Maggi Butterworth, director of Swarthmore Education Centre, addresses the on-going importance of adult education, as well as the barriers currently facing it.
Providers of further education learning and skills across the country are feeling anxious about the rocky landscape ahead and talk of future funding cuts dominates their anxieties. In particular, adult education has experienced massive cuts over the last five years and participation in lifelong learning is at an all-time low.
However, it’s about the essential role educational providers have in building a recovery that is sustainable and balanced; that every provider can have the opportunity to share in and share the benefits from so long as the government continues to fund adults in learning.
The government’s key priorities are clearly about reaching its three million high quality trained apprenticeships by 2020. There is no doubt that apprenticeships have an important role in addressing the combination of skills shortages, skills gaps and low productivity that are threatening the future prospects for sustained economic growth, but they are not the complete answer to every challenge facing the economy.
For many adults already in work, an apprenticeship will either be unavailable or not appropriate for the current stage of their career. Undoubtedly people with low skills levels are most likely to miss out. People on low pay will fail to get the support they need to progress in work.
The latest national participation survey from NIACE – an educational charity in England and Wales – clearly shows, as in all previous years, that participation in learning is determined by social class, employment status, age, and prior learning. The survey shows that 19 per cent of adults, that’s around one in five, is currently learning while 38 per cent had taken part in some form of learning in the previous three years. 35 per cent of adults have not participated in learning since leaving school. In general the older people are, the less likely they are to take part in learning.
The digital divide continues to reinforce the learning divide with 43 per cent of adults with internet access having taken part in learning in the previous three years compared with just 12 per cent of those without access.
Education is not just about gaining qualifications in order to get a job. It promotes health and wellbeing, reduces social isolation while keeping minds active. All aspects of life depend upon adaptability and active minds. Spending on adult education is an investment. There is evidence that participation in learning can lead to saving money in different government departments by reducing reliance on public services.
Education equips us for life but the world keeps changing after we’ve left school. Adults need to adapt to the social and technological changes if they are to keep up with developments.
All government services are now designed to be ‘digital by default’. How does this work for people who can’t use technology effectively or can’t afford internet connectivity at home?
At Swarthmore in Leeds we provide a range of courses for adults under one roof. However, winning funding for our work has become more competitive, so like other organisations we have had to be agile and deliver more with less. We rely on dedicated staff and a set of trustees who work tirelessly to achieve the impacts we all want.
JLife takes a look at a selection of the first-class learning environments located across Leeds and the surrounding areas.
Harrogate Grammar School
Harrogate Grammar School Sixth Form saw record-breaking results this year with a total of 66 per cent of all A-Level grades being at A* to B. This shows an outstanding performance from a Sixth Form which prides itself on its inclusiveness and comprehensive intake.
Delivering excellence for all through world class teaching and facilities, Harrogate Grammar School offers over 40 subjects to choose from, unrivalled enrichment opportunities, and specialist pathways.
The school welcomes a large group of post-16 students from other schools into this thriving and successful Sixth Form; one of the largest in the country and the top performing comprehensive Sixth Form in North Yorkshire in 2015.
The Sixth Form open afternoon for prospective students and their parents is being held on 23rd January 2016 at 2pm.
Leeds Jewish Free School
As Leeds Jewish Free School (LJFS) races through its third year it is a good time to look back and reflect on what has been achieved. LJFS is the first Jewish free secondary school in the country. Its first eight-pupil cohort has now grown to 53 pupils in three cohorts. This number is expected to grow to over 80 by next September with a full intake into Year 7 and further pupils joining.
Jewish families have started relocating to Leeds from areas without a Jewish high school so that they can join LJFS. Some families, valuing what is on offer, are now choosing LJFSwhen highly regarded independent schools are an option for them. The school will, in 2017, face the challenge of bulging Jewish cohorts in Brodetsky with preferences likely to significantly exceed the places available. Prospective parents however are still welcome to apply for a place for next September regardless of whether they’ve already been selected to start in another school.
LJFS’s first Ofsted inspection recognised the huge progress it has made in two years. A school that is inclusive, diverse and clearly Jewish has been created, something that it’s already proud of.
Now LJFS can look forward to taking the next steps with its first GCSE cohort starting their studies in September 2016, introducing the Duke of Edinburgh and the Arts Award and building a Jewish studies offer that keeps all its Jewish pupils engaged, knowledgeable and active within the community.
The Montessori Nurtury at Moortown is rightfully set up for a child to explore during those early years of essential development, being a welcoming and secure nursery.
These Montessori methods suit each unique child and allow that uniqueness to flourish. ‘Follow the child’ was Dr Maria Montessori’s often-repeated advice, and it forms the basic principle of Montessori childcare and education now, 100 years later.
Here, a child explores the world from his or her viewpoint. Each resource introduces an essential concept that their future life will need. To an active child, they are the stuff that life is made of. As a result, they develop confidence and independence with real purpose.
Swarthmore Education Centre
Swarthmore is the adult education centre with a difference. It provides a wide range of subjects for people at all levels and runs courses during the day, evening or weekend to suit your timetable. Get inspired and enjoy excellent teaching in an environment where each individual’s learning experience is valued.
Courses are taught at all levels, from introductory to advanced, by experienced well qualified tutors. From art to hoola hooping, stained glass to mindfulness, or computing to psychology and counselling. Some courses lead to a certificate but there are lots of opportunities to pursue study purely for the pleasure of learning.
Swarthmore also provides a crèche alongside its daytime courses, as well as a counselling service.
The Mount School
The Mount School, York, invites girls to apply for scholarship examinations for its September intake.
Year 7 and Year 9 scholarship exams at the all-girl Quaker school take place on 12th January.
Former headgirl Mary Fulford noted: “Yes, The Mount gets good grades and students get into good universities, but there’s so much more to it than that. The people here, students and staff, are among the kindest I’ve met in my life. That’s largely the nature of the school; it fosters goodwill. That, for me, is what sets The Mount apart.”