Turnaround for adult education service which was under threat

Wensum Lodge: Pic: Steve Parsons.

Wensum Lodge: Pic: Steve Parsons. - Credit: Archant

Watchdogs have praised the adult learning service used by thousands of people in Norfolk - just five years after a damning report meant there was a danger it could have been closed down.

Margaret Dewsbury, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for communities and partnerships. Pic: Norf

Margaret Dewsbury, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for communities and partnerships. Pic: Norfolk Conservatives. - Credit: Norfolk Conservatives

Norfolk County Council's service, which provides adult learning and apprenticeship programmes, has been rated as good by inspectors from Ofsted (Office for Standards in Education, Services and Skills) following a visit last month.

At the time of the inspection there were 3,354 learners enrolled across Norfolk, with courses such as basic English and maths, including GCSEs, to silversmithing and ceramics.

Wensum Lodge in Norwich's King Street is the main teaching centre, but inspectors praised the service's work in "rural, often economically-deprived areas of Norfolk", saying that "courses help learners overcome their loneliness and isolation".

The inspectors said that leaders had "designed an effective curriculum that meets the needs of the local community and employers well."

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They said: "Good provision is available for learners with complex learning and social needs. For example, they teach adults with learning disabilities how to live independent lives. Leaders ensure that programmes offered provide many opportunities for learners to continue studying."

Watchdogs praised staff for embracing the diverse backgrounds of their learners, although inspectors did say more should be done to ensure feedback given by tutors enables learners to develop their knowledge and skills rapidly.

The success marks a continued turnaround in the service. In 2015 Ofsted rated the service inadequate and councillors said there was a "strong risk" the service might close. But a 2016 inspection rated it as good and the latest inspection continues that trend.

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Margaret Dewsbury, cabinet member for communities and partnerships at Norfolk County Council, said: "Adult learning has continued to help thousands of people learn new skills and build their confidence. Ofsted have rightly recognised the impact our work has had on those who might be socially isolated and the support for adults with complex learning and social needs.

"I would like to thank the adult learning team for their hard work and dedication which shone through in this report."

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