Social class division in adult education endangers leveling – FE News


25e survey year shows persistent inequalities in adult participation in learning, despite the first increase in participation since 2015

A national survey shows glaring inequalities in participation in adult learning according to social class, age of completion of full-time studies and proximity to the labor market. The survey is published to mark the start of Lifelong Learning Week, the largest celebration of lifelong learning in England.

The Learning and Work Institute (L&W) survey – released today – is the largest of its kind, recording the number of adults participating in learning over the past quarter century. This year’s survey shows that 44% of adults have completed an apprenticeship in the past three years. This is an increase from record lows found in 2019 after a decade of dramatic cuts to adult education funding in England.

However, the latest data show that adults in lower socioeconomic groups (DE) are twice as likely not to have participated in learning since leaving full-time education as those in socioeconomic groups. higher economy (AB). Respondents who stayed in school until at least 21 are twice as likely to be in an apprenticeship as those who left at 16 or younger (56% vs. 28%). The majority (55%) of full-time workers are in training, compared to 45% of unemployed adults looking for work.

With low-income people being among the most likely to have suffered job losses or pay cuts during the pandemic, it is of real concern that these groups are also the least likely to participate in apprenticeship. Learning is essential to ensure that people can learn new skills, get jobs, retrain for new jobs and progress to better pay. Beyond the career opportunities and economic benefits of learning, adults who participate in learning are also more likely to have better health and well-being, and to be active in their communities.

The feeling that they are too old, the cost and the time constraints are the main reasons people give for not participating in learning. Almost three in ten adults (29%) who have not recently participated in apprenticeship said nothing is preventing them from doing so, showing that we also need to actively promote the benefits of learning to encourage learning. participation.

The recent expenditure review announced an increase in funding for adult skills after a decade of cuts. However, L&W analysis estimates that this only reinstates around 60% of the budget cuts since 2010, leaving a gap of around £ 750million. In addition, more emphasis should be placed on How? ‘Or’ What money will be invested to address these inequalities for people with lower skill levels and in lower socioeconomic groups, for example to reverse the 60% drop in adult basic skills learning over the course of the last decade.

Stephen Evans, CEO of the Learning and Work Institute, said:

“It is good to see an increase in participation in lifelong learning after years of falls, given how vital learning is for life and work. In part, an explosion of online learning during the pandemic has sparked people’s interest in learning something new. However, strong inequalities in access mean that those who could benefit the most from learning are the least likely to participate. We need a collective effort to build a culture of learning and make it the century of lifelong learning.

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