With this in mind, the Northumberland Adult Learning Service has been re-badged as the Learning and Skills Service, with the initial report on outcomes for the 2017-18 academic year presented to Northumberland County Council’s family and children’s services committee last week.
It explained: ‘There has been a significant and planned decline in non-accredited former community learning over a three-year period in line with the changes to government funding and priorities and an increase in the delivery of skills provision to meet the economic needs of the county, the LEP (local enterprise partnership) priorities and the needs of the unemployed and the low-skilled.
‘Accredited skills provision continues to be complemented by a small proportion of non-accredited community learning which provides stepping stones into learning for the hardest to reach and most disadvantaged groups. This strategic move was strongly endorsed by Ofsted at the inspection (in June, which saw the service retain its good rating)’.
Dean Jackson, the council’s director of education and skills, said: "This report is again debunking the myth that Northumberland is somehow well off the pace when it comes to educational outcomes."
The report says that outcomes for learners ‘show good and consistent achievement rates which exceed provider group and national averages across the majority of provision’ and ‘have presented a picture of improvement in the last four years’.
Achievement rates are six per cent above the national average for 16 to 18-year-olds, 3.6 per cent above for 19-plus learners and 7.5 per cent above when comparing those of all ages, while 87.9 per cent completed their apprenticeship in 2017-18 compared to 67.7 per cent nationally.
Mr Jackson said that one negative was attendance, which he described as ‘a bit of an Achilles heel’, which is also a problem across the North East. “If we can that sorted, we will have a superb service, a jewel in Northumberland’s crown to be honest,” he added.
Coun Wayne Daley, cabinet member for children’s services, said: "In an ideal world, we would provide llama knitting for beginners and zen yoga for beginners, but it has to be a targeted service for some people who have been let down by our schools."
Mr Jackson also mentioned that while it was early days, they were looking quite seriously at extending this service, so that it could be accessed by post-14 students who have been excluded from school.
Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service