Agenda item

Learn Hillingdon Adult Community Education Self-Assessment Report, 2021-22


Officers introduced the Self-Assessment Report from Learn Hillingdon. Officers noted that this was not a legislative requirement but was expected by the Council and by Ofsted. The report gave a flavour of how well the service was performing and was measured against the Ofsted framework.


Members questioned how areas were prioritised as areas for development. Officers clarified that this was done through the impact on learners. Officers further noted that learning outcomes were often measured on courses without formal qualifications, which had previously led to some inconsistencies. However, applying more scrutiny had since led to fewer discrepancies, although the achievement rate had dropped as a result of this. It was noted that the drop in achievement rates were not a major concern as having more scrutiny meant that standards were maintained.


Members asked how the data was looking for the current financial year and officers noted that it was roughly on par, if slightly under, but that this was a national pattern – there were fewer enrolments in adult education nationally. It was noted that some potential learners did not have the time or capacity to enrol; that some learners finished a Level 2 course and went straight to work without enrolling in a Level 3 course; and that officers were not unhappy with the current performance. There were also lingering concerns over COVID.


Members noted that learning was for life, not just in early years, and questioned the gender breakdown noted in the report. The high proportion of female learners was noted, and that classes were often timetabled around school day times to encourage enrolment. It was further noted that a large number of female learners were studying English for speakers of other languages (ESOL). Officers further noted that it had historically been more difficult to enrol male learners, and that this was partly due to a perceived vulnerability in asking for help. A former programme working with football clubs for numeracy help was noted, but this only attracted very small numbers. Male learners had enrolled for mental health reasons. 


In terms of marketing and sustainability for the Council, the service used brochures to advertise their courses, however it was noted that as the availability of courses and the type of courses running updated regularly, brochures soon became out of date. The costs required in regularly printing new brochures was noted and officers stated the going forward, printed brochures would not be used.


Officers noted that there were barriers in terms of access and signposting, although the service was very good at supporting next steps. The service played a key role in encouraging people into learning where they otherwise would not enrol. Learners often had a range of needs to support, and the service was good at identifying these. An issue with capturing progression was noted – when people left the service it was not easy to know where they went on to.


Members thanked officers for the report and noted a previous major review into the service. Officers noted that the services did not receive an equal share of GLA funding as this was based on an historic figure, but the service was good at finding alternative funding pots, while the GLA was supportive. Additional funding for the next three years through the Multiply project (an informal maths/ numeracy programme) was received due to Hillingdon being one of the top providers in London. An application for more baseline funding had been made, with officers due to find out the result of the application in March 2023.


Members referenced the table at the bottom of page 21 of the agenda and asked why data was given for four years for enrolments and achievements, and three years for retention rate and pass rate. Officers noted that this was just a matter of presentation within the report itself. Officers noted that the report presented four years of data to show a decline in enrolments going into COVID, and a subsequent recovery in numbers.


Members asked about an age and cultural breakdown of the figures. It was noted that younger adults were more engaged with the service. Officers noted that a more detailed age and cultural breakdown could be provided outside of the meeting.


Members also noted the effect of children seeing their parents use the service and noted that it may be more likely for someone to engage if a friend or relative already had.


Officers noted that it was important to choose the right vocational areas to focus on, and that there was a complex background of information going into planning, such as identifying achievement gaps and retention of those with mental health issues or dyslexia, for example. It was noted that there was currently no achievement gap in relation to age, gender, or ethnicity, but that these gaps were always evolving.


Members asked about how women with no formal education were engaged with and officers clarified that they would go out into the community and engage with community groups. This often helped people feel more safe to take the first steps into engaging with the service. It was noted here that the service had a designated person for targeted outreach.


Members questioned the effect of some courses being moved into the Civic Centre from the Brookfield centre. It was noted that there were positives and negatives to this. Brookfield was a useful brand name for the service, however being in the Civic Centre meant there was now access to a cookery room, and the corporate communications team were very helpful with online support. It was also noted that as the change took place after courses had finished, informing the learners was not possible while classes were still running. Changes at the Harlington centre were also noted, with there now being fewer but larger rooms (five instead of seven). It was noted that some classes remained at the Ruislip Manor centre, however, due to the lifts not working here, some classes had been moved out anyway, so the impact or the re-location was reduced.


Members asked if there was any evidence of effective partnership working. Officers noted that there was partnership working with carers and other departments within the Council. It was also noted that there was partnership working with Hillingdon Women’s Centre, Hillingdon MIND and Age UK, and with hotels around Heathrow in relation to asylum seekers. Work with the Early Years team was also noted.


RESOLVED: That the Committee noted the report and questioned officers on the report.

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