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.

Community-Based Adult Learning and a Connected System

Community-based adult learning is delivered with and for adults in their communities. It is not usually determined through a curriculum. Instead The Social Practice model is widely used to respond to learners' goals and aspirations. This model acknowledges that adult learners bring skills, experiences and assets to be built on. Community-based adult learning opportunities include, but aren't limited to:

  • Adult Literacies
  • ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages)
  • Family Learning
  • Employability
  • Citizenship
  • Gaelic

Pathways and Partnerships for Lifelong and Life-Wide Learning

Community-based adult learning is part of Community Learning and Development (CLD) practice and is delivered by local authorities, colleges and third sector organisations. The focus of CLD is:

  • improved life chances for people of all ages through learning, personal development and active citizenship.
  • stronger, more resilient, supportive, influential and inclusive communities.

Community-based adult learning is often the first step back into education for many adult learners and offers pathways to Scotland's further and higher education system.

To strengthen and develop these pathways we need to build better connections between community-based adult learning and mainstream education. The SFC Review provides an opportunity to work collaboratively to develop these connections as part of a coherent tertiary education system.

We will collaborate to act on recommendations in the SFC Review to build accessible, integrated and positive pathways for learners over their lifetimes.

Community-based learning also offers pathways to employment and volunteering opportunities. Consultation on this strategy highlighted the importance of building stronger links between community-based adult learning provision and employability services so that no one is left behind. These links will help Scotland build a strong sustainable economy as we recover from the pandemic.

We will connect community-based adult learning with careers and employability services to create positive pathways for learners who face significant barriers to accessing work.

"Partnerships could be improved. Awareness of learners of what's available. Also awareness of other partners of what's available and what each partner's offer is."

Adult Learning Practitioner

Community-based adult learning often takes place in schools and colleges. Partnership working like this is key to ensuring that adults have inclusive learner pathways and access to learning facilities that meet their educational needs. The requirements for Community Learning and Development (Scotland) Regulations 2013 stipulate that each local authority has to develop a three-year plan that outlines how CLD will be delivered. Local authorities have to consult with learners and partners to develop these plans and evidence the assessment of need. Colleges are an important partner in the creation and delivery of the CLD plan for their local area and third sector organisations have a key contribution to make.

Closer partnership working is required to ensure that adult learning is learner-centred, available and accessible. To recover from the pandemic all partners need to help the people of Scotland to live better, healthier, happier and more prosperous lives. To do so we need to provide genuine opportunities to involve, consult and engage learners in the planning and delivery of their learning. We also want to build on the successes of local adult learning partnerships and national partnerships to make them more effective.

We will provide support and recognition for structured partnerships to ensure the needs of adult learners are at the heart of the decision making process locally, regionally and nationally.

Adult learning practitioners are also lifelong learners. To continue to learn new skills that benefit their learners and to build stronger connections between different parts of the education system, we want there to be more opportunities for collaborative working and to exchange expertise and ideas.

We will strengthen cross sectoral professional learning opportunities available for staff and volunteers, supporting the use of the SCQF framework to underpin learning.

Supporting and Empowering Communities and Learners

Throughout the pandemic CLD services were agile and they adapted to provide essential lifelines and support to adults, families and communities. Key to this support has been practitioners' access and knowledge of local community networks and the ability to form trusted relationships with those who are vulnerable. Some of the ways that they adapted include:

  • contribution in responding to food emergency work and medicine delivery.
  • developing community hubs and being the first point of contact for vulnerable communities.
  • addressing emerging issues around mental health and wellbeing.
  • continuing to be a front line presence in the most vulnerable of communities.
  • moving services online and providing digital engagement and learning.

The shift to online learning has enhanced the need for a more digitally competent workforce. We want practitioners to be able to support adult learners in their online learning.

We will explore and support training for practitioners to ensure adequate digital skills as technology advances, resulting in a digitally agile workforce.

Practitioners told us that they need greater clarity on current opportunities, clearer professional pathways and for their learning to be accessible. Practitioners have also told us that their lifelong learning journey could be better supported by dedicated national occupational standards.

As a hugely valued part of the CLD workforce, volunteers bring important skills and an understanding of adult learners' communities. Their lifelong learning journey needs to be supported so they can develop and progress.

Many practitioners work with both adult learners and young people. To help them meet the needs of all learners in Scotland's communities we are publishing a Youth Work Strategy that will enhance a structured professional learning offer across both strategies.

  • We will ensure appropriate and accessible professional learning opportunities and pathways.
  • We will explore the development of national occupational standards for community-based adult learning.
  • We will increase development opportunities for adult learning volunteers and those who support them.

Empowered adults are the keystone of a civic society. Community-based adult learning helps adult learners to actively participate in their communities and influence decisions that affect their lives.

We want more opportunities for adult learners to develop knowledge and influence change in areas such as community-led climate change and human rights.

We will increase learning activity that supports democratic involvement and community empowerment so adult learners can access and create opportunities that meet their needs.

Guidance and Progression for Lifelong and Life-Wide Learning

When developing the strategy we heard that it was often unclear how adults could access community learning. How adults progressed from one community provider to another and from community-based adult learning to mainstream education was also highlighted as being unclear. Adult learners and practitioners have told us that improved guidance is needed to support adults at each stage of their learning journey. We want information, advice and guidance to be accessible and to support fair access to learning and progression.

We will strengthen partnership arrangements which identify and meet the advice, guidance and support needs of adult learners.

Adults come to learning with a variety of skills and qualifications gained from previous experiences throughout their lives. Recognition, accreditation and validation of skills, experiences and qualifications is essential for a seamless learning journey and pathways into employment. For adult learners who have migrated to Scotland, including asylum seekers and refugees, the lack of a coordinated system for recognition of prior learning can limit inclusion, career development and social and economic integration.

We will evaluate the effectiveness of existing systems for Recognition of Prior Learning to ensure a coordinated national Recognised Prior Learning process that takes into account qualifications gained overseas and a diverse range of needs including additional learning needs.



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