Memorandum submitted by the National Institute
of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) Dysgu Cymru
(i) The National Institute of Adult Continuing
Education (NIACE) is the national, independent organisation for
adult learning in England and Wales. As a registered charity,
founded in 1921, NIACE both represents and advances the interests
of all adult learners and potential learnersespecially
those who have benefited least from education and training. NIACE
aims to improve opportunities for adult learners across all sectors
with a particular focus on those adults who have not had successful
access to learning in their initial education.
(ii) NIACE Dysgu Cymru (NDC) the Welsh arm
of NIACE, conducts work in Wales supported by a Management Group,
which is elected by NIACE members in Wales. The membership of
NDC comprises almost all further education colleges, all Local
Authorities, most higher education institutions, individuals,
Careers Wales, TUC, UfI and other representatives of a range of
organisations whose focus is specifically on responding to the
needs of adult learners.
1. Policy context in Wales
Since devolution in 1999 the divergence in educational
policy and distinctiveness of Wales' educational institutions,
structures and working arrangements has become more marked.
The Welsh Assembly Government's strategies for
education, and latterly education and employment (The Learning
Country: Vision into Action (2006) and Skills that Work
for Wales (2008)) continue to differ from their equivalents
in England in particular. Whilst the latter reflects broad similarities
(with England) in terms of direction of travel, there remains
a greater emphasis on widening participation and social justice.
Significantly, the Welsh Assembly Government also differs from
Westminster departments in terms of its emphasis on partnership
and collaboration, not competition/ contestability (as a means
to achieving these aims).
More broadly, the structures within which education
and training are delivered in Wales differ from those in England.
The call for a "bonfire of the quangos" pre-dated democratic
devolution, but was subsequently embraced by the Welsh Assembly
Government. The effect on quality of delivery of policy in England
and Wales is difficult to assess, though it certainly presents
a complex set of arrangements for learners living on the border.
The (government) departmental arrangements in England and Wales
now differ significantly. Wales' Department for Children, Education,
Lifelong Learning & Skills plans and delivers education and
training for all ages (excluding higher education), while in England
responsibility is split between two departments, Department for
Innovation, Universities and Skills and the Department for Children,
Schools and Families, and delivered by a variety of quangos.
2. Further Education
There are a number of specific points in relation
to further education, which NDC believes merit consideration by
The level of funding, per head of
population, is greater in England than in Wales, particularly
in relation to capital funding. If this gap is not closed, it
could put institutions near the border at considerable risk of
losing learners to nearby English institutions.
FE Lecturers have secured pay parity
with school teachers in Wales. NDC welcomes this as a positive
step towards achieving parity of esteem between the FE and schools
sector. However, there is a concern that pay parity has been achieved
at the expense of investment in, for example, facilities, equipment
and training in Wales.
There appears to be no political
appetite for private finance initiative in Wales (One Wales explicitly
rules this out for the Health service), which could potentially
impact on levels of capital investment in comparison with England.
Funding for 16-19 provision remains
within Welsh Assembly Government (there appears to be no appetite
in Wales to shift this to LEAs).
Many colleges (particularly those
on border or of specialist nature-including residential provision)
recruit students from England.
FE Colleges in England have the power
to validate their own foundation degrees. As this is currently
not the case in Wales, it could lead to English border colleges
targeting recruitment at Welsh learners.
3. Adult and Community Learning
There are a number of specific points in relation
to Adult and Community Learning (ACL) which NDC believes merit
consideration by the Committee:
The ACL sector in Wales is characterised
by a diverse range of provision delivered by a wide range of providers,
including many outside the mainstream institutions of formal post-school
education. These include museums, libraries and various voluntary
and community-based organisations. NDC believes that there should
be a greater understanding of the contribution that ACL makes
to a broad range of Government agendas. These often fall outside
of the government departments with direct responsibility for ACL
(described above). NIACE's work on typologies, set out at Annex
A, may be of assistance in this respect. In summary, NIACE has
identified the following different strands of ACL:
Skills for Life, (including embedded
Skills for Independent Living;
Learning for interest, personal fulfillment
and for well-being and health; and
Learning for active citizenship and/or
In particular, ACL plays a crucial
role in widening participation and contributing to greater equality
of opportunity, by taking provision to learners rather than expecting
disadvantaged learners to come to the provision. It is also important
to recognise the role of informal, non-formal and non-accredited
learning which form key parts of ACL provision; developing key
skills and building confidence to participate in wider society,
as well as often being the first steps to additional learning,
qualifications and skills.
Over the last decade or so, much
post-19 provision for learners has been underpinned by European
funding particularly in the areas of widening participation and
reducing economic inactivity. Although the importance of ACL to
economic growth is recognised by the European Commission,
there is significant concern across the sector that ACL related
projects will be squeezed out of the ESF Convergence Programme.
This is despite compelling evidence on the wider benefits of all
types of learning (see www.learningbenefits.net). Furthermore,
there is concern that too narrow an understanding of the learning
needs of the most excluded and marginalized in society will lead
to a devaluation of ACL despite its catalytic role in stimulating
demand for all kinds of learning amongst such groups.
NDC is keen that the broad variety
of post-16 education provision is maintained for learners in England
and Wales to ensure equality of opportunity and that participation
continues to be widened.
Whilst appreciating the context of
limited funding, NDC believes that it is unfortunate that ACL
provision in particular is often the "first to be cut".
In England over the last two years 1.4 million learners have been
lost. This may also put additional pressure on ACL providers in
the Welsh border regions, as learners travel to access provision
which has been cut in England.
4. Higher Education
NDC believes that there are a number of specific
points in relation to Higher Education which merit consideration
by the Committee:
Higher Education is intrinsically
cross-border in nature. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) are
also international organisations, recruiting staff, and accessing
research income from a global marketplace.
Cross-border working is pivotal to
the future success of Welsh HEIs.
The UK Higher Education system operates
on a "dual support" model. Firstly, investment in teaching
and research is channelled through DIUS in England, the Welsh
Assembly Government and the Scottish Executive. Three national
funding councils (HEFCE, HEFCW, SFC) operate on an "arms
length" from their Governments, and allocate grant funding
to their universities. The devolved institutions receive funding
as a result of a Barnett formula "consequentials" related
to the level of DIUS HE spending in England, but are then free
to decide what level of investment to channel to HE through their
respective funding councils. It is considered that levels of funding
per student in Wales are lower than in England. Secondly, DIUS
invests in universities and national research institutes (including
all the research councils). This funding is not allocated according
to any formula, but is based on rigorous grant application processes.
Given the "dual support"
model described above, it is essential that Whitehall departments
involve the devolved administrations in any discussions about
possible changes to policy in relation to HE funding.
Following the Rees & Graham Reviews
into student finance in Wales, different systems of fees and support
arrangements have developed in England and Wales. The has been
a reduction in applications from England domiciled students to
study in Welsh HEIs, although it is not clear whether this is
due to the differing fee arrangements or other issues. NDC understands
that HEFCW are currently undertaking research into this issue.
However, NDC believes that a reduction in student mobility is
NDC would also draw the Committee's attention
to the Furlong Review of Initial Teacher Training, undertaken
on behalf of the Welsh Assembly Government in 2005. Furlong made
a number of comments in relation to cross-border services. In
Data analysis: Data is collected
by UK Government (in the case of initial teacher training) to
model teacher supply. Despite the fact that the model covers both
England and Wales, it does not include any Wales specific data
in the calculations. This was not necessarily a problem pre-devolution,
when oversupply (eg of newly qualified teachers) in one part of
the country contributed to addressing undersupply in another.
However, now that devolved administrations are responsible for
the funding, they need ensure a closer match between demand and
supply in each country.
This issue raises the question; to
what extent should HEIs in Wales use better workforce planning
in an attempt to achieve a match between demand and supply, or
can the system be better configured to continue to support a UK
wide HE system?
NDC believes that there are a number of points
in relation to the media which the Committee might wish to take
A number of issues, highlighted most
recently by Professor Tony King in his review of network news,
impact on the delivery of services in England and Wales. For example,
in relation to education and training, advertising funded by the
UK Government often relates only to England initiatives (for example
Education Maintenance Allowance, "golden handshakes"
for teachers etc).
In addition to this, UK wide services,
such as those provided by learndirect, can provide inaccurate
or misleading information about services in Wales.
There appears to be little evidence of cross-border
co-ordination. However, it is also unclear how desirable or possible
such co-ordination would be in the context of diverging policy.
Informal reciprocal agreements are in place on the cross-border
recruitment of FE learners. Additional bureaucracy would not be
welcomed by providers or learners.
Marketing (eg of the Train to Gain programme)
and indeterminate distribution of English policy documents can
lead to confusion for providers in Wales. Of greater significance,
however, is the apparent lower levels of funding for providers
(particularly FE and HE institutions) in Wales compared to England.
ADULT LEARNING DESCRIPTORS (NIACE, MAY 2004)
|First Steps||Learning which is offered as an initial entry point into learning and from which learners are actively encouraged and supported to progress to other forms of learning.
|Skills for Life, including Embedded Basic Skills
||Learning for which, whatever the title of the course, the primary intention is to enhance the basic skills of literacy, numeracy and/or English language for speakers of other languages.
|Skills for Independent Living||Learning which develops the knowledge, skills and understanding of adults with learning difficulties and disabilities for independent living in the community.
|Skills for Work||Learning which enables people to develop the skills they need for paid or voluntary work and which will enhance their employability.
|Learning for Interest and Personal Well Being and Health
||Learning for personal development, cultural engagement, intellectual or creative stimulation and for enjoyment, and for which there is no expectation that learners should necessarily progress to other learning.
|Learning for Active Citizenship and/or Community Development
||Community based learning developed with local residents and other learners to build the skills, knowledge and understanding for social and community action.
Communication from the Commission of the European Communities,
Adult Learning: It's Never Too Late to Learn (COM (2006)