Adult learning strategy 2022 to 2027

The Adult Learning Strategy sets out our actions to improve life chances for adult learners across Scotland. It outlines how we will ensure that there are accessible opportunities for adults to learn throughout their lives.

Our Actions

The evidence shows us that we need to take action to develop better-skilled, educated, confident and empowered people in Scotland. This action will require collaboration across the education system, and working across boundaries to develop new approaches. While the focus of this strategy is on community-based adult learning, to improve the life chances of all adult learners as they progress in their lifelong learning journey, we need to ensure that there is a strong, well-understood, well-connected and well-resourced system of adult learning in Scotland. For this to be achieved all relevant agencies must play an active role in ensuring the aims of this strategy are met.

Through extensive consultation four themes have been developed to bring about systemic change and drive improvements in the learning experience for adults in Scotland, with a particular focus on increasing the availability of community-based learning opportunities. All four themes align to develop more positive pathways in collaboration with adult learners.

Positive pathways for adult learners

  • Workforce Development: We want adult learners to have learning opportunities that are provided by a skilled and coordinated workforce.
  • Expanding and Extending Adult Learning: Our ambition is for adult learning to be available, accessible and meaningful. We want the value and impact of adult learning to be understood.
  • Access, Diversity and Inclusion: We want to remove barriers to ensure support can be accessed by those who need it most. We want to ensure that adults are aware of the learning opportunities available to them.
  • Connecting the Adult Learning Journey: We want adults to have access to the appropriate level of information, advice and guidance at each stage of their learning journey. We want this information, advice and guidance to be accessible and support fair access to learning and progression.

Positive pathways for adult learners are based around individual and group needs. They can include, but are not limited to:

  • Developing relationships and networks
  • Improving mental wellbeing
  • Improving health and wellbeing
  • Developing cultural awareness
  • Improving communication skills
  • Improving language skills
  • Developing creative skills
  • Improving confidence
  • Improving financial literacy

To bring about systemic change to how learners can access and progress through learning to reach their goals and improve their outcomes this strategy will:

  • deliver better outcomes for learners, and make a positive impact to adult learners' lives and their life chances.
  • remove the barriers that prevent adults participating in learning or that adversely affect their levels of participation.
  • aim specifically to support those who are not engaging in learning and create clear accessible first steps that enable the most marginalised and excluded adults to begin their learning journey.
  • clarify and simplify how learners who have taken their first steps into or back into learning can progress.
  • ensure that all learning is recognised and is given the due credit and recognition that the learners' efforts deserve.
  • ensure that those furthest from formal mainstream education have parity of learning opportunities.

Strategic Action Plan

Our strategic action plan sets out important next steps in creating the conditions for connected adult learning opportunities.

The plan will be dynamic, actions will be refreshed as we work towards removing barriers to learning.

We will work across and outside traditional boundaries with a specific focus on increasing the role of community-based adult learning across policy areas including education, employability, health, social isolation, poverty reduction and justice.

The strategic action plan supports achieving Scotland's vision for recovery from the pandemic. It will:

  • address the systematic inequalities made worse by Covid by removing barriers to learning.
  • make progress towards a wellbeing economy by increasing opportunities for adults with no or low qualifications and connecting community-based adult learners with employability services.
  • accelerate inclusive person-centred public services by ensuring community-based adult learners are involved in the planning and delivery of their learning.

Governance and Monitoring Progress

The Minister for Higher Education, Further Education, Youth Employment and Training will have oversight of the plan. Its implementation and evaluation will be guided by The Adult Learning Strategic Forum for Scotland. The Forum advises the Scottish Government on strategic matters of direction, performance and planning in relation to adult learning. It brings together key national stakeholders and decision makers to:

  • provide advice and scrutiny.
  • support and share ways of making improvements in practice.
  • coordinate and support whole system approaches.
  • promote the goals and successes of adult learning.

Members of the Forum will use their connections to identify opportunities for cross-sector work and support the work of the Forum through their organisations and networks.

The forum will establish four working groups. These are aligned to our themes and the actions noted throughout this strategy will be taken forward by working groups focussed on:

  • Expanding and extending adult learning
  • Connecting the adult learning journey
  • Access, diversity and inclusion
  • Workforce development

The remit of each working group will be to ensure that actions are being delivered effectively and that any key risks and issues which could threaten the delivery of actions are identified and mitigations are put in place. Workforce development actions will be taken forward by the CLD Standards Council who will lead the workforce development working group. Each working group will report progress to the Forum who will in turn report progress to the Minister.

Minister for Higher Education, Further Education, Youth Employment and Training

Adult Learning Strategic Forum for Scotland

Thematic Working Groups

Governance arrangements will be revised as the strategic action plan is implemented.

The Forum will develop a framework to monitor our performance against each of the actions in the Strategic Action Plan. As we develop our framework we will decide on a process for monitoring the achievement of positive pathways and set an ambitious target around this.

HM Inspectors of Education will develop proposals for how they could carry out independent external evaluation of the implementation of the strategy and its impact on adult learners.

The Forum will incorporate new actions into the plan as progress is made and new actions emerge. The Forum will review the action plan annually and regular forum meetings will provide an opportunity to learn from the success of the delivery of actions and drive continuous improvement.

Adult Learners Advisory Group

We want the voice and experiences of adult learners to be at the heart of what we do. A national Adult Learners Advisory Group will be developed to work alongside the Forum so it can respond to the needs of adult learners throughout the implementation and ongoing development of the action plan.

We will establish and develop a national Adult Learners Advisory Group, reflecting the diversity of community-based adult learners, to inform the development and delivery of the strategy.

To help all adult learners participate in the ongoing development of the action plan we will create accessible and translated consultation documents and materials.

The diagram opposite sets out the key process that the Forum will apply to the implementation and delivery of the Strategic Action Plan.

Experiences of Adult Learners

  • Establishment of workstreams
  • Development of framework
  • Implementation of plan
  • Monitoring of performance
  • Annual review
  • Continuous improvement



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