Late last year, I raised the question of how adult learning will be funded once European structural funds no longer apply to the UK. This led me to send a Freedom of Information Request to the Department of Work & Pensions, asking for an estimate of how much funding was allocated to adult learning in the UK from the European Social Fund (ESF). The answer is that a lot of adult learning is funded in this way.
Under current arrangements, European structural funds run for the period 2014-2020. According to DWP, a billion euros were allocated during this period for adult learning from ESF Investment Priority 2.1 alone. This does not account for all support from ESF, as the reply makes clear. And adult learning is also supported through other structural funds, incuding the European Regional Development Fund, Leader, INTERREG, and EQUAL. But ESF provides the main route to funding for adult learning.
Unfortunately, DWP wasn’t able to answer two of my follow up questions. I was keen to know how much of the Investment Priority 2.1 allocation was devoted to (a) literacy and (b) adult English learning. Apparently it was not possible for DWP to isolate figures for these two areas of spending. However, it is reasonable to conclude that some ESOL and literacy is funded through ESF, and that it is probably a significant proportion of their total funding.
All this raises the obvious question of what happens next. In principle, there shouldn’t be any problem: the UK pays far more into the structural funds than it receives, so there ought to be money to spare to tackle the problems that the ESF seeks to address. But in practice, there will be plenty of other priorities, so we need to keep an eye on this issue.
In the meantime, I have sent a copy lf DWP’s response tothe following:
- David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, who has been making a noise about the cuts to adult education;
- Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group for Adult Education; and
- Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of the Learning and Work Institute.
If you can think of anyone else who could helpfully see the DWP response, please let me know.