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Sector News, 12 May - 16 May 2008

Education Guardian 13 May 2008

In anticipation of Adult Learner’s Week, 17 – 23 May, the Guardian Education has a “Live to Learn” Supplement as well as two stories in its usual supplement.  The links made are not necessarily to the Education Guardian.

In “Live to Learn” are the following articles:

Just curious

Introduction to supplement, complaining that Government policy has lost adult education a large number of students.

Cambridge here I come

Story about a construction worker who at the age of 36 has been offered a place at Cambridge.  Lee, from Oldham was forced to leave his job in construction through back problems.  After two years of depression, he decided to get some qualifications he did not get first time around.  He succeeded in obtaining five A* GCSEs.  Lee then took a one year level 3 access course.  On being asked which university he would like to attend, he was persuaded to apply to Cambridge, where he was offered a place.

The will is there but is there a way?

Some adult learners are organising their own courses rather than pay the increase in fees being demanded by their local education establishment.  Fees have risen because many adult courses do not have the in-built progression required by the funding agency to for them to continue the funding.  However, there is doubt about the long term viability of such an approach.

How they beat the cuts

Three student views on the demise of adult education and how it has affected them.

 Young Danes dance to an old tune

Without examinations or even a curriculum, the Danish state nevertheless subsidises classes where school leavers are inspired to become lifelong learners.  There are 87 folk high schools in Denmark, none of which fall within the compulsory education system but are firmly placed within adult education.


Knowledge without boundaries

Universities of the third age (U3As) are a hugely successful self help organisations offering a variety of experiences for people of any age who are not in full time employment.  The reality is that the majority of its learners are 60+.  U3As where launched 26 years ago by three academics, one of whom was Lord Young, who also helped conceive the Open University.  Nationwide U3As offer more than 300 different subjects.

U3a website:

Welsh prepare for their own reforms.

Wales has seen in an increase in the number of adult learners in stark contrast to England.  However, there is concern that that the Welsh Assembly’s publication of its action plan for skills and employment will mark a move towards reduction in numbers of adult learners.

What’s the purpose of all this learning?

By March, (2009) the commission of Inquiry into the Future of Lifelong Learning aims to publish its report.  The starting point for the inquiry was four questions:

·    who should support adult learning,

·    who should benefit from it,

·    what kind of knowledge needs to be valued,

·    how should support for learners be organised and paid for?

At last a second chance

Comment by Tom Schuller, Director of the Commission of Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning.   There is one overarching aim for the inquiry, to provide a coherent, strategic framework for lifelong learning. 

Inquiry link:

Crazy about languages

“Then BBC’s new online Spanish language course has a new approach to language learning which aims to exploit both the interactive possibilities of new technologies and the popularity of TV thrillers. “ Mi Vida Loca launches on May 19 at

We want to make a difference

Alan Tuckett, director of Niace interviews John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills.  Alan Tuckett asks a series of questions concerning the future of adult learning:

·    expanding support

·    assessing quality

·    choosing units and qualifications

·    informal learning

·    outreach services

·    Adult Learners Week.

Consultation document: 

Time out training boosts UK plc

Martin McDonough is manager of Middlesex-based Galldris Construction.  He believes that the best route to a competent workforce lies through two courses – the Construction Skills Certification Scheme for site workers and the Construction Plant Competence Scheme for plant operators.  He accesses these schemes through the Government’s Train and Gain policy.

Train to Gain can be reached via:

Skills Seekers The Cityclean story

Brighton and Hove council’s waste disposal service introduced literacy and other classes in the hopes that it would help its employees to complete forms more successfully.  However, the success has taken the council by surprise.  The workers are more communicative with residents and are hence providing a better service.  One worker stated that he took the literacy course in order to help his daughter with her homework, he was frightened that he would get it wrong, now he sits and reads with his children.

Added value for the workforce

Article applauding the success of the TUC’s Unionlearn.


There’s more to life than ABC

Non-vocational subjects are under threat in UK prisons. In keeping with a growing trend towards vocational training, courses such as philospohy and pottery are being removed in favour courses which are aimed at 'employability'. 

Training opportunities are sadly out of balance.  Education Guardian 13 May 2008.

Comment on the need to train adults in vocational skills against the funding regime which favours 16 to 20 year olds.

How plumbing killed off pilates.  Education Guardian, 13 May 2008.

The worst affected socio-economic group by the cuts in adult funding are manual workers.  Figures from a Niace survey suggest that “the price of investment in key groups is being paid for by reduced participation by other adults from exactly the same group".

Universities take little interest in 14-19 diplomas. study finds.  THE, 15 May 2008 

Higher education establishments are showing little interest in the new 14-19 diploma.  A component of the partnerships created to develop the diploma are that they have good links with universities.  Yet even here there has been little discussion with higher education.

Everyone will still get a chance with us, v-c says.  THE, 15 May 2008

Bolton university was ranked 112th out of 113 institutions in the annual Good University Guide. It was also cited as having the worst dropout rate in the UK with 18.4 per cent of students failing to complete their courses.  However, George Holmes is unapologetic stating that the university caters for many who would not normally obtain a place at university.

Taxiing towards terminal 5.  THE, 15 May 2008

If GCSEs and A levels are here to stay, then why have academic diplomas been created?  John Brooks, vice chancellor Manchester Metropolitan University supports the need for 14-19 reform but fails to understand why it has to be made so complex.

New A-level projects could rescue exams.  TES, 16 May 2008

Professor Niall Ferguson comments that  English secondary education has a fixation with testing a narrow curriculum.  He further comments that extended projects being introduced  to accompany A-levels should be welcomed with ‘open arms’ by teachers.  “One of the beauties of the extended project is to pull the English system away from what has become an anachronistic preoccupation with a particular kind of examination that does not really work”, said Professor Fergusson.  (Professor Ferguson is professor of history at Harvard University and senior research fellow at Jesus College Oxford).

The conversation: Emotional support.  TES 16 May 2008

A discussion with Head Claire Lillis of the Ian Mikado High special school.  “The school offers pupils a tailor-made curriculum based on the principles of psychotherapy”.  The curriculum is based on a pupil’s positive experiences.

Employers duck skills costs. TES, FE Focus, 16 May 2008

A Learning and Skills Council evaluation of the Train to Gain scheme stated that there is little evidence that the skills broker system works adequately.

Diplomas: just a sticking plaster for A-level reform.  TES, FE Focus, 16 May 2008

Viewpoint – Stephen Jones. There are a growing number of voices re-stating the arguments around the academic/vocational divide.  The concern expressed is that diplomas will not earn equal status with employers, parents or universities.

A woman's place is in the class. TES, FE Focus, 16 May 2008

Families with south Asian heritage are the least likely to take part  in formal education and unless the Government is more pro-active with Bangladeshi communities women (in particular) are likely to stay locked in educational exclusion and poverty.