What the Spending Review means for adult education – Policy Seminar

2 July 2013

To help adult education and skills providers understand the implications of the new funding allocations following last week’s Spending Review, NIACE is, today, holding a policy seminar in London.

The seminar will cover important changes to the adult learning and skills landscape including discussions around Further and Higher Education, English for Speakers of Other Languages, the Local Enterprise Partnerships and Apprenticeships.

In his initial response last Wednesday to the Spending Review for 2015/16, David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, urged the importance of the continued investment in educating adults.

He said:

“Ahead of today’s Spending Review we made a number of proposals which illustrated how increased investment in adult learning was a way of aiding deficit reduction. Research clearly shows how learning for adults boosts skills levels, improves employability, ensures better health and improves children’s performance at school.

“The six per cent cut to the BIS budget may be lower than some expected, however, of major concern is the £400m cut in funding for HE and FE in 2015-16, within which is a reduction of £260m in FE, ‘from spending on adult skills’. It’s vital for the Government to confirm exactly where this cut will fall so we can anticipate both the short and longer-term impacts on the broader social and economic value of adult learning.

“NIACE now understands that the £210m Community Learning budget and funding for the National Careers Service are to be protected in cash terms. Both these investments were crucial to our pre-Spending Review proposals.

“The £2bn per year for the single pot for the 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships is far lower than the initial Lord Heseltine proposals. This clearly doesn’t reflect the level of ambition that LEPs were anticipating and may lead some employers to question the Government’s commitment to devolved skills funding.

“We await more detail on a number of other issues, not least the ‘mandated’ requirement for ESOL classes for benefit claimants with ‘poorly spoken English’. Any steps that help people get into work are welcome. However questions remain over who will provide these courses at the appropriate Entry Level required and we caution that this should not be at the expense of opportunities for other adult learners.

“We welcome the investments in Apprenticeships including that 19+ Apprenticeships will be maintained in real terms, the extension of Traineeships to 19 – 24 year olds, the investment in science and the £50m National Scholarship Programme to support postgraduate students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“The announcement of health & social care integration will be crucial as we adapt to an ageing population. Adult learning can play a significant role here to enable more people to live healthier and productive lives for longer, reducing demand on high-cost statutory services.

“Some of today’s measures show a recognition by Government of the importance of investing in education across all ages, a point reinforced in the recent CBI survey which stated that, ‘there is no more important issue facing this country than education’. NIACE will continue to press the case for all ages to learn throughout their lives. This is essential for Britain’s social and economic well-being.”