Adult education reform could see price hike for ‘leisure and pleasure’ courses

Wensum Lodge, the home of the Norfolk Adult Education Service.

Wensum Lodge, the home of the Norfolk Adult Education Service. - Credit: Archant

People taking 'leisure and pleasure' adult education courses are set to face a price hike under plans to restructure the service in the wake of a damning Ofsted report.

Inspectors judged Norfolk County Council's Adult Education Service as 'inadequate' in January, triggering funding cuts from some government agencies.

The reforms, due to be discussed by county councillors today, would see the service re-named the Norfolk Community Learning Service, which a report to the Communities Committee said would 'more clearly describe what the service will do in the future'.

The reshaped service would see classes that people take for hobbies, such as pottery or yoga, separated from other courses that people take to gain new skills and qualifications for work or personal development.

The former would be delivered through a commercial model from September 2016 that would see them run at 'full cost' for those who could afford it, and subsidised for those who could not. By removing any government funding, these courses would then be 'completely removed' from oversight by Ofsted and funding bodies.

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Richard Bearman, chairman of the steering group for Norfolk Adult Education Service, said it was too early to say which courses would be run under the new commercial model, and how much extra money people would have to pay.

However, he said the prices were likely to be in line with similar classes run elsewhere.

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He added: 'I think it is a really good move for the service because it means that yoga courses will not be subjected to the rigour of the Ofsted regime, and have its funding withdrawn.

'We don't want people to be priced out of courses run for pleasure, but we have to make the point that the council cannot afford to continue to subsidise them.'

The council's earlier actions following the Ofsted report had included a compulsory all-day training event for all tutors, which it said would help prepare them for inspections.

This, and other requirements which tutors said meant they had to prove they were embedding literacy and numeracy in all their lessons, triggered an angry response from a number of tutors, some of whom resigned in protest.

The report said a support and challenge inspection took place on August 18. It said: 'Verbal feedback indicated that there was clear evidence of improvement across all the areas that would be expected at this point in time, including governance.'

What do you think about the future of adult education? Write (giving full contact details) to: The Letters Editor, EDP, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email

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