“Funding for second chance education is vanishing,” expert reaction to Association of Colleges report on adult education

New research from the Association of Colleges warns the end of adult education and training by 2020 if government cuts continue. Courses for health, public services and care, and ICT could be hardest hit. Government funding of apprenticeships and supporting maths and English has been given priority over BTEC’s and NVQ’s.

Professor Ewart Keep, Director, Centre on Skills, Knowledge & Organisational Performance, Department of Education, Oxford University, commented:

“The AoC has produced ​an alarming, but realistic analysis of the current and potential impact of spending trends on adult education. In the light of earlier cuts in public post-19 spending – of the order of 35% over recent years – the latest reductions raise the prospect of provision reaching a tipping point, from which subsequent recovery could be very difficult.

Cumulative cuts of this magnitude are extremely difficult to absorb, and mean that those colleges and other providers who have a strong focus on adult learners may either go out of business or be forced to re-focus their attention on younger pre-19 students.

This has several potential consequences: we run the risk of permanently losing large swathes of adult learning capacity; this in turn risks undermining our systemic ability to retrain and upskill adult workers to meet a wide range of economic needs; we are creating by default a system that is ever more front-loaded – you either get the qualifications you need by 18 or 19 and then enter the labour market or higher education, or you are in very serious trouble. Funding for second chance education is vanishing.

Whoever wins the election will be faced with some very hard, quite fundamental choices about investment in adult skills. If government does not step up to the plate, then either individuals or employers have to make good the shortfall, and current evidence does not suggest a strong willingness or ability on the part of either to do this. As things stand, the gap between our educational ambitions and the public resources we are willing to commit to realising them is widening to the point where the ambitions and reality are in danger of waving each other goodbye.”​

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