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Adult Education (Grants)

Volume 33: debated on Tuesday 7 December 1982

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asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what is his policy towards the extension of provision of adult education with grants.

As I indicated to the hon. Member on 9 November, our expenditure plans for 1983–84 provide, if costs are contained, for the level of adult education provision to be maintained at about the same level as 1982–83. Any expansion of provision would have to be financed by savings or by generating additional fee income.

Is the Minister aware that a significant number of the unemployed in Lancashire would take up full-time education if full grants were available? What does he propose to do about that?

The hon. Gentleman will know that it is for local education authorities to decide what concession they should make. Surely he knows that 93 per cent. of all local authorities make a major concession of one sort or another to the unemployed if they wish to take up basic skills.

Is the Minister aware that the Mackintosh survey shows a large latent need for adult education and that the National Institute of Adult Education survey shows a falling off in enrolment, mainly for financial reasons? Does the hon. Gentleman recognise the importance of adult education and the investment that is needed for the future of this country?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of adult education. I am glad to be able to tell him that the most recent survey by the NIAE of October-November 1982–it is a sample survey, but it is usually correct—shows that there has been a 1 per cent. increase in enrolments compared with 1981–82.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the great value that the Open University and its students place upon the £1 million made available for the unemployed to enjoy its courses? Is there any possibility of that principle being extended to other adult education courses?

The extension of mandatory awards in any way would be extraordinarily expensive. On the whole, it is better to allow the more flexible and practical concessionary fees to be offered by local education authorities.