Page last updated at 13:13 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Renewed push for adult learning

Adult education class
Campaigners have warned that adult education faces cuts

Pubs, museums and churches could be used for adult education classes in a £20m government plan to promote informal learning in England.

The government's White Paper on adult education proposes that more than 7,000 rooms in public buildings and private firms could provide space for lessons.

Skills Secretary John Denham says he wants to "raise the profile and take-up of learning wherever it happens".

There have been complaints that adult learning has been cut in recent years.

The government's adult learning plan, the Learning Revolution, is aimed at supporting learning for pleasure and for "personal development".

Further education minister Sion Simon says pubs, museums and churches could be used

Pubs and museums

It wants to allow individuals and groups to have places to meet and learn together - whether they are shops, galleries, offices or pubs.

Among the 65 organisations supporting the campaign are the National Trust, the British Library, the Church of England, the Women's Institute, Microsoft and private health company Bupa.

"Over the past few years there has been a quiet learning revolution, but the government wants to ignite this, raising the profile and take-up of learning wherever it happens," says Mr Denham.

The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education welcomed the announcement as "a bright light at the end of the tunnel for adult learning".

"It is no mean achievement to find new money on this scale at a time when there have never been more pressures on public funding," said chief executive Alan Tuckett.

The government's plan comes against a background in which there have been protests that adult education is being cut - as the emphasis has been shifted to improving the work skills of young people.

Funding for training

The Campaigning Alliance for Lifelong Learning claims there have been "two million learners' places lost from further and adult education in England since 2005".

Campaigners, who warned about the wider cultural and health consequences of cutting evening courses, were angered by the response from the government, which characterised such learning as "holiday Spanish".

There have also been complaints over a change in student funding which has withdrawn support for students wanting to take a degree if they already hold an equivalent qualification.

Student unions and opposition parties have warned that this could stand in the way of anyone seeking to re-train for a new career.

The shadow secretary for innovation, universities and skills, David Willetts, described the announcement on adult learning as "total hypocrisy".

"It is an attempt to hide the loss of 1.5 million adult learner places under this government."

Two million fewer adults learning
13 Feb 09 |  Education
Adults 'dropping out of learning'
12 May 08 |  Education
Fewer adults in evening classes
20 Dec 07 |  Education

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