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ERIC Number: EJ877433
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2008-Dec
Pages: 2
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0955-2308
Mind the Reality Gap
Spear, Richard
Adults Learning, v20 n4 p26-27 Dec 2008
The Welsh Assembly Government is nothing if not consultative. The most recent draft policy out for public debate aims to improve the way adult community learning (ACL) is planned and delivered--in order to provide demonstrable benefits for learners. This latest consultation sits under "Skills that Work for Wales," the Assembly Government's skills and employment strategy. The draft ACL policy focuses on provision for those aged 19 and over, which is offered in local community settings and which is not specifically vocational in nature. It hopes to encourage more strategic and effective use of limited public resources through the creation of new partnership arrangements. Whilst there are certainly many aspects of the draft policy to welcome, unfortunately they do not appear to be matched with adequate budgetary resources. The proposed ACL partnerships also appear to be out of synch with the broader "transformation" agenda in Wales. Although there are many positive recommendations within the consultation document, there is no indication of the level of budget to support their delivery; other than a note that the proposed informal learning grant scheme will be supported through a top-slice of the existing ACL budget, implying no additional funds. Whilst the need to make better use of existing and limited public funding is appreciated and supported, it is difficult to see how the policy can be delivered in light of the current cap on funding for post-19 provision in Wales. Indeed, although certain officials and ministers appear to appreciate the value of adult learning, there is a clear reality gap between rhetoric and practice. The policy's aim of an even greater focus on widening participation will increase the average costs per learner. Indeed, this is reflected in the Assembly Government's funding formula for post-16 learning, which includes a "deprivation uplift" to recognise the increased costs of working with under-represented groups. However, neither the cost implications of improving equality of opportunity, nor the need for pump-priming investment, are acknowledged within the consultation document. A corollary of a widening participation agenda within the context of frozen budgets is an overall reduction in the number of participants within ACL, unless fee paying learners plug the gap--one of the assumptions of the policy. In this article, the author contends that only if the budgetary resources are there to match the ambition can the Welsh Assembly Government deliver a new approach to adult and community learning that will work for Wales.
National Institute of Adult Continuing Education. Renaissance House, 20 Princess Road West, Leicester, LE1 6TP, UK. Tel: +44-1162-044200; Fax: +44-1162-044262; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Adult Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom (Wales)