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Another blow to adult education in Leicester

20 October 2006 | last updated: 15 December 2015

UCU is concerned about courses cuts for older learners, job losses, and worsening pay and conditions, after a second proposed restructuring has been announced at Leicester City Council's Adult Learning and Skills Service.

The council says the restructure is necessary in order for the service to cope with cuts made to it as a result of the government's new priorities for adult learning. UCU believes that the service faces a cut of £600,000 this academic year (2006/7).

Staff are particularly concerned about the loss of affordable courses in some of the poorest areas of Leicester that struggle with educational underachievement, poor adult skills levels and social exclusion. Small community-based centres are likely to be hardest hit. UCU estimates that the proportion of adult education courses offered at some locations will be slashed by up to 60%. The union highlights that it is through these locations that many adult learners, who would not otherwise consider going back into education, are recruited.

Up to 20 full-time-equivalent jobs are expected to be lost which will translate into a higher number of actual workers. Pay and conditions of service for staff are also expected to be worsened to make savings.

In addition UCU is concerned that the local authority may not have fulfilled all its legal obligations in assessing how the changes in the service may impact upon Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) communities in Leicester.

The proposed new structure is the result of a year-long process, throughout which the council has paid as yet undisclosed fees to consultants to come up with suggestions for change. Staff are also concerned that council officers have been assuming delegated responsibilities for making major decisions without recourse to elected members.

This is the second restructure of the service in just two years. The last one resulted in a £3.5m potential overspend and the departure of several senior staff.

Les Price, UCU branch secretary at Leicester Shire Community Education, said: 'It is undoubtedly true that there is a crisis in funding adult learning at a national level due to changing government priorities. But the city council's Adult Learning and Skills Service plays a key role in raising educational achievement, promoting economic regeneration and combating social exclusion in Leicester.

'Closing courses, sacking staff, cutting pay and bringing in unfeasible workloads is going to damage this service irrecoverably. Thousands of learners in our poorest communities will be denied access to a wide range of education.

'We need to have an open debate with our politicians about this and hear from learners and potential learners. If the service needs more money on a temporary basis surely our council should throw it a lifeline so that it can grow and stabilise. As it is, the only money they are putting into it is to pay for the costs of staff redundancies.'

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