Extra cash for adult learning in poorest areas

A total of £260,000 is being spent to improve the availability of adult community learning in Essex’s poorest areas.

Essex County Council will be spending the money in Canvey Island, Braintree, Colchester and Harwich as part of its levelling up agenda.

The additional money is being aimed at supporting some of the most disadvantaged priority cohorts- those children and adults with special educational needs, those families with children on free school meals and working families and young adults not in education, employment or training – sometimes referred to as Neets.

Across the four areas Essex County Council acknowledge that some people have to travel unreasonable distances to access adult courses.

Currently Adult Community Learning (ACL)) does not have its own specialist health and science facilities in Colchester even though within the district there are several employers who recruit (or will be recruiting) to jobs within both the health and science sectors such as Colchester Hospital and Bradwell B power station.

This means residents must travel to the University of Essex to access hands on learning opportunities.

To offer easier access to services, it is proposed to setup a specialist classroom for health and science related subjects (including new apprenticeships) at a cost of £60k.

There is also not an ACL base on Canvey Island meaning residents must travel approximately ten miles to Basildon to access their nearest Adult Learning Centre. This is particularly pertinent given the level of deprivation in the area – both Canvey Island East and Canvey Island North are in the top three wards in the UK with the highest community needs

In response Essex County Council is spending £70,000 for 12 months to create a Canvey Island-based ACL centre to provide courses and programmes that will improve people’s propects.

Although there are no wards in Braintree that are ranked among the 10 per cent most deprived areas in England, the Indices of Multiple Deprivation index (IMD) 2019 shows that within rural Braintree the levels education and skills fall into the bottom 40 per cent nationally.

These deprived neighbourhoods are situated within the towns and villages of Rural Braintree which are not on main or regular public transport services, the council adds.

Residents must sometimes travel up to 15 miles away to Witham to access their nearest Adult Learning Centre so the council is spending £60,000 for an outreach tutor to work in rural Braintree in places including libraries.

A statement as part of a decision notice said: “ACL aim to improve lives through learning. ACL’s expertise is well placed working with hard-to-reach communities and supporting residents to access learning opportunities that can improve both social and economic wellbeing, raise aspiration, build confidence, and instil a culture of lifelong learning.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter