The devolution of the Adult Education Budget (AEB) is having a negative impact on the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) – funds have been cut by 28% in 2019-2020. This could impact the opportunities of students, who may not be able to enjoy the level of provision they currently have. The WEA is currently able to provide education for 50,000 adults every year and much of its funding is focused on underprivileged groups.
Many adults, approximately 9.6 million, lack basic numeracy skills and 8.1 million lack basic literacy skills. Provision needs to be continued for these groups in order for them to be able to progress. Many adults are unable to work, but still desire access to education to boost their health and wellbeing and transform their lives in a myriad of ways. These people should not be forgotten in national and regional activities either.
A whole-system view is required to determine the full extent of the benefits of adult education. Access to education should be supplied to the most disadvantaged communities and attention should be paid to the development of learners’ soft skills, such as confidence, which can greatly affect employability. Most employers require learners to have a grasp of these skills, as well as those of a more academic nature.
It must be recognised that deprived learners can greatly contribute to the skills deficit that is faced in the UK, but in order to do this their needs must be met with a specific and effective strategy. Not only will economic growth be boosted, but learners will be able to develop too, moving from no qualifications to level 2 qualifications and above. Learners should be able to enjoy a wide range of choice in education to ensure all are able to reach their potential.
Adult education should be open to all, allowing for hope and the opportunity to engage with learning once again. Where someone lives should not have any bearing on this.