Page last updated at 17:12 GMT, Thursday, 20 December 2007

Fewer adults in evening classes

college lecture
The change mirrors a shift in funding priorities

Nearly 700,000 fewer adults attended evening classes in England this year than last year, figures show.

The drop represents a fall of more than a fifth or 21.7% in learner numbers in publicly-funded adult education.

The Learning and Skills Council said the change mirrored the shift in funding towards younger learners and adults wanting to boost their skills.

The number of adults on catch-up courses - equivalent to five good GCSEs - grew 42% to 470,400 over the period.

These are increasingly desperate times for adult education
Alan Tuckett

And the number of adults on Skills for Life programmes grew by 16% to 350,900.

Meanwhile a further 220,000 adults enrolled in workplace learning under the Train to Gain programme and an extra 10,000 apprenticeships began during the year.

The LSC also highlighted record numbers of young people in further education at approximately 753,000.

LSC chief executive Mark Haysom said he was pleased with the figures and that they were in line with the council's funding strategy.

This is dictated by government policy which encouraged colleges to end subsidies for adult education courses undertaken for pleasure, such as languages and pottery.

Social cohesion

But the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education pointed out that this year's fall, added to the drop the previous year, represented an overall decrease of 1.4 million.

It contrasted this with the LSC's forecast that just 200,000 learners would be lost over the two years.

Niace director Alan Tuckett said: "These are increasingly desperate times for adult education. It is of course the government's prerogative to set priorities and the modest gains in workplace learning highlighted here are welcome.

"But the loss of 1,400,000 learners from publicly-funded adult education in just two years comes at a very high price for social cohesion, for community well-being and for older people in particular, for civic engagement."

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