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MPs lobbied for lifelong learning

Around 500 adult learners lobbied their MPs on Wednesday of last week and questioned cabinet secretary John Denham about the cuts to national learner places

Issue No. 2141

Around 500 adult learners lobbied their MPs on Wednesday of last week and questioned cabinet secretary John Denham about the cuts to over 1.5 million national learner places.

The Campaigning Alliance for Lifelong Learning (Call) organised the successful lobby.

As the recession continues to hit, many adults will be looking to go to colleges and adult centres to retrain. Many will find that their options have become increasingly limited.

Already over 477,000 learner places have been lost in health, public service and care classes.

There has been 394,000 places cut in short courses in preparation for work, and cuts of 252,000 in the number of learners studying short courses on Information and Communication Technology.

Learners must also this year pay 42.5 percent of their course fees and this will rise and to 47.5 percent next year.

Call supporters asked why Denham has prioritised employer-led, work-based learning to the detriment of a wide range of adult and further education courses.

The employer-led Train to Gain will see its budget increase by over 100 percent over the next three years.

This contrasts with the budget for Adult and Community Learning, which has been frozen for six years.

The budget for low level work for adults, called the Developmental Learning budget, will drop by 50.4 percent this year, and 44.5 percent next year.

Delegations of students, pensioners, and many others sat side by side at the lobby showing the opposition to the government’s plans.

Emma Snell, who has four children, had no qualifications. She went to evening classes and she is now a teacher.

Emma told the lobby, “I gained confidence to go on to more formal learning. This has had a massive effect on my life.”

Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the UCU lecturers’ union, said, “We urge ministers to rethink their budgets to ensure all forms of adult education are adequately funded in these difficult times.”

Sean Vernell, of the UCU national executive, asked, “Why is the government continuing to support the narrow skills agenda as outlined by the Leitch Review into skills training, which has been discredited by a recent select committee?”

Alan Tuckett, the director of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, said, “What the recession makes absolutely clear is that we need opportunities for learning at work and outside it, and we need public investment.“

Dave Prentis, the Unison union general secretary, said that “now is not the time to make it more difficult for adults to increase their skills.”

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Tue 3 Mar 2009, 18:33 GMT
Issue No. 2141
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