Memorandum from the National Extension
College (ILA 16)
NEC is a not-for-profit charitable trust dedicated
to widening education opportunities for adults through distance
learning. It was set up by the late Michael Young, Lord Young
of Dartington, in 1962 as a pilot for the Open University. It
is now the UK's leading independent provider of home study courses.
It enrols over 10,000 adults a year on over 100 courses including
GCSEs and "A" Levels, return to learning and study skills
programmes, and a large number of vocational subjects such as
book-keeping, accounting, IT, marketing, management, child care,
and counselling. The quality of NEC's provision is accredited
by the Open and Distance Learning Quality Council.
Distance education is an important form of provision
for people who cannot attend an FE college, because, for example,
of domestic responsibilities, shiftworking, distance, or disability.
Most distance education is provided by the private/voluntary sector.
Students in the private/voluntary sector pay their own fees and
do not benefit from the LSC funding which subsidises fees in FE
colleges. Typical NEC fees are £150 for an IT course, £275
for a GCSE, £325 for an "A" Level and £545
for Level 3 Accounting. Prior to ILAs, the Inland Revenue allowed
tax relief on the costs of vocational training (VTR). This scheme
helped many (but not all) learners with their fees. VTR was abolished
when ILAs were introduced. With the end of ILAs there is now no
form of government help with the costs of courses for learners
outside the publicly funded education sector.
In NEC's experience, ILAs were exceptionally
successful in attracting adults into learningmore so than
the old VTR scheme. 4,729 NEC enrolments during the period when
ILAs were available were ILA supported30 per cent of all
enrolments in the period. Our figures show ILAs being of particular
benefit to women (76 per cent or our ILA enrolments). Our figures
also suggest that ILAs benefited "hard to reach learners"
in that 76 per cent of enrolments onto our courses in childcare
and early years education were from people using ILAs. These courses
typically attract women with low levels of prior educational achievement.
We also had a disproportionate number of ILA enrolments from the
NE. ILAs have also helped students on our scheme for people with
disabilities and carers. We can provide case studies of ILA students
if this would be helpful.
We cannot know how many people would have enrolled
with us anyway without the incentive of an ILA. But cancellations
since ILAs were ended give some idea. Out of the 204 ILA account
holders who enrolled with us after the scheme was suspended, 38
per cent cancelled their course. 36 per cent paid the whole fee
themselves. We are waiting to hear from the remaining 74 but assume
the cancellation rate will be similar.
The ending of ILAs has cost us over £50,000
in replacement marketing materials, which, as a charity, we can
ill afford, and we were dismayed at the lack of notice over the
ending of the scheme. We would wish to see a quality-controlled
replacement for ILAs put in place as quickly as possible and as
a minimum we would like to see the old tax relief scheme reinstated.
Any replacement scheme must give providers clear commitments and
planning timeframes. Without these, providers will not feel able
to take the financial risk of supporting and investing in future
lifelong learning initiatives of this kind.
National Extension College