Thursday, July 15, 1999 Published at 12:21 GMT 13:21 UK
Adults returning to learning
The number of people taking courses is growing again
The number of people enrolling for adult education courses in England has increased by about 5% in a year.
Figures published by the government on Thursday show that in November last year, about 1.12m people were taking part in local education authority adult education courses, compared with about 1.06m the previous year.
However this figure is still lower than those for 1995 and 1996, when 1.15m and 1.23m people respectively were enrolled on courses.
Education and Employment Minister Baroness Blackstone said the latest increase of 53,000 was evidence of a growing interest in adult education.
Practical crafts and skills
And a spokesman for the Department for Education and Employment said it was partly due to the popularity of non-vocational subjects such as painting and writing workshops, and language classes.
Two thirds of all enrolments were on non-vocational courses, which do not lead to formal qualifications.
The numbers of people taking courses were almost exactly split between those enrolled on daytime courses, and those taking daytime and evening courses.
Many more women than men were taking classes - men accounted for only a quarter of those enrolled on non-vocational courses, and 29% of those taking vocational courses.
And adult education was most popular in Greater London and the South East, where 3.9% of all adults aged between 19 and 59 were enrolled on a course.
The enrolment rate was lowest in Merseyside, where only 1.4% in this age group were taking classes.
Baroness Blackstone highlighted individual LEAs - Slough, Rutland, Rochdale and Hammersmith - where more than 6% of adults aged between 19 and 59 were enrolled in courses.
But she said other LEAs could do better. Some attracted less than 1% of adults in the age group to take part in adult education.
"Local authority-run courses can provide golden opportunities for adults to take their first step back to learning, become more effective at work, make good use of leisure time and enrich personal lives.
"We are determined that people all over the country should have access to a proper range of local learning opportunities.
"This is an encouraging start, but we still want to encourage even greater participation."
The government was supporting adult education with £20m from the Adult and Community Learning Fund, she said.
It had also made an extra £9m available to enhance adult education opportunities.
And she said that the government's recent White Paper, Learning to Succeed, which outlined plans to reform post-16 learning outside universities in England, made clear that "adult and community-based learning is a vital part of our drive to build a learning society."
The new Learning and Skills Council, the national body under which post-16 education and training provision would merge, would work on increasing demand for adult learning.