City spreads the vouchers word

April 28, 1995

A voucher scheme for funding adult education in the City of London may be extended to more than 250,000 people who work in the capital.

The Corporation of London, which is in the second year of running the scheme for its resident population of 7,000, is planning to pilot a more ambitious project from March next year to distribute adult education vouchers to all city workers who want them.

Education chiefs at the corporation believe the scheme could be applied in other areas of the country where non-vocational adult education has been badly hit by local authority budget cuts.

It may also attract the attention of ministers who were meeting this week to consider a report on potential uses for voucher funding in all post-16 education and training.

Under the corporation's system, vouchers are issued to residents in the square mile to help them cover the cost of almost any adult education classes they wish to attend.

This helps overcome problems created at a national level by the division of adult education funding between the further education funding councils, which support vocational courses, and the local authorities, which fund non-vocational classes.

The value of the vouchers ranges from Pounds 35 up to Pounds 0, depending on personal circumstances.

Residents can ask for black vouchers to spend on any course offered by an institution offering adult education, or red ones restricted to basic education or specialist classes such as speech therapy.

Around 50 institutions are participating in the scheme, including some far outside the corporation's area that participate by distance learning, such as Liverpool John Moores University. Institutions are reimbursed by the corporation for the value of vouchers spent on courses, plus another 10 per cent to cover administration costs.

The scheme may prove more attractive to other authorities because it is likely to involve contributions from students and employers.

Stephen Denny, assistant education officer for the corporation, said a voucher scheme operating in other areas would have to survive under greater budgetry pressures.

But he added: "The experience we have so far of the system has led us to be increasingly enthusiastic about voucher funding for adult education."

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