Select Committee on Education and Skills Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) (SQ11)


NIACE (the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education) welcomes the report of HM Chief Inspector for 2000-01 and its important signals about basic skills programmes for adults and young people. NIACE is disappointed at the insufficient attention given by OFSTED to the generality of adult learning.

  1.  NIACE welcomes the Chief inspector's report on 2000-01. The report's title is a misnomer, however. This report is almost entirely about schools and not the whole area of "education". The new inspection arrangements which put OFSTED in the lead inspection role for colleges had only just begun in 2000-01. Five colleges were inspected. The Chief Inspector picks out for special mention some key issues which have a knock-on effect for adult learners in the future:

    —  slight improvement in standards of writing;

    —  attainment of boys in English lags behind;

    —  the reduction of arts, creative and practical subjects in some primary schools;

    —  the failure of some children to "grasp the basics of literacy and numeracy";

    —  improving expectations of learners and quality of provision for those with special educational needs;

    —  unacceptable variations in students' performance in schools and post-compulsory provision;

    —  poor achievements of African-Caribbean, Pakistani, Bangladeshi heritage, and travellers; and

    —  the significant number of "pupils" not in education.

  2.  In the post-compulsory sector, inspectors found that a frequent weakness in the five colleges was "a failure to identify and respond to students with low levels of basic skills" (paragraph 192). The quality of the teaching of literacy and numeracy in prisons and secure accommodation was also "too often unsatisfactory" (198). Frequently, the report says, "there is insufficient provision of entry and foundation level courses, basic skills programmes, and programmes for students with learning difficulties" (187).

  3.  NIACE is disappointed that there is insufficient mention of adult learning in the report, even though Ofsted is the lead organisation for the inspection of colleges and had sole responsibility for LEA adult education provision for many years. Among the five key weaknesses, OFSTED notes three of interest to the post-compulsory education sector:

    —  absence of initial assessment, and lack of recognition that students of different abilities may require different tasks;

    —  insufficient focus on what students are learning; and

    —  failure to identify and respond to students with literacy/numeracy difficulties.

  4.  NIACE looks forward next year to a greater consideration of quality in relation to adult learning in colleges. The hope is that adult learning in colleges is treated with more importance than OFSTED treated LEA adult education services.


March 2002

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