The challenges of managing an Adult education service in the 1990's: the English case
written by Margaret Davey, Croydon Continuing Education and Training Services, UK
1. London Borough of Croydon (U.K.)
Croydon is the largest of the London Boroughs with
almost 320,000 inhabitants. It is the tenth largest town in England. Croydon is a multi-cultural community whose
percentage of residents from non-white ethnic groups is above average for Outer
London; the ethnic minority groups represent 17.6% of the population. Currently
there are over 18,000 unemployed people in Croydon (more than 15% of the adult
population). One third of these have been unemployed for over a year.
2. Labour Market Trends
In the last ten years, the number of men in full-time
employment have fallen by 24%, whilst the number of women in full-time
employment have increased by 10%.
The bulk of Croydon's employment is in the service
sector (79% of the labour force) with major sources of employment in Business
Services, Retailing and Public Administration. All of these areas have been
affected by the "microchip revolution" and the reductions in public
3. Adult Education in Croydon
The Continuing Education and Training Service (CETS)
is part of the Education Department and provides education and training for
adults of all ages in both vocational and recreational subjects. The Service
has ten main Centres, three of which are full-time and the remainder evening
only. Last year there were 45,000 enrolments for over 2,000 courses which were
taught by 600 part-time teachers.
In 1991, a Development Plan for the Service was
prepared in which the priority target groups in the community were defined in
some detail. In summary these are: those who need literacy and numeracy, those
for whom English is a Second Language, those who have special educational needs
and those who are unemployed.
5. Culture of the Service
As a service organisation, CETS has always prided
itself on putting people first. The priority target groups are a clear focus of
educational need and when they enrol on the programmes they are extremely keen
and enthusiastic students. The staff gain considerable motivation and
satisfaction working in an environment where students want to learn and where great changes in people's lives can be
6. Current pressures and tensions in the Service
As with the public sector generally, CETS is under
great pressure to provide better value for money and more cost-effective
services. In addition, it is one of the few non-statutory services provided by
the Education Department and as such is vulnerable when cutbacks in expenditure
must be made.
Students pay fees for their courses but in the case of
low income or unemployed people these fees are greatly reduced. In the current
recession, there are more people wanting Adult Education, but the number who
can pay has reduced. The result is that CETS has an increasing budget deficit
because of the shortfall of income and now must reduce the number of
courses which can be offered.
7. Where do we go from here?
As a Service there are some positive aspects of
the current climate which must be utilised, and which can be used as impetus
for change management. Also, it is important to respond to the new situation in
ways that protect as far as possible the delivery of programmes for
Some of the lessons of the past few months are
that we must:
* create a positive image at all times;
* examine staffing structures: in
particular for their effectiveness and cost;
* ensure first-class monitoring systems
(for finance and for quality);
* reduce dependency on a single source of
funding whether local Authority, Central Government or non-Governmental
* introduce the "Business Culture"
into the service organisation.
8. Introducing the Business Culture into a
Of all the measures suggested in paragraph 7,
the last point is likely to be the most controversial and the least acceptable
to educational institutions, which have a history of rejecting suggestions that
the values and methods of business may have a place in their world.
In today's environment, however, there is much
to learn and adapt from the Business Culture and the Continuing Education and
Training Service in Croydon has found it essential to bring some of the key
concepts into its own organisation in order to survive amongst all the
competing priorities and in times of recession. The key features of this shift
in management methology are:
Delegation of budgets: these should be handed to those people working
at an operational level, where the money is spent, with full responsibility for
Awareness of price: staff need to understand the importance of cost and
how every activity has a price.
Understanding of the 3 "E's": Economy, Efficiency and Effectiveness.
Introduction of targets: staff need to know what they are expected to
achieve (how many enrolments, how much income).
Importance of information: not only does this need to be accurate and
fast but we need to know how to use it.
Quality of information: we need the right information; there
must be a balance between the time it takes to collect and analyse, and the
value of the results.
Improved productivity: with an understanding that this does not just
come from working harder, longer hours!
The challenge of the
1990's for Adult Education organisations in England will be to survive the
pressures and tensions of the country's economic difficulties; to maintain a
sense of vision about their main purpose; to adapt their methods of operation
so that they learn from the best practice in commerce and industry and to
strive to offer the programmes which provide for the main needs of the
population at all times.