It is now 3 years since North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) took control of the devolved Adult Education Budget (AEB) on 1 August 2020.
Since then, the government has devolved circa £69m to the Combined Authority. This has enabled Adult Learning opportunities to be determined at a local level and we have successfully provided over 88,500 enrolment opportunities to date.
The devolution of the AEB has enabled us to strengthen the strategic focus of skills provision across the Combined Authority area. We continue to build on our approach of creating close collaborations, bringing together employers, colleges, training providers, local commissioners and the VSCE sector to construct a skills offer which focuses on achieving outcomes directly linked to the local labour market needs.
Our AEB providers continue to deliver a range of provision targeting employed and unemployed residents including statutory entitlements in maths, English and digital skills and full Level 2 and Level 3 vocational programmes required to access the labour market or progress in work.
The AEB investment continues to reach residents most disadvantaged in terms of poverty and skills. We continue to value the positive impact that informal community learning can have. It enables us to deliver targeted niche provision, the majority of which is aimed at residents who are most at risk of being left behind in terms of education and employment opportunities.
Over 35,200 enrolment opportunities have been undertaken during Academic Year (AY) 2022-23, which is an increase of 2,461 opportunities on the previous academic year:
- 19% of enrolment opportunities were delivered as Community Learning providing a range of courses designed to engage residents, build confidence, improve health and wellbeing, including mental health and break down barriers to learning and work.
- 72% of enrolments were undertaken by unemployed residents, with 53% of these residents unemployed and actively seeking work. This is a 4-percentage point increase on the previous academic year.
- 15,585 (44%) of enrolments are in the top 10% deprived wards across the North of Tyne.
- 17,796 (53%) of enrolments are undertaken by residents with no or low qualifications.
Speaking about the success of the North of Tyne AEB programme Cllr Karen Kilgour, NTCA Cabinet Member for Education, Inclusion, and Skills said: “Having control of the devolved Adult Education Budget has been a chance for us to deliver the kind of life-changing education and training experiences to help shape a more productive, skilled, and inclusive economy in the North of Tyne.”
NTCA recognises the vital importance of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in terms of integrating residents in communities, access to services and progression to work. We supported the delivery of over 7200 English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) enrolment opportunities.
We are working with the NTCA provider base and Department for Work and Pensions to maximise provision available, progressing some ESOL learners more efficiently, and sourcing alternative funding for those that are furthest away from the labour market.
A key priority for the devolved AEB is to extend the reach of learning opportunities to a broader range of underrepresented groups. An analysis of the profile of residents engaged in AEB provision during AY 2022-23 demonstrates that the investment continues to respond to this priority:
- 5244 (15%) of AEB opportunities were undertaken by young people (19-24).
- 56% of AEB enrolment opportunities were undertaken by women.
- 16,407 (47%) of enrolment opportunities were undertaken by residents from our black and minoritised ethnic communities.
- 7757 residents (22%) participating in provision self-declared a learning difficulty/disability, a 2-percentage point increase on the previous academic year.
Looking ahead to the coming year we have identified a number of key priorities.
For AY 2023-24 these include:
- Working collaboratively to better respond to employer skills/talent needs, specifically in the NTCA growth and foundation economy sectors.
- Continuing to work closely with the NTCA provider base to develop improved analysis of:
- Community Learning, with a focus on positive outcomes and value for money.
- learner destinations, with a focus on positive outcomes and progression.
- Continued monitoring demand for ESOL provision, working with providers to maximise the opportunities for residents in this area.