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Survey shows sharp drop in adults learners

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The number of adults participating in learning has fallen by three per cent in the last year alone, according to the annual Adult Learners’ Week survey due to be published tomorrow.

The study, complied by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE), revealed that the proportion of adults currently learning, or having done so in the last three years, has fallen from 41% in 2007 to 38% in 2008.

Alan Tuckett, director of NIACE, said: "Despite the real gains of the Skills for Life and Train to Gain Strategies, the very groups identified as key to the achievement of the Skills Strategy and in the Leitch Review are bearing the heaviest burden of the re-balancing of funding.

"The findings suggest that the price of investment in key groups of adults in workplace learning is being paid for by reduced participation by other adults from exactly the same groups. This is either because other workplace learning opportunities are being offered to those already with higher skills, or because those adults can no longer access public provision they previously chose for themselves."

The drop in participation has affected some groups disproportionately. Skilled manual workers’ learning has fallen from 40% to 33% in a single year, reversing their gains of the last 10 years, while full-time workers’ participation has fallen from 51% in 2006 to 45% in the current survey.

Part-time workers’ participation fell from 55% in 2006 to 48% in 2008 while the numbers of 25–34s learning has fallen from 50% to 43% in a single year.

In addition, no increase in participation at all has been secured over the last 10 years for those in particular socio-economic groups, including semi and unskilled workers, the unemployed and retired people, while the predictions for the number of future adult learners also look dismal.

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