employment. Vocational qualifications for adults offer important training opportunities that plug skills gaps and help get people into work or retrain for a different career to improve their prospects.
The AoC has said that health, public services and care courses could see a drop of 40,000 places over the coming year, so we have been working to ensure that our vocational qualifications have their funding protected. We now have over 100 funded qualifications available for 15-16 with further qualifications pending approval, including courses within Health and Social Care as well as substantial qualifications such as Entry to the Uniformed Services.
In addition, we’re really pleased that our Entry Level and Level 1 English and maths qualifications have been added to the SFA’s funding catalogue for 2015-16 in their latest update this week. These qualifications are fantastic for those learners who have an identified skills gap and need a little extra help achieving their GCSE A* – C or Level 2 Functional Skill. They’re also useful for colleges and training providers who are looking to tailor their programmes of study to learner needs and offer clear progression routes.
Adult education is particularly integral in an aging population where people are retiring later and having multiple careers within their working life. Equally, adults need to be competent in English and maths to help them to function confidently in their day to day lives, and it’s so important that we’re able to support this development. It’s not just the young who are worth investing in. We believe that learning is for life and we hope that our fundable qualifications for 15-16 allow our centres to support their learners’ journeys.
David Grailey is chief executive of NCFE, the national awarding organisation