Budget for adult education and learning will be down 25% since 2010 | Continuing education

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Public spending on adult education and learning in England will be 25% lower in 2025 than in 2010, despite an extra £900million pledged in last year’s spending review , according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

The IFS has calculated that the additional funding only partially reverses the 38% decline in overall spending on adult education and learning in the decade since 2010-11, when the Tories entered the government. government, due to austerity and inflation.

“This will make it more difficult to achieve the government’s lofty ambitions to improve technical education and adult skills in order to level up the poorest parts of the country,” said the IFS, ahead of a new report, Education adults: make it a real second chance. , published on Monday.

The report found that while there has been an increase in the number of adults taking more advanced qualifications, such as apprenticeships and higher degrees, the number of adults taking more basic qualifications has fallen sharply since 2010- 11 – including a 50% drop in those achieving qualifications at GCSE level and below.

In November’s spending review, Chancellor Rishi Sunak said ‘total spending on skills will rise in Parliament by £3.8bn by 2024-25’, equivalent to an increase 26% in real terms compared to five years earlier. But the IFS found that just £900m was extra spending. “Given the scale of past budget cuts, this will only bring total spending on adult education and learning back to around 2015 levels,” he noted.

Imran Tahir, IFS research economist and one of the report’s authors, said the government’s plans will provide extra help for those who have left schools with good GCSEs or equivalent qualifications.

“Yet the main plans laid out to help low-skilled adults – skills boot camps and the new [numeracy] program – are relatively untested and are unlikely to lead to formal qualifications. Providing effective support and training to this group is a significant challenge that will be key to leveling up the poorest parts of the country,” Tahir said.

The IFS found that in 2011-12 over 3 million ‘low-level’ adult learners were taking classroom qualifications, but in 2019-20 that number had more than halved. The biggest drop was seen in adults taking courses below GCSE level.

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There is also a decline in the number of adults starting apprenticeships, especially since the introduction of the apprenticeship tax in large companies in 2017 and 2020,” the report says.

The report, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, hailed the new lifetime loan entitlement introduced by the government as ‘a sensible move’ which effectively extends the funding system used for higher education to a number of continuing education courses. .

But he warns that the four-year loan entitlement is ‘significantly more restrictive’ than the current funding system and risks ‘achieving the exact opposite of the government’s stated aim by making it more difficult for people to retrain later in life. life”.

Toby Perkins, Labour’s shadow minister for higher education and skills, said: ‘The government’s neglect of higher education is evident in shrinking opportunities and fewer adults taking part in training and the conversion.

“With the lowest level of workplace learning in more than a generation, it’s clear the Conservatives have no plan to tackle the skills shortages in our economy.

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