Merton Set To "Commission Out" Its Adult Education Services

Move is part of plans to save £32m in four years

Merton's existing Adult Education service is under threat after the council looks set to 'commission out' the courses available to residents.

It is making the move as part of £32m worth of cutbacks it needs to save during the next four years. If the plans go ahead, it could mean the sale of the Whatley Avenue centre in Wimbledon Chase.

At a council cabinet meeting earlier this week, members approved a recommendation to move to a "commissioning model" for adult education services in the borough.

This means a number of established learning institutions providing classes at various locations across Merton.

A statement released by the council said: "Key to the cabinet's commitment to keeping adult education in Merton are 13 principles which reflect the residents' responses to the council's consultation. They will be used when identifying suitable providers.

The principles, agreed at a cross-party scrutiny meeting, state that the new adult education service should retain the same breadth of courses, that courses should help with developing skills and boosting employment prospects and that adults with disabilities and their carers should be involved in the commissioning process for courses specifically tailored to them.

"The council will work to ensure that the current tutors will transfer over to the new providers. It will also gradually phase in changes, allowing officers to work closely with groups who may have specific needs, so the process can be as smooth as possible."

Merton Council cabinet member for education Councillor Martin Whelton said: "We have always been committed to ensuring adult education remains in Merton, but we have to be practical in these tough financial times when we need to save £32 million across all services over the next four years. And that means not standing still.

"In order to realistically have a quality adult education service in Merton well into the future, we have to make it as financially resilient to funding decisions from the Skills Funding Agency which has seen a £430,000 reduction in our grant in recent years with further reductions that run the risk the of losing it altogether.

"From our consultation we know what's important to people and will make every effort to ensure that there will continue to be a supportive and nurturing environment for learners and it is why we have agreed 13 commissioning principles for the adult education service which achieves value for money, protects learning and allows flexibility in the provision of the service."

February 20, 2015