Evening Classes Could Face Their Own Top-Ups ; When MURRAY MARSHALL Retired, He Decided to Study Art at College. Would He Fit in with the Youngsters and the 16 Women Students?
Marshall, Murray, The Independent (London, England)
The Government has just entered what may be its last full session this Parliament. And education is certainly at the top of the political agenda, with more than 100 government backbenchers opposing top-up fees for university students. There is a real debate to be had about how best to raise money for higher education.
But next year there will be about more than 30 new bills. Work has begun on Labour's next spending review, which could decide what money is provided to schools, colleges and universities well into the next parliament.
The current funding settlement for further education has been relatively good. But even it has not provided the resources colleges need to meet even core programmes for 16-18 year-olds or basic skills. And since its announcement last year, it has been spread thinner.
The skills white paper has created a new entitlement for those without five good GCSEs or their vocational equivalent. Despite progress on adult basic skills, the most recent survey found more than five million adults with standards of English below GCSE pass level and nearly seven million with numeracy skills below the standard for 11-year-olds.
So while government spending on further education for adults will rise to pounds 2.5bn by 2006, there will be shortfalls of at least pounds 100m in these two programmes alone.
These may be the most obvious areas where more money is needed. But the Government expects employers and individual learners to pay a higher contribution towards courses that don't fit into these categories.
A lot of skills training run by colleges for employers doesn't lead to a nationally recognised level 2 or level 3 qualification. Yet colleges have done a lot to tailor courses to the needs of local firms and the local economy, sometimes setting up learning centres on the shop floor. …