Think tank warns adult education not prepared for Covid-19 bounce back


Higher education in London needs more funding to help the city bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic, a think tank report has said.

Cash for adult education, apprenticeships and in-work learning in the capital has fallen by more than a third since 2010, according to the Centre for London.

And the city has fewer than half as many new apprentices than the rest of the country – with little change in areas with skills shortages in the last five years.

The number of people getting extra training has fallen more than 40% since 2014 overall – with just one in thirteen in further education last year, the report found.

Teaching quality has also been impacted, with almost a third of colleges in the capital rated as requiring improvement by education watchdog Ofsted – compared to just 6% of schools.

The think tank claims courses should be more advanced – 99% are A-level equivalent or lower right now.

The Government should introduce a support package for the further education, including teaching grants for areas with skills shortages, it claims.

Teaching should be free for students’ first A-level or GCSE-equivalent course – and there should be funding for higher level programmes for adults who don’t have a publicly funded degree.

More powers should be devolved to the Mayor of London, it recommends, including apprenticeship funding.

Some adult education powers – and an annual budget of more than £300 million – were devolved to City Hall last year.

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But Mayor Sadiq Khan called on the Government to hand down more powers so “all Londoners have access to the training and education they need”.

City Hall’s assistant director of skills Michelle Cuomo-Boorer said devolving the adult education budget was “only the first step”.

The programme is “underfunded” and “urgently needs additional investment”, she claimed.

“This will be a key part of London’s recovery [from coronavirus], building a fair and inclusive economy and society and investing in the long term sustainability of jobs for all Londoners,” she added.

Roy O’Shaughnessy, chief executive of London’s largest college group, Capital City Colleges, said the report shows the impact of “a decade of neglect and cuts”.

 “There is so much energy and passion in our sector – I see it every day in the actions of our leaders and teaching staff – and we will need this to dig ourselves out of our current situation,” he said.

Centre for London research manager Nicola Bossetti said the Covid-19 outbreak makes retraining even more important.

“The impact of coronavirus is pushing people to the brink, and the upcoming recession is set to hit London hard,” he said.

“Automation and Brexit were already a threat to London’s workforce and this crisis makes the situation far worse.

“Ensuring all Londoners can access high quality further education will be an essential part of building back better, and giving people the skills to thrive in our city’s competitive job market,” he added.

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