Adult learning in the community
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Regional partnerships plus Adult Learning Wales that operates nationally
No. of core inspections: 3
No. of Case Studies: 3
No. in follow-up September 2022: 1
No. removed 2022-23: 1
No. went into follow-up 2022-2023: 1
Total in follow-up in August 2023: 1
The negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the number of individuals engaging in adult learning remains apparent. Despite this, nearly all those undertaking adult learning engage enthusiastically with the provision, resulting in clear benefits to their well-being in addition to furthering their knowledge and skills. Adult learning partnerships generally serve their learners and their communities well. However, leaders’ tracking of learner progress and destinations is too inconsistent and more needs to be done to expand the provision available through the medium of Welsh.
Teaching and learning
Adult learning in the community partnerships catered for an increased number of learners in 2021-2022. This followed a long-term declining trend in the number of adult learners on Welsh Government-funded programmes that preceded sharp falls in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Welsh Government, 2021; Welsh Government, 2022). The 2021-2022 increase was particularly pronounced in English for speakers of other languages (ESOL) programmes, partly due to the enrolment of learners coming to Wales from Ukraine and Syria (Adult Learning Wales, 2022). As well as developing their English language skills, ESOL provision helped these learners to adapt to their new surroundings and culture. Learners on ESOL+ programmes benefited from provision that combined English language learning with vocational training designed to support them into employment. While provision across programme areas was increasingly delivered in-person following the disruption due to the pandemic, learners also valued online learning options where available.
During the inspections of 2022-2023, tutors across the subject areas generally taught effectively. They possessed strong subject knowledge and knew their learners well. In addition to improving learners’ literacy, numeracy and digital skills, in the best examples, well-taught courses provided learners with creative and entrepreneurial skills to help them gain employment or establish their own businesses.
Inspectors found that adult learning partnerships offered provision that was appropriately aligned to Welsh Government priorities. Where partnerships offered personal interest courses, for example in craft, sign language and modern foreign languages, this helped to benefit learners’ mental, emotional and physical well-being as well as enabling them to acquire new knowledge and skills. However, there were very few opportunities for Welsh-speaking learners to undertake literacy, numeracy, digital literacy or personal interest courses through the medium of Welsh.
Overall, partnerships did not track and monitor learners’ progress well enough. The tracking of learners’ progress during their courses, their progress onto different courses, and their next steps externally as they exited the provision, was inconsistent and generally inefficient.
Care, support and well-being
Inspectors found that partnership providers succeeded in creating safe and caring environments that supported the educational and personal development of learners. They catered well for the individual needs of their learners and offered useful additional support when required.
Partnerships promoted equality and diversity and successfully highlighted the importance of these concepts within Welsh society. Providers also focused on promoting healthy lifestyle choices. An effective practice case study from Cardiff and Vale adult learning in the community partnership provides an example of partnership working to help develop ESOL learners’ awareness of cancer symptoms and how to access healthcare. Partnerships assisted the higher than usual number of learners who were experiencing anxiety, an issue that had grown in prevalence following the outbreak of the pandemic.
Nearly all learners displayed high levels of motivation and commitment to their learning. They contributed enthusiastically to sessions and enjoyed their learning experiences. Overall, partnerships offered meaningful opportunities for learners’ opinions to be heard and for them to influence provision and practice.
Leading and improving
The leadership and management structures of the different partnerships vary across the sector, reflecting the different needs and nature of the geographical areas that they serve. Two of the three partnerships communicated a clear vision and a shared ethos. In the best examples, partnerships aligned their work and resources effectively according to their vision and ethos. For examples of this, see the Cardiff and Vale Adult Learning in the Community Partnership’s effective practice case studies about transforming their partnership and about their priority sector skills academies.
Partnerships generally understood the needs of their diverse communities and learners well. They catered for these appropriately alongside their work to meet regional and national priorities. For example, providers worked together effectively to ensure that numeracy and English classes were held across a wide range of convenient and accessible venues within their local communities. However, in one partnership, processes to scrutinise and improve the quality of provision, as well as learner outcomes, were not strong enough.
Adult Learning Wales (2022) Report and Financial Statements: Year ended 31st July 2022. Cardiff: Adult Learning Wales. [Online]. Available from: https://www.adultlearning.wales/userfiles/files/Public_Documents/Report_and_Financial_statements_to_31_July_2022_English.pdf [Accessed 17 November 2023]
Welsh Government (2021) Further education, work-based learning and adult learning: August 2019 to July 2020. Cardiff: Welsh Government. [Online]. Available from: https://www.gov.wales/further-education-work-based-learning-and-adult-learning-august-2019-july-2020 [Accessed 17 November 2023]
Welsh Government (2022) Further education, work-based learning and community learning: August 2020 to July 2021. Cardiff: Welsh Government. [Online]. Available from: https://www.gov.wales/further-education-work-based-learning-and-community-learning-august-2020-july-2021 [Accessed 17 November 2023]