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Adult Education

Volume 885: debated on Tuesday 4 February 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is the anticipated rise in the rate of educational expenditure on adult education in the next financial year.

I have no means of knowing how much local education authorities will decide to spend on adult education in 1975–76. Subject to approval by Parliament, I hope to be able to afford a modest increase for the direct grant sector.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are disturbing signs that adult education is facing its greatest crisis for many years and that unless something is done the situation will get worse, many classes will be cut and many part-time teachers will be sacked? Cannot something be done by the Department to ensure that at least a modicum of standards is maintained in the adult education sector?

As I said, we are going to propose extra help to bodies which get their financial help direct from my Department. As regards local education authorities, the component in the rate support grant on this matter provides for some increase in student numbers and for rises in teachers' pay, which are relevant, and it also makes for some modest improvement or allows for it in non-teaching costs.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Workers' Educational Association faces ruin from inflation because the grant it receives covers only teaching and not the organisation and administrative side? Will he look at that and try to improve the situation?

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether in the Public Expenditure White Paper he has changed the definition of higher education, including further and adult education, because it is difficult to discover whether there is a shortfall on his estimates compared with those of the previous Government?

I should like to consider the latter point, and if there are ways in which the matter can be clarified to the House no doubt we can do that, perhaps through question and answer or in some other way. My officers have been in touch with the WEA in recent months, and we have agreed some additional grant to several districts which were facing particularly severe financial problems.