Agenda item


To receive a report on progress made in relation to the Adult Learning and Skills Task Group’s recommendations of June 2023.



Cllr Clare Curran, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, Lifelong Learning

Cllr Matt Furniss, Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Economic Growth

Julia Katherine, Director – Education and Lifelong Learning

Francis Lawlor, Surrey Adult Learning Service Manager

Luke McCarthy, Economy Lead, Strategic Lead - Policy & Strategy


Key points made in the discussion:

  1. The Task Group Chairman remarked that he thought it was a mistake to have paused work on a centralised online database of all available training in Surrey, recommended by the task group. Surrey Adult Learning (SAL) Service Manager said following the recommendation he had sought to gain information from colleges. However, National Careers Service had since developed their own national database of courses that lead to qualifications, which Surrey Adult Learning and colleges in Surrey feed into. The Member asked if this included community learning opportunities and if it was promoted by SAL. The Service Manager said he was confident it included all courses but they did not question the outside body to check its accuracy or completeness. They did market the facility but did not test to see if residents utilised it. The Service Manager added that when, under the County Deal, Surrey County Council (SCC) had a greater strategic oversight and leadership role for adult learning and its funding, it should then provide its own database and not go through the National Careers Service.


  1. A Member asked for more information on how SCC’s approach to adult learning would change following the introduction of the County Deal and devolution of the Adult Education Budget (AEB) from 2026/27. The Service Manager said it would allow the Council to ensure it has a far greater understanding of adult learning across the whole county. Rather than just being a deliverer, it would receive about £11.5m and will be able to set out its priorities in terms of the skills agenda, community, health and wellbeing, make decisions on what it is spent on and who it funds, and set expectations for the providers it commissions. Currently SCC cannot determine how money is spent; the Department for Education (DfE) and Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) allocate money to providers, who spend it in accordance with the National Funding Allocation Method. The Economy Lead added this would enable the Council to target provision in line with skills gaps flagged by local businesses, and to focus on particular demographics most in need.


  1. The Cabinet Member leading on Adult Learning added that community learning courses were highly valued and should not be forgotten when the AEB is devolved, with the disparity between West and East availability in this area highlighted by the task group. A Member sought clarity on what the Council planned to do to address the postcode lottery from 2026/27 onwards. The Service Manager said a programme board would be set up to discuss how they want to influence the balance of provision when the County Deal is introduced in September 2026. A Skills Strategic Plan would be developed to determine what the offer should be to meet the needs of Surrey, on a health and wellbeing as well as skills basis. The Economy Lead said they met FE principals quarterly to give a steer on business needs. The £11.5m made available which would become known as the Adult Skills Fund, was not an increase in funding and would also have to also be used to develop the Skills Strategic Plan and procure and monitor contracts.


  1. A Member sought assurance that free courses for residents in carbon literacy and sustainable living would be freely available to all Surrey residents as recommended, not just employees across different sectors serving the economy. Assurance was provided by the Economy Lead.


  1. A Member asked if SAL was working with any of multiple charities suggested by the task group to help the Council reach vulnerable people in most need of its adult skills through the charities’ local knowledge. The Service Manager responded they had worked with York Road Project and Surrey Minority Ethnic Forum and been to Oakleaf Enterprise. Scope and Mencap helped the Council in its mental health approach. Although there was some partnership working, he said charities’ first expectation tended to be to look for funding from the Council, which was not a funding body for adult learning.


  1. A Member queried as to whether asylum seekers in East Surrey also had their transport to attend training provision funded, since SAL serves only the West. The Service Manager replied that while SAL uses some of its ESFA funding to pay for transport, East Surrey College chooses not to, and the County Deal would in the future allow SCC to harmonise the funding model across the county.


Cllr Matt Furniss joined the meeting at 1.51pm.


  1. The Cabinet Member leading on Skills was asked to outline his aspirations in this area and how these fit together with those for Adult Learning. He explained that the national focus was much more on vocational skills in a drive to get people back into jobs and that was the strong focus of the Surrey Skills Plan and the Local Skills Improvement Plan created by Surrey Chambers of Commerce. He did not believe there were plans to remove community learning, much of which was paid for by individual learners. The future question would be whether they are delivered together or not.


  1. The Cabinet Member noted progress made in the last nine months: £4.5m additional funding for adult skills training including Skills Bootcamps and retrofit training, a good relationship with Department for Work and Pensions for Targeted adult learning employment support in neighbourhoods including Old Dean, and a majority of education establishments signed up to Surrey’s single careers hub which focuses on apprenticeships and technical education.



The Children, Families, Lifelong Learning and Culture Select Committee recommends:

1)      Lifelong Learning produces a map of which adult learning providers across the county provide what courses and where, to enable gaps in provision to be identified, by the end of July 2024.


2)      Surrey Adult Learning and the Economy and Growth team together give renewed consideration to the Task Group’s recommendations endorsed by the Select Committee in June 2023.




(a)  The Cabinet Member for Children, Families, Lifelong Learning (adult learning) and the Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Economic Growth (skills and apprenticeships) confirm in writing to what extent they believe the 2023 recommendations have been completed; and


(b)  The Lifelong Learning and Economy and Growth Services assist the Cabinet Members in the above endeavour by producing an analysis of the gap between what was recommended and what has been done, and a programme of work striving to reach completion.


Cllr Liz Townsend left the meeting at 1.57pm.

Supporting documents: