Headlines: May 8th, 2009

The gap between the educationally privileged and the educationally excluded is getting wider according to figures in the annual survey of adult participation in learning of all kinds, which is published today. The survey, ‘Narrowing Participation’, has been produced by the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education as part of Adult Learners’ Week.

It shows that the proportion of adults who are learning or have done so in the last three years, has risen by one per cent to 39 per cent but the number in the lower income groups is just 18 per cent, its lowest level since the Labour government was elected in 1997.

The survey shows that people from the highest socio-economic groups are at least twice as likely to be learning currently compared with those from the poorest groups. Current or recent participation by adults in the D and E categories has fallen to a 10-year low at 24 per cent compared with 53 per cent among those in groups A and B. More than half of those in the lower groups have done no learning since leaving school, compared with a fifth of ABs.

The study also shows that older people are less likely to take part in learning. Adults who have no access to the Internet are three times less likely to take up some form of learning but, as in a number of NIACE surveys, the results show participation among ethnic minority adults is higher than for white adults.

The Chief Executive of NIACE, Alan Tuckett, said it was clear the opportunity to gain a first qualification for a small number of the least qualified people was being bought at the expense of engagement by large numbers of other people from the same groups.