Sharp drop in adults studying English and maths, new data reveals

The number of adults studying English and maths dropped sharply last year, with achievements in the core subjects also significantly decreasing, according to new government figures.

Only 573,500 adult learners participated in government-funded English and maths courses in 2018/19, a 13.7 per cent fall from 664,200 in 2017/18.

Last year, 360,300 of the students over 19 studied an English course, 364,000 took a maths course and 120,500 were on an English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) course.

Achievements in English and maths fell by 13.1 per cent to 363,800 in 2018/19 from 418,500 in 2017/18.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute, called the figures “terrible” on Twitter.

“We should be increasing participation given our analysis shows we’ll fall even further behind other countries by 2030,” he said.

A report by the LWI, released in September, found that adult participation in education has fallen to a record low, with just 35 per cent of adults saying they have participated in learning during the previous three years.

The national statistics for further education and skills released today showed the overall number of adult learners in FE further decreased last year.

There was a fall of just over five per cent (2,068,200) in adult learners participating in government-funded further education in 2018/19, compared to the year before (2,179,100).

The number taking part in education and training programmes also dropped by more than four per cent, from 1,131,700 in 2017/18 to 1,083,700 in 2018/19.

A smaller decrease of just under three per cent participating on a community learning course was reported, from 504,500 the year before last to 490,300 last year.

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  1. English and maths education is clearly a component of a broader adult education ‘system’. The decline in adult ed due to policy and funding challenges has impacted on the whole system. For us to see significant growth in English and maths, the whole adult education system needs to have a sustainable platform. This includes community-based non-accredited learning which has long been the ‘gateway’ to more substantial adult learning but has been marginalised and squeezed out of successive policies.