Sector Report: Adult learning in the community 2021-2022
Adult learning in the community (ALC) is delivered by 13 partnerships across Wales and the further education institution, Addysg Oedolion Cymru / Adult Learning Wales.
Membership of the partnerships differs from area to area, but most include provision offered by the local authority, further education college and voluntary or community organisations.
Adult learning in the community provision normally takes places in community venues, such as libraries, community learning centres or schools.
The Welsh Government funds partnerships to deliver courses in literacy, numeracy, digital skills, English as a second language courses and other courses that help learners to apply and develop these skills.
Learners at adult learning in the community partnerships
In 2020-2021, the overall number of adult learners was 5,555. This represents a decline of 32% from the previous year and is part of a longer-term decline in the number of adult learners on Welsh Government funded programmes. The further large fall in 2020-2021 may be at least partly due to the continued disruption to education caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.
During the pandemic, nearly all provision took place online. Since COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, all providers have now returned to mainly face-to-face delivery, although nearly all partnerships continue to deliver some of their provision in an online or blended way.
There is one adult learning in the community partnership in follow-up.
- No. of inspections 2
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, core inspections only resumed from March 2022.
- No. of case studies: 3
- No. of visits: 12
All engagement visits took place between September and December 2021.
Nearly all partnerships reported an increase in the number of learners enrolling on ALC courses compared to the period during the pandemic, although the number of learners enrolling remained below pre-pandemic levels.
On their courses, most learners made sound progress in developing their literacy, numeracy or digital skills, or improving their English language skills.
At both providers we inspected during spring and summer 2022 (such as Wrexham and Flintshire), learners on family learning programmes made strong progress in developing their literacy, numeracy, artistic skills, social skills and general knowledge at the same time as developing their understanding of their children’s learning.
Well-being and attitudes to learning
Nearly all learners were pleased to be back in learning after the periods of isolation during the pandemic. Many reported a loss of confidence, which returning to learning helped them to rebuild. On engagement programmes in particular, learners reported that their mental health and wellbeing had improved as a result of their learning.
Where learning took place online, many learners valued the flexibility that online learning brings. For example, in a minority of cases, learners prefer to continue with online classes as they fit better with personal commitments and lifestyle. Many engaged well and participated fully in sessions. In a very few cases, however, learners’ participation in online classes was limited and the progress they made was slower than when classes were face-to-face.
Teaching and learning experiences
In the inspections we carried out during the spring and summer of 2022, the quality of teaching was generally sound. Tutors planned and delivered their sessions well and developed strong professional relationships with their learners. Many tutors support learners well to structure their individual learning plans and set learning and personal targets.
In general, partnerships offered a range of provision, which aligned appropriately to Welsh Government priorities. However, a few partnerships did not plan their provision with partners well enough to ensure that learners have clear progression pathways within the provision or on to further, higher level studies or training. A few partnerships did not provide sufficient opportunities for Welsh-speaking learners to participate in adult learning in the community in bilingual or Welsh-speaking sessions.
Care, support and guidance
Most partnerships provided courses tailored to learners with a range of learning needs or those who have had interrupted, disrupted or unhappy previous experiences of formal education. In planning provision, most providers took into account the need to reengage learners following the pandemic and that learners and those considering enrolling onto classes may have lost confidence during the pandemic. Most tutors provided useful individual learning support to meet their learners’ needs.
We found that about half of partnerships have helpful and well-designed websites, which allow prospective learners quick access to useful information about courses. In the best cases, learners can enrol online. A few partnerships do not have well-developed websites and finding information about courses was not straightforward. A few used social media sites to advertise their provision. This is effective for prospective learners with social media accounts but does not allow straightforward access for those without.
Leadership and management
A few partnerships such as Wrexham and Flintshire made strong progress towards developing larger regional partnerships. However, this progress was still patchy across Wales, and a few partnerships made little formal progress in this respect.
Nearly all partnerships were adjusting to different circumstances following the pandemic. These included partnerships carrying out reviews of their provision, restructuring their provision and delivery, and responding to staff changes and retirements.
In a few partnerships, relationships between partners were not formalised well enough and relied too much on personal contacts. Joint planning with partners for progression, to reduce duplication or to provide opportunities for bilingual or Welsh-medium provision, was not effective enough.
This resource provides self-reflection prompts to support adult learning partnerships to improve collaboration.