Demand doubles for free courses for jobs

Adult education statistics also show increases in level 4+ and ESOL courses, but further declines at levels 2 and 3

Adult education statistics also show increases in level 4+ and ESOL courses, but further declines at levels 2 and 3

26 Jan 2023, 16:06

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Data released this morning by the Department for Education gives us a first look at adult learner participation in further education and skills courses this academic year. 

Here’s what we learned from the first quarter (August 2022 – October 2022):

Level 2 decline

There were 1,056,530 learners recorded this quarter, up 4 per cent, on the same period last year. Most of the extra 43,380 learners so far this year are taking courses at level 4 and above (up 11 per cent) and below level 2 excluding basic skills (up 7 per cent). 

However, the number of learners on full level 2 and 3 programmes fell by 9 per cent and 5 per cent respectively, representing nearly 23,000 learners.

A quarterly comparison of ESOL learners show there were just over 20,000 more in 2022/23 so far than for the same period in 2020/21. Most of that growth came from entry level courses.

There was also a small overall rise in community learning participation, with a 4 per cent bump to 119,180 learners. Figures reported growth in all areas of community learning, but the largest increase in learner participation was in family English, maths and language programmes.

Free courses for jobs demand rises

The number of adults that have started a course under the free course for jobs offer is double what it was for the same period last year.

In-year statistics for the first quarter of this academic year show that 10,670 enrolments were funded under the scheme, which fully subsidises the course fees of certain level 3 courses. 

There were 5,080 enrolments for the same period last year. 

Figures also reveal that the decision to extend eligibility criteria last year boosted enrolments by nearly 2,000. 

A major criticism of the free courses for jobs scheme was that it would only subsidise courses for learners that didn’t already have any level 3 qualifications. A small change was made in April which allowed level 3 qualified learners to access the scheme but only if there earned below the national living wage.

In its first full year, the scheme achieved just under 25,000 enrolments.

Free courses for jobs enrolments

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly compared figures for participation of learners aged over 50 for quarter 1 of 2022/23 with full year figures for 2021/22. That section of the story has been removed.

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