Putney – ‘a great school of art’


Consultation shows 97% of students questioned want to continue learning

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Putney School Of Art
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The students were responding to a Government consultation paper on the future of adult learning in which they would be given the option of organising their own courses.

One student commented: "Wandsworth Council has the necessary experience and has maintained high standards over many years. PSAD could not be run any better than it already is by the council."

The Friends of PSAD commissioned the survey to inform their own response to the consultation. They call for ministers to protect funding for local authority-run courses and recognise the contribution that lifelong learning makes to people's overall health and wellbeing.

The Friends comment that it is 'essential that the Government continues to fund practical-based art courses at centres like PSAD.' They also express fears that, if there is no additional money from the Government, the existing infrastructure would be weakened and adult learning would disappear.

Many students felt the Putney centre was a good example of community based learning which ministers should be encouraging. 'It's a great school of art, rooted in and of real benefit to the community' said one.

Adult learning also provides opportunities for creative stimulation and personal development.

'Learning is just as important in adult life and improves mental wellbeing' and 'at age 66 I find the school life enhancing. It has made a huge difference to my life' were typical comments.

Council leader Edward Lister echoed the students' concerns, "The Government is cutting back on traditional adult education. Instead the money is going into the 16-19 age group and those needing basic skills. The so-called 'informal' courses run by PSAD help people acquire skills that improve their quality of life and, for some, can provide a springboard for qualifications.

"Ministers seem to think adult education belongs to the past. They could not be more wrong. The need for learning at all stages of life has never been more important. Council-run courses at local centres should continue to be the cornerstone for this vital provision."

The Government has cut funding for local courses by £300,000 in the last two years, leading to fewer classes and higher fees with arts-based courses particularly at risk.

Ministers define informal adult education as learning that is done for its own sake, rather than as a means to passing exams or getting a job. This definition includes structured classes, such as art or music lessons, but also unstructured learning, such as using television or the internet.

In its own response the council argues that the present system where councils fund courses in easily-accessible centres is the best way to make sure adult learning is available to the whole community.

January 5, 2009