Threat to adult education courses

By Roddy AshworthADULT students are to face higher fees and fewer courses, it has been warned.Grey Friars adult community college in Colchester has about 8,000 adult students working on a range of about 500 courses from basic skills to A-levels and diplomas.

By Roddy Ashworth

ADULT students are to face higher fees and fewer courses, it has been warned.

Grey Friars adult community college in Colchester has about 8,000 adult students working on a range of about 500 courses from basic skills to A-levels and diplomas.

But the Government wants post-school education to focus on 16 to 18-year-olds and provide basic subjects such as literacy, numeracy and low-end IT skills.


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However, instead of giving extra money so adult colleges can supply increased opportunities in these areas, the Government wants them to switch funding from other areas of provision.

Alan Skinner, college principal, said: "The Learning and Skills Council has moved its priorities from the very wide-ranging liberal focus of David Blunkett to much more sharp-edged, economic priorities for post-school education.

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"They are cutting the funding that usually goes to accredited courses such as GCSEs and A-levels and at the same time they are reviewing how they fund non-accredited courses – this means throwing money at the latter, but that money has to come from the rest of the curriculum."

Mr Skinner added that in response to the Government changes, Essex County Council had decided to scrap adult community colleges and instead reorganise them into areas that would be operated from County Hall.

"I see it as a removal of local control. I think they should trust local managers, but unfortunately we have seen less of that happening. It's not just Essex – it is symptomatic of a national approach," he said.

"I think we are going to have to reduce the spread of classes generally. It will hit the exam subjects, including A-levels. Added to that, the fees for adult students will go up because we are not being given enough to cover our costs."

Mr Skinner warned he and the students also faced the prospect of "losing the college from under us" after it was discovered the Grey Friars building, in High Street, was on a list of county council properties earmarked for a possible sell-off.

"I believe it would be unwise to give up a town centre building with these facilities, especially as it has been connected with providing education for 100 years and adult education for the last 30," he said.

Iris Pummell, county council cabinet member for community services, said: "It isn't the county council forcing this along, it's the Government who have reduced our budget by 10%. That is a lot of money.

"We are trying to get together at the moment all the charges that will have to go up to members of the public who want to carry on their education. The Government is diverting the money into the 14-19 agenda."

She added: "It's a kick in the teeth for us. We didn't expect it to be that much. We have got to look at our charges and whether we can afford to do all the sessions that we have done previously."

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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