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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting:  16 June, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Adult Services

 

Adult and Community Learning Course Fees

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To review the fee levels for Adult and Community Learning (ACL) courses in light of the recent 37.5% cut in the Adult Community Learning allocation from Welsh Government Department for Education and Skills (DfES). 

Recommendations

1.         With effect from September 2014 to:

·               Increase the full fee from £60 to £85 (42%) for a 10 week course.

·               Increase the concessionary fee from £45 to £64(42%) for a 10 week course, equivalent to 75% of the full fee and to change those eligible to the concession. (Please refer to Appendix A).

·               Remove the band C of concession.

·               Use Department for Education and Skills funding solely to support an increase in targeted courses in local communities for disadvantaged learners.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         The review of course fees is recommended in order to:

·               deliver more flexible learning opportunities in community venues for disadvantaged groups, especially those not engaged in education, employment or training;

·               provide a broader range of learning opportunities in order to attract individuals who are unable or unwilling to engage with a more traditional curriculum;

·               meet the additional costs incurred by targeting resources at those in greatest need, including those who are unable to fund their own learning;

·               sustain the universal leisure learning offer on a cost recovery basis;

·               ensure Welsh Government grant is directed at priority learners.

Background

2.         Adult and Community Learning provision is a Council Service and its core funding comes from Department for Education and Skills.  The "Delivering Community Learning for Wales" document sets out the Welsh Government's adult and community learning policy, describes the strategic aims and defines the key action for providers.  The vision is to:

·               Increase participation for those who have benefited least from education in the past or who are most at risk of not benefiting in the future.

·               Improve quality in the learning experience including increased progression to other learning opportunities or work.

3.         The policy document also outlines the need for a balance between provision funded by the Department for Education and Skills, by the learner, employers and others.  This is in line with the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Community Strategy Priority 6 - "people of all ages to access learning opportunities and skills to reach potential, remove barriers to employment".

4.         The level of fees charged is aimed at ensuring that learning opportunities are as affordable as possible and that cost barriers to participation are minimised whilst recognising that learners should make an appropriate contribution to the overall cost of learning.

5.         The proposals in this report will enable the Vale to meet the required outcomes of the  Welsh Government grant funding and to maintain a standalone universal leisure and wellbeing learning offer that is self sustaining through cost recovery measures. This will enable the Council to respond to the recent ESTYN Inspection recommendations and the 37.5% cut in the Welsh Government Adult Community Learning Grant.

Relevant Issues and Options

6.         Basic Skills, Family Learning and English for Speakers of Other Languages (EU Citizens, refugees and asylum seekers) courses are provided free of charge.  Free courses are available for individuals seeking employment on the 'Get Back on Track' programme of one day accredited courses in Microsoft Office skills.  In addition there are free work clubs around the Vale (Barry, Penarth, St Athan, Llantwit Major) to support CV writing and job searching using the Internet. There are no proposals to change this arrangement.

7.         Charges for other courses are based on £4.25 per hour for full fee payers. Learners can take advantage of instalment facilities to pay for their courses in 20-week blocks and10-week blocks, as appropriate to the learner's needs

8.         Concessions (Appendix A) are currently available for people:-

·               Over 60 not in full time employment.

·               In receipt of state benefit.

·               Full Time students.

9.         A class operates for several weeks in order to fully assess whether the numbers of enrolments received are enough to make a viable course. 

10.      To achieve a balance between our 2 aims, there is a need to:-

·               provide targeted opportunities to attract those considered to be in greatest need; and

·               continue to provide a programme that appeals to as wide an audience as possible including those learners who currently access the programme and are not considered to fall into one of the priority groups.

11.      In order to continue to deliver the richness and diversity of the Adult Community Learning programme many courses will need to become fully cost recovery and indeed income generating to support the Adult Community Learning provision that will target those in greatest need

12.      To ensure the continuation of a broad range of courses and ensure funding is used for priority groups there needs to be an increase in the full fee, a change to introduce a single concessionary fee and to bring the concessionary fee level closer to the full fee level. 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

13.      In light of the current financial climate, there maybe a decrease in the number of learners paying full fees.

14.      If the same number of learners enrol then the income will increase, however, this will be used to offset the 37.5% reduction in the Welsh Government allocation and support the provision to target disadvantaged groups to meet the Welsh Government priorities.

15.      Some learners might be deterred from enrolling on leisure learning and health and wellbeing related courses due to the increased charges. To enable these potential learners to participate the Council would need to make additional resource available. This is currently not available through external funding streams or within the Council's available budget.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

16.      There are no sustainability or climate change implications arising from this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

17.      There are no legal implications arising from this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

18.      There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

19.      The proposals are intended to increase participation of those who have benefited least from education in the past or who are most at risk of not benefitting in the future.  Basic skills, family learning, ESOL, Get Back on Track courses and work clubs will continue to be free to students.  Fees for students on means tested benefits will also continue to be free (Appendix B).

 Corporate/Service Objectives

20.      Community Strategy Priority 6 - "people of all ages to access learning opportunities and skills to reach potential, remove barriers to employment".

Policy Framework and Budget

21.      This is a matter for cabinet decision

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

22.      Not applicable.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

23.      Lifelong Learning.

Background Papers

None.

 

Contact Officer

Phil Southard Adult Community Learning Manager

 

Officers Consulted

Paula Ham, Head of Strategy, Community Learning & Resources

Dawn Sugden, Accountant

Sally Perini, Cowbridge Adult Community Learning

Heather Todd-Bennett, Penarth Adult Community Learning

Debbie Lewis, Barry Adult Community Learning

Coralie Morgan, Basic Skills Manager

Andrew Borsden, Lead Officer, Youth and Community Learning

 

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Director of Learning and Skills

 

 

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