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Adult Education

Volume 961: debated on Tuesday 30 January 1979

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what action has been taken since the Russell report on adult education to (a) increase and (b) decrease actual resources available to the sector covered by the report; and what further action is contemplated by Her Majesty's Government.

The wide-ranging recommendations of the 1973 Russell report were addressed not only to central Government but to local education authorities and other providers. Despite the resource constraints of the last five years, the Government has taken a number of initiatives to increase resources in the spirit of the report, as follows:

  • i. Since 1975 State awards have been available for students at the long-term residential colleges at a total cost to date of some £2·2 million.
  • ii. £500,000 has been made available for capital expenditure at those same colleges.
  • iii. A new long-term residential college was opened at Wentworth castle, near Barnsley, in September 1978 and receives central Government grant of some £30,000 per annum.
  • iv. In 1975 the Adult Literacy Resource Agency was set up as a short-term pump-priming measure to enable adult literacy to become firmly established as an integral part of local adult education provision. It disbursed Government funds of some £3 million during the three years of its existence. The rate support grant settlement for 1978–79 was calculated to enable local provision to continue at its 1977–78 level and it was assumed that the extra costs to local authorities would be about £1·3 million. The adult literacy unit now provides a continuing central focus for adult literacy matters with funds of some £330,000 per annum.
  • v. The Workers' Educational Association has been encouraged to shift the emphasis of its work towards the first three of the priority areas identified in paragraph 232 of the report, and since 1977–78 has received an additional £100,000 per annum in grant to facilitate this change.
  • vi. The Government have provided grants of £400,000, £650,000 and £1 million for the years 1976–77, 1977–78 and 1978–79 respectively, towards the provision and development of trade union education.
  • vii. Looking to the future, the Government have established the Advisory Council for Adult and Continuing Education to advise generally on the education of adults, and in particular to promote both co-operation between all providers of adult education and the development of future policies and priorities in the context of the concept of continuing education.
  • The Government have taken no action designed specifically to decrease the resources available to adult education. It was, however, inevitable that this area of provision should bear its share of the economies which local education authorities were bound to make, by way of increased fees and other means, in the light of the financial stringencies of recent years.