Adult Education

Oral Answers to Questions — Innovation, Universities and Skills – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 26th July 2007.

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Photo of Christopher Fraser Christopher Fraser Conservative, South West Norfolk 10:30 am, 26th July 2007

What change there has been in the number of adult learning courses in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement.

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Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills) (Skills)

We do not collect information on the number of courses offered by providers. Last week, we published "World Class Skills", our plan for implementing the Leitch review, which restates the importance of focusing on longer courses such as full level 2 courses and new training opportunities for those in employment through the train to gain programme.

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Photo of Christopher Fraser Christopher Fraser Conservative, South West Norfolk

Can the Minister explain to the House the difference between prioritising the "most beneficial learning" and cutting adult education courses? Is that not just another way of saying that the Government are forcing colleges to divert funding away from adult education?

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J

Thank you Mr Fraser, for that excellent observation in the form of a question (that will never receive an honest response). Please see my comment next to David...

Submitted by Joyce Glasser Continue reading

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills) (Skills)

No it is not. The Government are committed to the recommendations made by the Foster and Leitch reviews. That is why, quite rightly, we want to ensure that people are on longer courses, as I set out in my reply. I remind the hon. Gentleman of our commitments in skills for life, of the tremendous work that our union learning reps do up and down the country and of our commitment to ensuring that the most disadvantaged and the poorest get those basic skills, so that they can take part in the economy in the way that we want.

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Photo of David Willetts David Willetts Shadow Minister (Education)

I welcome the Minister to his new post. I also welcome the fact that he cited Lord Leitch's report, which said:

"There is a pressing need to raise the rates of skills improvements among adults—the UK cannot reach a world class ambition by 2020 without this."

Will the Minister confirm that nearly 1 million places for adults in FE colleges have been lost in the past five years? That is nearly half of all places for adult learning lost. The Secretary of State dismisses those courses as belly dancing and basket weaving, but I am sure that we can all agree that these are deeply enjoyable and worthwhile activities. Moreover, many of the courses are not just belly dancing and basket weaving; they are valuable in helping older workers to enhance their skills and improve their job opportunities. Why does the Minister say that he agrees with Leitch and that he values adult learning, but meanwhile undermines it?

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J

Thank you David Willetts, for asking the rhetorical question that millions of people over 50 ask every day: ' Why does the Minister say that he agrees with Leitch and that he values adult learning, but meanwhile undermines it?' In fairness, it is not just THIS minister. For years, adult education and training has been ignored. There are still no apprenticeships for over 25s. Many of the programmes funded by the Learning and Skills council discriminate against older people, such as the Fashion Retail Academy, a private/public partnership to the tune of £10 million in public money. In...

Submitted by Joyce Glasser Continue reading (and 1 more annotation)

Photo of David Lammy David Lammy Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills) (Skills)

I do not recognise the figure that the hon. Gentleman uses, and I am trying not to recognise the allusions that he brings to mind. I remind him that the proportion of people in adult learning has increased to 80 per cent., from 76 per cent. just two years ago. Either he supports the Leitch recommendations and what we are doing to try to ensure that employers are close to our FE colleges and providers or, he does not. He cannot have it both ways.

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