The Government is about to prevent at least 400,000 people from accessing adult education, and completely get away with it

Their plans to cut higher adult education by 24 per cent will be devastating

Petitions don’t make it to the front pages often, though it seems to help if they’re about a mildly racist old man who was supposedly violent because of some food. When they’re about adults still being given opportunities in education they tend to fall far down the list.

At the end of last month, the Government outlined their plans for adult further education. Excluding funding for apprenticeships, the budget for 2015/16 will be cut by 24 per cent. That’s 24 per cent of the funding for adults who want to gain a better education later in life. What's more, it's on top of a previous 35 per cent cut to the Adult Skills Budget, which has already made it harder for people to access higher adult education.

The University and College Union (UCU) has estimated that this cut could lead to a loss of 400,000 college students – and according to them, this is a conservative estimate. In a statement from the Association of Colleges, their Chief Executive went so far as to say “By 2020, if the next Government continues to cut at this rate, adult further education will be effectively a thing of the past. This will mean an end to courses which help people in their early 20s find a job and to GCSE and A Level-equivalent professional courses for those that missed out at school.”

In response, the UCU, supported by all the major teaching and students’ unions, has set up a petition calling “upon the government not to implement these cuts and to instead invest properly in lifelong learning opportunities for all.” But it seems this was a less interesting petition than one about making sure a millionaire kept his job.

The opportunity to learn, to better oneself through education, is surely a right for anyone no matter their age. What’s particularly scary is that such a drastic cut seems to be taking place under the radar. If it was cuts to secondary schooling there would have been an uproar, but for adults who weren’t able to get the education they feel they needed, to lose the opportunity now is quite fine.

 

No one seems interested in what this will do to the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. This is more than likely why the sector is primed for cuts: they can go relatively unnoticed.

What is most affecting are the stories that this petition has brought up, a scroll through the comments shows us why adult further education is important. “I'm a mature FE student, like many LGBT people I lost out on educational opportunities when I was younger due to bullying and discrimination. Everyone deserves the chance to make their lives better at any age,” says one. “I went through the process myself, without funding I would still be unemployed, not being a positive contributing member to society,” says another.

Education is something that everyone should have access to, regardless of age, means or background. Cutting funding to adult further education bars adults from the opportunities they need to succeed and be part of the working world. If a petition to return a punching climate-change denier back to our screens can reach just under a million, surely one to save people’s futures can do better.

You can sign the petition to stop the cuts to higher adult education here.

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