Voluntary Arts England Information & Research Officer Paul Devlin tells us more about their role in Adult Education.

Towards the end of last year Voluntary Arts England began looking at issues surrounding the arts and crafts in adult education.

The threats to arts in adult education were highlighted to us some time ago firstly as they were and are often seen as the easiest thing to make a cut in due to many people’s lack of understanding of or engagement with, the arts and crafts. We don’t know the extent to which the cuts are affecting courses but we have been made aware that there are all sorts of problems occurring from direct and indirect examples and conversations with people active in the field.

To explore where cuts are made that might impact upon people’s participation we have taken a number of actions. Firstly we initiated an arts in adult education think tank which met for the first time last November. Representatives were invited to speak about the arts in adult education from their own perspective, highlighting any issues and possible solutions. The think tank consists of about 20 national and regional organisations including the Educational Centres Association.

Additionally I am currently writing Voluntary Arts England’s next publication working title – “Edutainment – learning for the love of it”. In addition to including advice and guidance for people wishing to participate in the arts and crafts in an adult education environment, it will also feature a wide range of case studies from both learner and tutors showing the benefits of the arts and crafts. The publication will be formally launched in the Spring of 2008.

Having tried unsuccessfully to get completion rates from providers, facing substantial resistance, we decided to carry out our own survey of learners. We wanted to know learner motivations and the impact accreditation may be having on participation. The survey focussed on learner demographics, course fees, venues, completion rates and accredited course levels amongst other topics. I am currently compiling the final statistics which is showing some potentially interesting trends which will be revealed in a report later this year.

Perhaps most importantly because we have given our attention as an organisation to this issue, The Department of Culture Media & Sport and Arts Council England are now funding research which "seeks to determine the contribution Adult and Community Learning delivered through Local Authorities and voluntary networks makes to public engagement with, and participation in the arts” Voluntary Arts England sit on the project’s steering group and fed into the development of the brief.

I would urge readers to think about what they could be doing to raise awareness of the role that creative arts and crafts play in life-wide learning and to help us in the collection of information and statistics that would assist us in highlighting the benefits.

For more information visit the Voluntary Arts England website

Date Added: December 17th 2007