10 reasons to Save Adult Education

Please sign and share the link to the petition to Save Adult Education. Evidence shows successive and massive funding cuts over recent years and a decline in numbers of adult learners in part-time education.

Why does this matter?

There are countless reasons, but here are some:

  1. Education equips us for life, but the world keeps changing after our compulsory school leaving ages. Adults need to adapt to social and technological changes if they are to keep up with developments. What is the cost of leaving people behind?
  2. Being able to read and write English fluently and to use numbers accurately are basic skills, not only for jobs but for understanding how public services work, being a savvy consumer, reading health information, taking an active part in society and for leading a dignified life. What is the cost of low levels of adult literacy and numeracy?
  3. All government services are now designed to be ‘digital by default’. How does this work for people who can’t use technology effectively? What is the cost of digital exclusion?
  4. Young people leaving school now without specific grades in GCSE English and Maths have to reach those standards. How will they be supported if full-time education didn’t meet their needs and adult learning is being starved of resources? What is the cost of limiting adults’ educational opportunities when need is evident?
  5. Many school leavers with low attainment levels will become parents of children who follow the same pattern. Educating the parents through family learning partnerships is shown to break the cycle and improve attainment levels for both generations. What is the cost of continuing cycles of educational inequality?
  6. Education is not just for work. It promotes health and wellbeing, reducing isolation for older people and keeping their minds active, while harnessing the benefits of their experience and knowledge.What is the cost of not enriching older people’s lives through learning?
  7. Low levels of participation in voting means that democracy is not representative. Learning about how political systems work is important if we are to engage people in civic life. What is the cost of disenfranchised citizens?
  8. All aspects of life depend upon adaptability and active minds. Learning to learn is a skill in itself. What is the cost of failure to adapt?
  9. Education is a means to address inequality in many forms.What is the cost of inequality?
  10. Learning is one of life’s greatest pleasures. Art, literature, history and culture should be available to everyone and not only those who can afford them. What is life without interests and pleasure?

Every question about cost can be replaced with another, more positive, about opportunities and possibilities.

Spending on adult education is an investment. There is evidence that it can lead to saving money in various government departments by reducing reliance on public services.

How you can help

1. Write to your local MP – the sooner the better

2. Spread the word on social media

  • Use #saveadulteducation on twitter and tell the world about the impact adult education has had on your life, family and community
  • Join our Facebook Campaign at https://www.facebook.com/saveadulted

3. Sign our campaign petition at https://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/sae

Go to the WEA’s website for more information about the Save Adult Education campaign.

Adult literacy, numeracy and health care

Around 5 million adults in the UK lack functional literacy. According to the charity National Numeracy, almost 17 million people in the UK don’t have the numeracy skills necessary to reach the lowest grade at GCSE. Poor reading, writing and number skills are often discussed in the context of employability but recent research in the USA by Sharon K Long, Adele Shartzer and Mary Politi shows the impact of low levels of self-reported literacy and numeracy on obtaining and using private health insurance coverage. Their work, reported here, highlights how important these skills are in navigating health services and official systems, especially in a world that is increasingly reliant on independent online access by service users.

It also shows some of the risks that might arise from increasing privatisation of health services in the UK.

Health lit & num

The researchers found that navigating changes in the health care system is challenging for many people, especially for adults with limited literacy and numeracy. This should not come as a surprise, but there is a lot of action needed to bridge communication gaps between the public and health care providers.

Poverty is a strong contributor to health inequality but levels of  income and functional skills are linked.

The use of words and numbers can create barriers. Medical jargon can be unfamiliar and intimidating. Phlebotomy, oncology, obstetrics and other hospital department names are not obvious to the uninitiated. Leaflets in medication packs can be written in difficult language and many aspects of health and wellbeing, including dosage instructions for tablets, depend on literacy and numeracy.

Adding the US scenario of decision-making about health insurance is a further level of complexity, especially for people trying to balance difficult financial choices, but it is a level of expertise needed increasingly in many other everyday situations.

There is a strong need to invest in adult education that doesn’t stigmatise people who need to improve their functional skills and service providers also have a responsibility to make information as accessible and understandable as possible.

Joint working between health care providers, public service providers and adult educators might be part of a solution?

Select Committee’s Inquiry into Adult Literacy and Numeracy

We need to spread the message that the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee has announced a new inquiry into adult literacy and numeracy (but not English for Speakers of Other Languages). This is an important development and an opportunity to contribute to policy on an issue highlighted so starkly in the recent PIAAC report, referred to in earlier blogs. The time for responses is tight so we should let people know about this as soon as we can and encourage responses.
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The Committee has invited written answers to the following questions:
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  • What is the Government currently doing to help adults improve their reading, writing and maths skills ?
  • How can the Government make sure that adults have the right skills that can help them find a job, which in turn will help the country, and more widely?
  • What are the best ways to help adults learn how to read, write and do maths—through formal education providers or in a different way?

This is a chance to show evidence of the difference that adult and community learning makes, together with how and why it works. It’s an opportunity to move the literacy and numeracy debate beyond an important but restricted ‘school-leavers and employers’ discussion.

Reading, writing and maths are functional skills that can help people to find jobs and we know that they also have an impact in other areas of their lives. They are fundamental to each of the WEA’s educational themes – employability, health and wellbeing, community engagement and culture – and we know that adults have many different starting points and initial motivations to get back into learning.

The WEA is enthusiastic about this inquiry and will be submitting a formal response but we also encourage other people to do so. We need a compelling range of collective responses so that more adults can benefit from improving their literacy, numeracy and lives but…

the deadline for the submission of written evidence is Thursday 6 February 2014.

You can find the official link to the inquiry here.