Is the government slowly suffocating adult education?

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Is the government slowly suffocating adult education?

Post by g.carter » Thu Apr 17, 2008 9:59 am

An interesting Opinion Column in Education Guardian this week from Mike Baker.
It’s very, very sad and scary that bureaucratic form-filling has pervaded all areas of education. Have a friend teaching WEA adult education classes and also one whose sculpture and pottery classes were decimated by bureaucratic over-kill, so this resonates:

“In a typical WEA adult education class, tutors must submit a course outline and set out the learning outcomes(L0s). Students must be assessed against each LO at the start and end of each course. Tutors must distribute learning records (LRs) to students at the first class. These must be collected and the courses modified in the light of student responses. At the end of courses, these LRs must be issued again alongside an evaluation form. The tutor must then collect these, read them, and fill out a tutor report. This involves providing extraordinary detail on topics too numerous to mention here, including ‘how well did you meet the learners’ needs and interests’ and ‘how well did you guide and support learners to progress.’

These tutors earn around £22 an hour for teaching. They do not get paid for class preparation, travel time, or for the huge amounts of time it takes to fill in these forms. WEA tutors are not in it for the money. They love their subject and enjoy sharing it with interested adults. They do not give up their evenings to teach in order to then spend other evenings filling in forms. Some are saying they have had enough.”

If you added all the targets, form-filling, observational studies required from Early Years, Primary Schools, Adult Education, the conclusion must be that a Torrette’s Syndrome type obsession holds sway in the DCSF.

What’s so tragic is that almost all of this is inappropriate, crude and damaging to society and yet the fundamental and appropriate accountability is not in place.

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Post by kenm » Thu Apr 17, 2008 7:07 pm

For some subjects, the solution is to go independent. My wife started her orchestra for adult learners as an evening class. When she went independent she was able to set fees roughly half way between the previous full and concession rates, despite the majority of students being of working age, and her profits immediately exceeded her previous salary. The students were delighted to shed the chore of filling in all the assessment forms. The orchestra meets in a village hall but now only just fits into it.

This may not work so well for visual arts and crafts, because of their need for storage space and for expensive and heavy equipment.

Another indicator of the Government attitude to adult education is the recent reduction in funding for second degrees.
"... the innovator has as enemies all those who have done well under the old regime, and only lukewarm allies among those who may do well under the new." Niccolo Macchiavelli, "The Prince", Chapter 6

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Post by g.carter » Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:49 am

What an interesting story, Ken. Gareth Malone (he of the schools' choirs programmes) takes a weekly choir in the Barbican in London for all-comers - they pay £1 each - but of course this is funded by an orchestra - I think the LSO.

I fear that because of the truly gargantuan mistakes and general profigacy of the DCSF we are being forced along the independent route.

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Post by swern » Fri Apr 18, 2008 1:57 pm

I too know several people who used to teach adult education classes and gave up because the form filling became too much. They especially felt that it was completely inappropriate to the type of people they were teaching.
It is very difficult to prove how you have enhanced a persons ability to get a job when doing a day class in patchwork, with mostly people who are there to learn patchwork as a hobby and have no intention of getting a job related to it.
My father attends a WEA course and also finds it bizarre that they have to fill in all these outcome forms and say how it has enhanced their lives and job prospects. The class he attends is mostly full of retired people who are attending for their own pleasure and knowledge.
It is indeed form filling gone mad.

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Post by maizie » Fri Apr 18, 2008 5:34 pm

I have a retired colleague who forswore any further FE (and she only lives just across the road from the local college) when she experienced those silly forms.

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is the government slowly sufocating adult education?

Post by Hugo » Fri Apr 18, 2008 6:02 pm

I saw the piece quoted as well. I think it is even worse than this conversation has yet elaborated in that measurement is usurping teaching. I am an old lag and remember the good old, sometimes awful old, days of almost complete autonomy for ABE teachers - even volunteers got away fairly unsupervised and some odd things were done, it must be admitted, but they were done from a better ethos.

Today a typical ABE class is a highly constrained educational environment in which what is measurable will be prioritised above all else. The student centredness we were all so proud of and which we placed centre stage is very much diluted now. The language experience method, for example, has become extinct and material to be learned is injected from above, or without, to match the upcoming test. Peculiar, unnatural, but oh so measurable things are taught - explicit grammar, homophones, rules ...

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Post by elsy » Fri Apr 18, 2008 7:57 pm

I'm really grateful that our open studies music course will be able to continue next year. Our tutor manages to keep the form filling to a minimum but she still has to do 'reports' at the end of each module. We participate in 'assessed rehearsals' and learn a little about the composers and period. This is fine but it could be quite difficult for other interests.

Years ago my father attended a leisure art class. In order to keep the costs down it had to become a course in GCSE art. I think the tutor now runs the course privately as a leisure group.

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