What about the Adult Learner?

Government funding cuts in Adult and Community Education and the relationship with Ofsted’s ‘Inadequate’ Training Providers.

All adult learners have some level of understanding in relation to Government Funding in relation to Adult Skills. This would seem to be the case whether they are looking for a basic course to improve their skills in order to be more competitive in the workplace when seeking to secure employment or when attempting to better their skills with a higher level FE course and are met with high fees and grants on a par with a University Learning Programme.

A basic Adult Employability Skills, English or Maths programme at Entry Level is still classed within the same Government Adult Education budget as the undertaking of a University Degree.

Adult Learners are then finding it more and more difficult to secure a short course that will help them to remove long-term barriers such as ‘spelling, grammar, punctuation, writing, metric equivalencies, fractions etc etc. as well as the basic team working and communication.

With Government Funding diminishing year after year for Adult Learning, choices are also diminishing for potential learners over the age of 24yrs.

blackboard-583692_640Some Adult Learners are then given the impression that they are ‘too old to learn’ once they reach 25yrs! This in turn instils lack of confidence, low self-esteem, no self-motivation and a lack of positive drive to achieving personal goals such as employment. With the emphasis on Traineeships, Apprenticeships, Placements, Work Experience, Voluntary Work, this also re-enforces lack of opportunities for older jobseekers looking for ‘paid employment’ within the community.

Individual Adult Learners also feel discriminated against due to the fact that they may not have done well at school and therefore not allowed a ‘second chance’ at learning and education.

Not thinking that they did not have the same opportunities with technology during past years of schooling, they feel ‘left behind’ and struggle with basic computer usage for jobsearch and emailing.

The days of Universal Credit, Universal Jobmatch, Electronic job applications can be a minefield to an adult learner and yet punishment in the form of ‘benefit sanctions’ are imposed rather than government funding providing them with basic support and courses/qualifications within ICT.

Whatever happened to ‘Lifelong Learning’?

Unemployed ‘learner choice’ is furthermore restricted by Jobcentre Plus funded programmes becoming solely aimed at ‘Work Programmes’ whereby the aim is to get them into some kind of work be this paid or voluntary rather than provide an all round package that will result in the up-dating of skills and qualifications and that can prove to a potential employer that an older person still has the potential and willingness to learn in both education and work.

Although funding is diminishing, many training providers still strive to work with Adult Learners at basic level whether work-based or classroom-based and continue to support learners who cannot meet the entry requirements for college courses. Dedicated staff, develop teaching and learning relationships with adult learners in a less institutionalised environment, whilst promoting confidence, self-esteem and transferrable skills.

But then what happens when Ofsted awards a Grade 4 and declares a training provider ‘inadequate’?

  1. The SFA will more than likely withdrawn funding for all courses run by the Provider.

  2. The provider may not have the financial support to be able to continue.

  3. Teachers, tutors, support and administrative staff jobs are at risk through redundancy (creating more unemployment).

  4. Learners on courses are referred to another provider not necessarily of their choice (otherwise they probably would have gone there in the first place). This could include a college where they have previously been refused as they did not meet the criteria or entry requirements in the first place. That really helps self-confidence!

  5. Learners are referred to JCP ‘mandatory’ programmes outside of the local area.

  6. Attendance and progression may be an issue.

  7. JCP will be forced to pay additional costs in travel and childcare.

  8. Local community relationships with learners, JCP, employer support for local people in respect of future recruitment opportunities are all then broken down.

In general the role of Ofsted is to inspect the overall quality and effectiveness of a training provider within various different judgement areas. A visit may be notified at very short-notice. The visit will usually take place over a number of days and over a number of sites (depending on the size of the provider). These visits are however still just a ‘snapshot’ of what goes on in the learning environment.

Ofsted Inspectors now merely appear to judge classroom managers (tutors) more and more on the effectiveness of their organisational data management systems for evidence, as opposed to what actually goes on in the classroom!

The ‘human factor’ of ‘lifelong learning’ is then removed and the individual learner becomes less important!

My own class of adult learners were totally ignored at the last Ofsted inspection. The reasons allegedly were quote: ‘they are Adult Learners and as such generate less funding’; ‘there’s no big contract at risk with adult learning’; ‘no-one is interested in adult learning, including Ofsted!’

If any of these statements have the slightest iota of truth, should the programme be graded by those who have already made judgement? After all Ofsted still appears to have an emphasis on schools, early years, childcare, adoption and fostering agencies, pupils and homework etc. Perhaps the Government should re-consider the re-instatement of ALI (Adult Learning Inspectorate) for the purpose of adult FE inspection? Does Ofsted’s ‘Learner View’ really count for anything?

In conclusion: The more local training centres that disappear and the more funding that disappears for adult and community learning, the more the UK has a potentially dedicated workforce with life skills and work experience disappearing into the distance. There are many able and willing adults being ‘written off’ or penalised without the opportunity to prove themselves and this will continue to be case without an ‘adult learner voice’.

How do I know? Having over 20 years experience in education and training; working as a Lecturer in College; Tutor/Assessor within Training Providers and having qualifications such as a Teaching Degree, NVQ and Apprenticeship Assessor / Internal Verifier / Quality Assurance and Member of the Institute for Learning, I, like many others will soon be out of work and on the ‘learner side of the fence’ in the next few months due to a lack of ‘SMART’ policies and procedures of an organisation, Ofsted Inspection and Government cuts in funding!

Guest Writer.

See also: 7 Days is a long time in FE & Skills

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