To judge by the current Adult Learners week ending tomorrow, adult learning is alive and kicking and meeting a need for a large number of adults of every age. But the key question is will there be enough people who are willing and able to pay for it, as the Government looks for more of the funding to come from fees and other sources. The autumn term will be decisive and it’s a fair bet that there will be statistics and articles showing that the numbers of adult learners are considerably down on previous years. This is bad news as the numbers of adults in the UK taking part in learning in any one year are already under 20% – an issue explored in Digital Nations in the making.

Despite the importance that has been attached by Government ministers to developing ICT skills and harnessing technology, there are signs that the enthusiam for tackling the digital divide and putting resources into local neighbourhoods to generate confidence and the skills to be effective in the Information Society is waning. However it has been good to see this week NIACE’s announcement that the LSC has agreed to a £3.7 million programme for developing the ILT programme for the ACL sector for the next 12 months. The project areas being proposed for bidding will certainly help to encourage a more active and imaginative approach to transforming the delivery of programmes for adults.

In the longer term however we need to know what the LSC’s approach will be to promoting e-learning in support of the DfES key e-Strategy report, Harnessing Technology. Responsibility for promoting and synthesising the different programmes in the e-Strategy is now Becta’s role. Although there are a few instances of local LSCs being willing to support this area and fund projects, it has not been seen as a priority. Most local LSCs do not now have anyone with a more than passing responsibility for e-learning.

The six themes in the LSC’s agenda for change proposals (August 2005) are being actively pursued. The outcomes of Theme 7 – Transformation of the LSC have not been fully worked through yet, but are likely to result in more direction coming from the regional level and a much less significant role being played by the 47 local LSCs. If ACL services are to be effective here in arguing a case for receiving support for their e-strategies, they will need to speak with a common voice regionally and find ways of collaborating to achieve their objectives more efficiently.

On this theme it’s interesting to see the remarks of Bill Rammell, Minister for FE and HE at last week’s Centre for Excellence in Leadership Conference. His advice to colleges and others, quoted in the 19 May TES FE Focus (‘Rammell hints at revolution’) was to form federations to make the most of their resources. ACL needs to note the advice – combine to make most effective headway in e-learning!