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Cath Everett

Sift Media

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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News: Employers ‘must collaborate to stem falling adult learner numbers’


A national body has called on employers, policy-makers, unions, providers and charities to work more effectively together in a bid to stem the dwindling numbers of adults involved in learning.

An annual survey among 5,237 people undertaken by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education to mark Adult Learners’ Week, which started on 12 May, revealed that just under one in five are currently studying something, while 38% have done so in the last three years.
The figures show a 1% drop on 2011, but a 5% fall since 2010, when 43% adults were either doing some kind of course or had done so in the last 36 months.
David Hughes, NIACE’s chief executive, said: “Participating in learning can help people secure work, stay and flourish in their jobs, keep healthy and play a positive role in their community. All of those are even more important now with a tough labour market, an ageing population and stressed communities.”
As a result, it was “disappointing” that participation was “declining”, with many of the people who were most likely to benefit missing out, he added.
One of the problems was that learning take-up was still determined by class, age, employment status, prior learning experiences and attainment, Hughes said.
So for example, 44% of people in full-time work and 42% in part-time jobs were studying something compared with just two out of five who were looking for work, just under a quarter who were out of work and 14% who had retired.
But even among those people who were working, the number participating in learning had fallen by two and three percentage points respectively.
Those who had stayed on in the education system for longer were also more likely to study than those who left at the earliest opportunity. Just under half of people who left full-time education when they were 21 or more are still learning compared with only 23% who left school at or before 16.

One Response

  1. Could cost have something to do with the decline?

    I was recently looking at this myself and was astonished by the level of fees being charged for fairly low-level courses. They seem to have increased a lot in recent years although I admit that I am comparing today with over 20 years ago which was the last time I did any adult learning.

    Also for people starting part-time HE courses all have massive fee increases from September. Although you can now get student finance if you haven’t an equivalent-level qualification this is closed to many people who are seeking to study in a new field because they will already have a degree-level qualification. They therefore have to self-finance unless their employer is willing and able to pay. I keep thinking of some Open University study but from September the increased cost will make it impossible.

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Cath Everett

Freelance journalist and former editor of HRZone

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