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Further fall in number of adult learners


Around 55,000 adult learners have been lost to publicly-funded ‘safeguarded’ adult learning in the last year, according to the latest figures from the Learning and Skills Council.

‘Safeguarded’ adult learning is the amount of money (£210 million) from the Learning and Skills Council budget set aside for non-accredited personal and community development learning.

This now means that in just three years there has been a fall of 184,600 adult learners in programmes for personal fulfilment, civic participation and community development.

But apart from the lack of inflationary increases these changes are not the result of government cuts, claims the LSC.

This fall of 55,000 is on top of the 1.4 million adult learning places which have been lost from all publicly-funded adult learning over the last two years.

Bill Rammell, minister for lifelong learning, said: “Overall funding for FE has increased by 52% in real terms under this government and we’re seeing large numbers of learners continuing to benefit…In terms of the overall adult participation figures, while these show a downward trend, this is to be expected, as we have prioritised funding away from short courses that don’t lead to progression in education or employment towards courses for those most in need.”

Alan Tuckett, the director for The National Institute for Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) said: “The loss of learners could be the result of providers concentrating on more expensive work for disabled and more disadvantaged learners. However such a dramatic decline points out the need to find the right balance between targeted provision and more general adult education. NIACE is keen to hear from its stakeholders how best that balance can be struck.”

He added, “If the downward trend from the October figures was to continue, learner numbers in the safeguard would be close to disappearing in five years time. We can’t afford these numbers to drop any more since that, after all, was the rationale for the adoption of the safeguard in the first place. Adult education of all sorts has a benefit for people’s lives.“

The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) is the leading non-government organisation for lifelong learning in England, and exists to encourage more and different adults to engage in better-quality learning of all kinds. It campaigns for, and celebrates the achievements of, all adult learners.

NIACE launched an appeal eralier this month to find out what is happening to the UK's 'lost learners'. To see more on this story go to


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