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Education and Training in Scotland National Dossier 2005


Chapter 7 -Community Learning & Development

Compulsory Descriptors
Adult Education

The term "Community Learning and Development" is now used in Scotland to refer to the wide range of community-based adult learning, community capacity building and youth work.

7.1 Historical Overview

Compulsory Descriptors
Historical Perspective

Additional Descriptors (x to left denotes that additional descriptor is covered below)



In the early years of the 19th century, evening classes figured as part of Robert Owen's experiment at New Lanark, and in Edinburgh the School of Art was founded for working tradesmen, becoming the model for the Mechanics' Institutes which emerged to meet the needs of the economic and industrial changes affecting the country.

In the middle of the century the University Extension Movement was founded by a Scottish professor, James Stuart, and became the pattern for 'extra-mural' education, extended by the universities to the mass of the population. In 1887, Patrick Geddes, a leader of the Extension Movement, organised the first international summer school in Europe when he brought together in Scotland leading figures in both the sciences and the liberal arts.

During the last century, developments in adult education have progressed more slowly, possibly because many young Scots have traditionally enjoyed ample opportunity to proceed to higher education. The Workers' Educational Association ( WEA) was established in Scotland just before the First World War and in 1921 the National Council of Labour Colleges took forward the pioneering work of the 19th century in providing the working classes with training for involvement in local and central government. In 1934 Statutory Regulations for Adult Education empowered education authorities to co-operate with voluntary bodies in securing adult education provision. Following World War II, the Education (Scotland) Act of 1945 developed the concept of informal further education in a way which allowed the education authorities to co-operate with universities and voluntary bodies such as the WEA in providing adult education.

The origins of the youth services lie in the voluntary sector in the early twentieth century, with such agencies as the Scouts, Guides, YMCA, and with a particular emphasis upon personal, social development, with a Christian ethic. Since 1945 local authorities became significant providers by way of youth and community services. The development of New Towns in the 1950's/60's and the 'rediscovery of poverty' in the 1960's led to the introduction of community development support. Since the 1970's there has been a significant development of the community sector, ie, local run projects and organisations, not necessarily linked to larger voluntary organisations. This has been closely linked to the development of the Urban Programme and more recently the Social Inclusion programmes and Lottery, which has funded innovative work with young people at risk and around community capacity building.

Since the publication of the seminal Alexander Report, community education in Scotland has come to encompass a wide spectrum of learning activities, which may be full-time or part-time, formal or informal, accredited or non-accredited, undertaken at a range of institutions and community locations, with flexible and varied modes of delivery.

In 1990, the Scottish Office Minister for Education established CeVe (Community Education Validation and Endorsement) with delegated powers relating to the endorsement of qualifying and other training in community education.

In 1999 the Scottish Executive approved a radical re-focusing of community education following publication of the 1998 report: Communities: Change through Learning (The Osler Report). The new vision for community education was to provide community-based learning opportunities for all ages to enable people to improve the quality of their lives, contribute to their own communities and participate in local and national democratic processes. The report emphasised that through learning people can build confidence and the capacity to tackle wider social issues, such as health or community safety, but also acquire essential skills, such as literacy, without which social exclusion is more likely. The new approach required community education workers to develop productive partnerships relating to a wide range of social, economic, health and educational needs of communities.

The aims of community education were defined as being to support personal development in community contexts, to build community capacity and to draw together and maximise the resources which can support community learning and development.

Community education was defined as a way of working which encompasses a variety of formal and informal learning opportunities and is involved in the development of core skills, including adult literacy, numeracy and use of information and communications technology ( ICT); engagement with young people to help them experience positive development - whether they are of school age or beyond; educational support to individuals, families, people with disabilities, interest groups and communities; and the promotion of lifelong learning and healthier, more positive lifestyles within the context of community and voluntary activities. Those active in the provision of community education include the local authorities, the voluntary sector, local adult guidance networks, other education providers and fields such as health and community safety.

In 2000 the Scottish Executive established the Community Education Training Review ( CETR) to examine professional training in this field. This report was published in May 2002.. The recommendations in the CETR were put out for consultation, following which the Scottish Executive issued a policy response, Empowered to Practice - the future of community learning and development training in Scotland. Work to implement this policy response is well under way and continues. In particular: (i) a consortium of training providers, led by Dundee University, is working on the development of work-based and part-time routes to qualifications in CLD; and (ii) a Short Life Task Group has reported to the Minister for Communities with recommendations for a way forward in relation to the CETR's conclusion that "there is a need for an independent national body with an enhanced remit and functions building upon the role of CeVe".

In June 2002 the Scottish Executive published Community Learning and Development: The Way Forward. This announced that the Scottish Executive had agreed to adopt the term community learning and development, as recommended by the CETR.

Following extensive consultation, the Scottish Executive published new guidance on community learning and development - Working and learning together to build stronger communities - in January 2004. The guidance includes, for the first time, national priorities for community learning and development as follows:

  • Achievement through learning for adults: raising standards of achievement through community-based lifelong learning opportunities incorporating the core skills of literacy and numeracy, communications, working with others, problem solving and ICT;
  • Achievement through learning for young people: engaging with young people to facilitate their personal, social and educational development and enable them to gain a voice and place in society;
  • Achievement through building community capacity: building community capacity and influence by enabling individuals, groups and communities to develop the confidence, understanding and skills required to influence decision-making and service delivery. This could include enabling communities to provide and manage services to meet community needs.

Learning Connections, Communities Scotland has secured the delivery of the initial phases of a continuing programme of support for Community Learning and Development Partnerships, to assist them in implementing the guidance in ways that focus on the needs and capacities of their own communities.

Other current national priorities include the more effective measurement of inputs, outputs and outcomes in this area. Learning Connections is taking forward a Performance Information Project in partnership with the field to address this.

Community Learning and Development is now seen as a major part of the Scottish Executive's community regeneration and community planning policies and is being given higher priority in the implementation of the Scottish Executive's Lifelong Learning Strategy for Scotland - Life Through Learning - Learning Through Life (February 2003).

7.2 Ongoing Debates

Compulsory Descriptors
Reform Proposal

- Community Learning & Development. Responsibility for policy advice on community learning and development has been transferred from the Scottish Executive to Communities Scotland, the Scottish Executive's agency for housing and regeneration. The Scottish Executive published new guidance on community learning and development - Working and learning together to build stronger communities - in January 2004. The guidance includes, for the first time, national priorities for community learning and development.

The Scottish Executive also published its response to the report of the Community Education Training Review ( CETR) in February 2003 (Empowered to Practice: The Future of Community Learning and Development Training in Scotland).

7.3 Specific Legislative Framework

Compulsory Descriptors

Additional Descriptors (x to left denotes that additional descriptor is covered below)


Organising Body

Ministry of Education



Under the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992 (section 1) the duty is placed upon the Secretary of State to secure the provision of further education in Scotland. The Act also empowers local authorities (in section 2) to provide adult education as part of further education provision. This type of further education is now known in Scotland as community learning and development. After the publication of Communities: Change through Learning (1999) the Government published SOEID Circular 4/99, which gave guidance to local authorities. They were asked to work with other organisations with an active interest in informal education to produce Community Learning Strategies. Using their Strategies to provide guidance, the local authorities were then required to set up Community Learning Plans, relating to either local areas or to 'communities of interest'. They provided, for the first time in Scotland, a comprehensive and coherent (but non-institutional) structure which identified each community's learning needs and the agencies and methods to be used to address them.

The Scottish Executive's new guidance on community learning and development, Working and learning together to build stronger communities (January 2004) placed responsibility on Community Planning Partnerships to produce Community Learning and Development ( CLD) Strategies by 1 st September 2004, and to develop and publish CLD Action Plans focused on particular geographic areas or on a community of interest. The new Strategies and Action Plans are intended to build on the previous Community Learning Strategies and Plans, but to be integrated in the community planning process, and to reflect the new national priorities and other aspects of the new guidance.

Organising Body

Following the reorganisation of local government in 1996, the new authorities adopted different approaches in the provision of community education services. Local authorities now discharge their responsibilities for community learning and development through a variety of structures and with the main role in service delivery being located within a range of departments.

General responsibility for promotion, development and oversight of community learning and development transferred to Communities Scotland on 1 April 2002 from Community Learning Scotland ( CLS), formerly the Scottish Community Education Council ( SCEC). Within Communities Scotland, Learning Connections, part of the agency's Regneration Division, has responsibility for Community Learning and Development issues, and for support to the Adult Literacy and Numeracy field. In 2004, responsibility for policy advice to Ministers on all matters relating to community learning and development was passed from the Scottish Executive Development Department to Learning Connections, Communities Scotland.

7.4 General Objectives

Compulsory Descriptors
Aims of Education, Teaching Objective

Additional Descriptors (x to left denotes that additional descriptor is covered below)

Equal Opportunity


Transition from school to work

Occupational Integration


Access to Employment

The general aims are to provide educational opportunity to meet the needs of as much of the population as possible and to focus education on the issues and aspirations that individuals, groups and communities face in their daily lives. The precise objectives vary according to the type and level of activity. The objective may be the successful acquisition of a new skill, the acquisition of formal qualifications which could enhance the career prospects of the person involved, or the achievement of a development objective for the community.

7.5 Types of Institution

Compulsory Descriptors
Training Centre

Additional Descriptors (x to left denotes that additional descriptor is covered below)


Educational Institution

Secondary School

A very wide range of bodies is involved with adult education, including some which do not offer direct provision but support provision already being made. Among these are the Scottish Qualifications Authority ( SQA), the Scottish Further Education Unit ( SFEU), the Scottish School of Further Education ( SSFE), Communities Scotland ( CS) and Learning and Teaching Scotland ( LTS). Others, including the Scottish Retirement Council ( SRC) and various organisations providing for people with special needs, also influence the provision, as do such bodies as the social work departments of local authorities and the Health Education Board for Scotland ( HEBS). The following are types of institution offering direct provision.

7.5.1 Educational Institutions

Adult education and training is offered by community learning and development services of local authorities, voluntary organisations, commercial and industrial firms, colleges of further education, and higher education institutions, including universities. A number of adults also attend secondary schools for part of the time and take particular classes with the pupils. Adult education is also provided by the education units within Her Majesty's Prisons. Another body with a considerable interest in adult education is the Health Education Board for Scotland ( HEBS), which has responsibilities for providing further training for professionals in the National Health Service ( NHS) and also for educating the general public on health issues, for example on the misuse of drugs.

7.5.2 Other Bodies Providing Adult Education

Local Authorities

All 32 of Scotland's local authorities have sections within them which are the main providers of community learning and development and which are responsible for Community Learning Strategies and Plans. Staff are based in local communities and have a key role in identifying learning and development needs. Much of their work involves collaborative action with other agencies and with community organisations. It has been estimated that, in an average week in the academic year 1999-2000, local authorities employed approximately 1,200 professional staff in community learning and development and some 11,500 temporary/part-time staff. Well over 20,000 volunteers were also involved in the course of the year.

Local authorities play a crucial role in co-ordinating the development of community learning strategies and plans and co-ordinating local action on adult literacy and numeracy with partners from FE colleges, the voluntary sector and other providers.

Voluntary Organisations

Voluntary organisations play an important part in adult education at both national and local levels. The Workers' Educational Association ( WEA) has for many years provided a service similar to that provided by the Continuing Education departments of the universities. Other voluntary bodies offering adult education include the churches, the Scottish Community Drama Association ( SCDA), Linking Education And Disability ( LEAD) and the English Speaking Union ( ESU), as well as a number of small local groups.

There is also a wide range of voluntary organisations involved in those aspects of community learning which are not normally grouped in Scotland under the heading of adult education.

Companies and Businesses

More and more companies, irrespective of size or the particular market in which they operate, are examining ways of developing the skills of their key staff. Managers in particular play a crucial role in developing the skills and motivation of others and are increasingly being given the opportunity to take competence-based management courses with appropriate certification at the end of them. Many firms, especially large firms, are able to provide in-house training and re-training courses, organised by their own training officers and certificated by the firms themselves. Increasingly, validation and certification of such courses is carried out by the SQA. Businesses are now also closely involved in helping to implement the Government's New Deal programme for the long-term unemployed by offering new jobs with training possibilities.

Further Education Colleges

The further education colleges offer an extensive variety of provision to adult returners, which includes non-certificated short courses ranging from computing to first aid; courses leading to the Scottish Qualifications Certificate, the National Certificate, Higher National Certificate and Higher National Diploma and Scottish vocational qualifications, including Scottish Group Awards; adult basic education; courses for adults with additional support needs; tailor-made courses for industry; professional updating; and courses providing access to higher education. Colleges also make extensive provision for students who live at a distance and who cannot come to the college. The majority of the student population of FE colleges are adults over the age of 25.

The Open College

The Open College, which was set up on a UK basis to extend vocational training options through distance learning, has drawn some of its students from Scotland.

Higher Education Institutions

Higher education institutions ( HEI) have responded to the growth in adult student numbers. They have developed special access programmes, usually in association with further education colleges. The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework ( SCQF - see section 5.17) has been developed to enable students to build qualifications in stages without having to repeat parts of courses which they have already completed; increased their provision of part-time courses and developed the flexibility of their delivery.

The range of provision available to adults through universities' Continuing Education departments is wide and includes professional updating, access courses, open lecture programmes, pre-retirement courses, part-time degrees, community outreach, courses for women returners and disadvantaged groups, and in-service training for HM Forces and the police service. On-site provision to local companies also features within these university programmes. Part-time courses leading to diplomas and degrees are offered by a number of the universities and particularly important in this provision for adults is the contribution made by the Open University ( OU), which has an office and some 13,600 students in Scotland.

Other Bodies Providing Adult Education

Among other bodies providing adult education, the Scottish Trades Union Congress ( STUC) offers courses in health and safety, employment law, technology and employee counselling as well as sponsoring a university Diploma in Industrial Relations. A very important role is also played by the British Broadcasting Corporation ( BBC), which provides for the whole of the United Kingdom both through overtly educational programmes ( e.g.BBC Learning Zone), for example foreign language learning programmes or programmes dealing with major issues, but also indirectly through the educational content of some of its other programming. Although on a more modest level, local broadcasting also makes a notable contribution.

Other providers include the National Extension College and the Open College of the Arts. There are also a number of independent colleges which provide, for example, secretarial training and modern language teaching for adults. Important national umbrella bodies supporting adult education include Learning Link and the Scottish Adult Learning Partnership.

Yearly use of time

In post-school education there are different patterns according to whether the courses are courses of vocational training or higher education. Further education colleges tend not to observe academic terms in the same way as other educational institutions and very many of them provide courses throughout the whole year. The Scottish universities have traditionally operated a 3-term year, with approximately 10 weeks in each term. However, a number of universities have now adopted the American 2-semester system, pioneered in Scotland by the University of Stirling. A recent development has been an experiment with a third (summer) semester to extend the academic year.

Weekly and Daily Timetables

In post-school education weekly and daily timetables depend on the course being taken.

7.6 Geographical Accessibility

Compulsory Descriptors
School Distribution

For geographical accessibility in further and higher education, see section 6.5.

Community learning and development provision is primarily community-based: services, resources and programmes are provided at the local level, e.g. in villages and neighbourhoods. Because of resource constraints and priorities, particular attention is given to ensuring appropriate staffing in disadvantaged communities. There is a widespread infrastructure of community education centres and village halls across Scotland used for community learning and development. There has been an increase in the use of ICT in recent years in rural communities, to complement outreach activities provided by colleges and others.

7.7 Admission Requirements

Compulsory Descriptors
Admission Requirements

Additional Descriptors (x to left denotes that additional descriptor is covered below)


Selection Criterion


Recognition of qualifications

Entrance Examination

It is a characteristic of many courses offered through adult education that they have no formal entry requirements. This is true of certain courses across the whole range from basic education to degree level courses. Most of the courses at lower academic levels can be entered without previous qualifications, but it is also possible to take courses leading to recognised qualifications in the Open College or leading to a degree of the Open University without formal entrance qualifications.

In other courses the normal entry requirements are considerably reduced for adult learners. Successful completion of an access course is often sufficient. Some courses in higher education which still demand some formal qualifications reduce the level required for adult candidates and provide teaching during the course in areas where qualifications would have been required. In other courses the Accreditation of Prior Learning ( APL), which involves taking into account assessable experience which candidates may have already gained in employment, can take the place of some formal qualifications.

In cases where mature students have already taken certain courses and wish to undertake a more advanced course there is a system of credit transfer in the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework ( SCQF - see section 5.17), by which previous courses taken may count towards a qualification.

Target groups include women returners, disadvantaged groups, those seeking professional updating, adults wishing to extend their general knowledge, and the long-term unemployed (in the Government's New Deal programme). In some cases courses are run specifically for certain groups, for example for ethnic minorities, particularly in the form of English for Speakers of Other Languages ( ESOL), for industry, for students with special needs, for those serving sentences in prison, for groups and individuals in deprived areas, and for the elderly who have reached the so-called 'third age'.

7.8 Registration and/or Tuition Fees

Compulsory Descriptors

There are courses in the Community Learning and development area which charge participants fees, but a good deal of provision is funded centrally or by local authorities.

Local government received a Grant Aided Expenditure allocation of £110m for community learning and development in 2003-04 (04-05 figure £116m). In addition, the Scottish Executive's Education Department ( SEED), Scottish Executive Development Department ( SEDD) and Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning Department ( SEETLLD) spend several million pounds annually on grants to voluntary community learning and development bodies, on capital grants for local facilities, on direct grant to the national development centres and on support for ICT developments. The Scottish Executive has also allocated £9m over 3 years to help Community Planning Partnerships engage communities in regeneration. Much of this is spent on building community capacity. Since 2001, over £30m has been allocated to Community Learning Partnerships for adult literacy and numeracy work.

See also section 2.8.

7.9 Financial Support for Learners

Compulsory Descriptors

Additional Descriptors (x to left denotes that additional descriptor is covered below)


Student Loan

Education Voucher

See section 6.8. Provisions described there are also relevant to Community Learning and Development.

7.10 Main Areas of Specialisation

Compulsory Descriptors
Branch of Study, Specialisation

Because adult education is not a stage or level of education but is defined by those who receive it rather than by what is offered, its coverage is enormous. For adults who wish to learn, it provides opportunities to satisfy their own interests; and for adults in employment, it provides learning opportunities linked with that employment. It provides for adults with special needs, such as those arising from low levels of literacy, or from disabilities or long-term unemployment. Each of these categories requires a wide range of provision, ranging from courses which are intended to stimulate interest to vocational training, professional training and academic study. Courses are offered at all levels.

As well as enormous variety in the curricula offered and the subjects taken, which vary both according to the level of the course and the people at whom the course is aimed, there is also great variety in the length of courses. Some may last only for a few weeks and others for several years, according to the mode in which they are taken. One of the major advantages of some of the more advanced courses for adult learners, such as the courses of the Open University ( OU), is that they allow qualifications to be taken at a pace which allows the learner to follow his or her normal employment while taking the course.

7.11 Teaching Methods

Compulsory Descriptors
Teaching Method, Teaching Aid

Additional Descriptors (x to left denotes that additional descriptor is covered below)

Information Technology

Modular Training

Alternating Training

Distance Study

In-plant training

Although some courses for adults are delivered on a full-time basis during the day, many others involve part-time attendance, attendance at weekends or in the evenings. Flexible Learning Units ( FLU) have even been set up by a number of FE colleges to enable students who do not have regular opportunities to study to follow courses as and when they are able, assisted by specially appointed tutors. Many courses involve formal lectures, seminars and discussions but there is now a very wide use of flexible learning, using computers, taped lectures and telephone links with a tutor, or attendance at an out-station, using, for example, an electronic whiteboard or video teleconferencing. These last methods have been found particularly effective where students live in the more remote areas.

In community contexts, the community learning and development practitioner may work with existing community groups, or may create new groups and negotiate a learning agenda with them. The degree of formality of this process varies greatly according to circumstance. Programmes are negotiated with local people. Community learning and development approaches place particular emphasis upon linking learning with social action on issues of local concern, such as health, crime and the environment.

7.12 Trainers

Compulsory Descriptors

Initial qualifying training for community learning and development practice is at degree level. The training involves both academic and practical work. The guidelines for community education training (encompassing adult education, community work and youth work) are published by the Community Education Validation and Endorsement (CeVe) committee. All courses of training for professional community education practitioners must be endorsed by this body.

Any action decided on arising from the report submitted by the Ministerial Short Life Task Group, noted in section 7.1, may have implications for these arrangements.

Meanwhile Communities Scotland is taking forward development of a new national training programme for adult literacy and numeracy practitioners, providing improved training options for volunteer tutors and professional staff. The first modules of the new programme are now being piloted.

Current providers of CLD initial qualifying training include the Universities of Dundee, Strathclyde, Edinburgh and Glasgow, the George Williams YMCA college (which offers a distance-learning route) and a number of FE institutions. Recent years have witnessed the development of flexible and work-based modes for professional training, with a particular emphasis upon widening access to community activists.

In 1999 the Government gave formal recognition to a National Training Organisation ( NTO) for community learning and development. This is called PAULO, named after Paulo Freire. The NTO had a UK wide brief, and a Scottish Panel. It has been responsible for the development of national occupational standards and for labour market and training research. National Occupational Standards are currently in place for Community Development Work and Youth Work.

In 2001 the UK Government announced that all NTOs would be replaced by Sector Skills Councils. PAULO has been one of the partners in the formation of a Lifelong Learning Sector Skills Council, now established as Lifelong Learning UK ( LLUK).

7.13 Learner Assessment/ Progression

Compulsory Descriptors

Additional Descriptors (x to left denotes that additional descriptor is covered below)

Examination System



Evaluation of students' work against the objectives of the courses which they are taking is important in adult education as in other parts of the educational system. A particularly important area of evaluation for adult education is the evaluation of the experience which adults bring to education. In the course of their working life many employees have acquired knowledge and skills which are not recognised by certification but ought to be. In order that these employees may receive credit for this learning and develop a basis of qualifications from which they can go further, systems known as the Recognition of Prior Learning ( RPL), by which earlier learning may be assessed and certificated, are currently being tried out, for example by some FE colleges.

The first step is to advertise for employees who wish to have their acquired knowledge and skills verified. There then follows an initial interview with a counsellor at a college to ascertain whether there may be sufficient reason to proceed with an assessment. If there is, the applicant is then advised on how to collect and arrange the evidence. The assessment phase consists of a number of sub-steps, viz:

  • preparation of evidence for assessment;
  • submission of evidence portfolio;
  • consideration of evidence by an assessor (not the counsellor);
  • main assessment interviews;
  • further assessment interviews, as necessary;
  • feedback to applicant on likely outcome;
  • announcement of assessment result; and
  • quality assurance of the process and the result by the SQA.

The process is completed with the offer of advice to the applicant on further study options.

Much of the evaluation in adult education is linked to guidance, one of the aims of which is to help adults assess their educational development and make appropriate choices. Evaluation is also concerned with whether the adults' needs have been met.

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework ( SCQF) (see section 5.17) now provides a common framework to raise understanding of the range of Scottish qualifications, and to enable a range of learning to be recognised and given credit. It is a key tool for CLD in supporting access and progression. Work on Recognition of Prior Learning ( RPL) is being taken forward in the context of the SCQF.

7.14 Certification

Compulsory Descriptors

Additional Descriptors (x to left denotes that additional descriptor is covered below)



Final Examination

The majority of community learning and development activities and programmes are non-certificated. However, the modular courses validated and certificated by the SQA provide an incentive to those adults involved in vocational training. Adults in schools aim for SQA certification of their external examination results. Those studying in further education aim for the Scottish National Certificate and Scottish Vocational Qualifications. Those studying in further or higher education may be able to accumulate credit towards degree awards or professional recognition and, in fact, many do so through the Open College or the Open University or by taking more traditional types of course on a part-time or full-time basis.

7.15 Education/Employment Links

Compulsory Descriptors
Training-employment Relationship, Guidance Service

Additional Descriptors (x to left denotes that additional descriptor is covered below)

School Industry Relation

Some of the arrangements for links with employers described in section 6.16 apply to aspects of community learning and development.

7.16 Private Education

Compulsory Descriptors
Private Education, Financing

There is no institutional provision of private education in the community learning and development sector. Private providers do offer training and educational courses in various fields.

7.17 Statistics

Compulsory Descriptors
Statistical Data

Additional Descriptors (x to left denotes that additional descriptor is covered below)


Number of Pupils

Schooling Rate



Training Centre

Accurate statistics for the whole of adult education are currently not available. However, Ministers have recently approved a major National Development Project for community learning & development which, amongst other things, will collect and maintain robust management information, including participation levels.