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Adult, youth and community education staff

14 June 2023

Information for UCU members working in adult and community education.

UCU actively supports members working in adult and community education (ACE) outside FE colleges and have a number of established branches. With the cuts currently facing adult education this network is especially important.

We hold an annual meeting for branch delegates from UCU branches working in adult and community education and employed in local authorities or the voluntary sector. You can find information on adult and community education pay here: Adult, youth & community worker pay

Take action for Adult and Community Education: write to your MP

The Adult and Community Education budget has been under attack since 2010. The 2021 Autumn Statement brought ACE funding to its 2015 levels, which is still about 25% lower than the 2010 funding. The 2022 Autumn Statement brought no more funding to ACE, but extended student loans to some courses, which does not support those furthest from education and employment. The 2023 Autumn Statement made no mention of ACE, showing the lack of understanding this government has of the contribution that ACE can make to society.

We have drafted a template letter for members to send to your MPs to raise awareness and ask them to hold the government to account. Remember to add your MP's name to the letter and to include your address as a constituent in order to ensure that your MP will read the letter.

Click here to use the UCU quick template to contact your MP today [34kb]

ACE manifesto cover UCU manifesto for adult and community education

Adult and community education (ACE) transforms lives and will be crucial in the post-Covid-19 recovery of our society and economy. That's why UCU launching its manifesto for adult and community education which sets out the need for a properly funded national strategy recognising the essential and unique role of ACE and the professionalism and expertise of staff in the sector.

Working with our Climate and Ecological Emergency Committee, we have added a new theme to our manifesto for 2023, looking at how ACE can help to address the challenges from the climate and ecological emergency.

  Adult and community education manifesto [1mb]

ACE freedom of information report 

In February 2022 we sent a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to 102 adult education providers in England which asked about the terms and conditions of staff working  in adult and community education in England

This data is not routinely collated nationally by any other bodies or government agencies so using our own FOI is the best way for us to capture the terms and conditions of those working in ACE in England. 

We encourage members and branches to use the data to inform their own campaigns and negotiations for better terms and conditions.

ACE England freedom of information report, Jun 23 [333kb]


Please note that the advice issued by UCU here also applies equally to members working in adult and community education. We have provided guidance on teaching online and blended learning and extensive advice on returning to the workplace. We are keen to know what is happening where you work - please send details to  Jane Thompson, UCU bargaining and negotiations official.

Help recruit your colleagues

ACE recruitment poster Print out the poster, leaflet or letter below to put on your workplace staff notice boards:

For printed copies please email and state quantity and full postal address.

November 2020: ACE meeting report back

Thank you to everyone who attended the adult and community education (ACE) general meeting on 11 November, and all those who completed the survey that we previously circulated. 

We had a really good attendance at the meeting which was chaired by Naina Kent, our new national executive committee (NEC) ACE/FE member, and we wanted to share some of the concerns we talked about with everyone - both those who attended and those who were unable to. 

Our health and safety officer Alex Lancaster talked to the meeting about the importance of risk assessments - both generic and individual - in ensuring that workplaces are safe. This applies to both on campus and at home. Our website has extensive resources for branches and members and some of the links you may find useful are listed below (you will need to sign in with your membership number for some items):

We then looked at the results of the survey that many of you completed - a copy of the survey report is here. Thank you for completing the survey. ACE members are an integral part delivering vital post 16 education, and your views are extremely important to UCU as a whole.

This showed that whilst the majority of respondents were on permanent contracts and had not seen a cut in their hours, a substantial minority of members had seen a reduction - some having all their work removed. Most members were undertaking some form of blended working - with part of their duties being carried out from home. 

Most respondents were aware of the risk assessments that had been carried out and most felt their employer was taking all reasonable steps to keep them safe. However, there was again a sizable minority who were not made aware of their risk assessments and who did not feel safe in the workplace.

By far the biggest concern at the current time for members who completed the survey was workload and many of those who attended the meeting reported working excessive hours or, where staff were part-time / hourly paid, working well in excess of the hours they were paid for, and casualization of contracts, lack of pay increases was also a major concern for ACE members. 

If members are concerned about their workload or their lack of pay for additional work being carried out, then please get in touch with your branch in the first instance or with your regional office on advice on how best to start to address this. 

Andrew Harden, UCU head of further education, outlined the lack of national bargaining - including for pay - with ACE employers and members shared their experiences of local negotiations (or lack thereof). However, the lack of a formal national bargaining structure should not prevent us from developing a claim for ACE which branches could then try and pursue. 

Vicky Blake, UCU president talked about the national Fund the Future campaign and stressed that the campaign was aimed at all UCU members, including those employed in ACE. Members can find details of the campaign here with details of upcoming events including a webinar on stress in the workplace on 9 December at 5pm. Vicky gave an impassioned speech about how the post-16 sector needs a well resourced and funded sector, and how professionally qualified staff play an essential role in our communities across the country, and how as president she will play an important part in campaigning for ACE. 

Janet Farrar, UCU present elect and chair of the further education committee (which covers ACE) also added:

I wanted to start by acknowledging the excellent job that adult ed colleagues have been doing across the UK, by shifting teaching online, back to face-to-face, and in some cases back to online again, as well as juggling their usual workloads and in the case of the reps, their union work too. The aims of the Future Fund campaign are to: defend members' jobs; win increased financial support from the government; increase support for a public education system underpinned by fairness, equality and cooperation. There are lots of practical ways you and your members can get involved. Start by writing to your MP and giving them your personal perspective on the power of adult and community education - personal anecdotes can be very powerful and very influential in putting pressure on the DfE. There's a template on the website with statistics about your own geographical area that is very easy to use. Other things you can do to support the campaign is to follow UCU on social media and share the campaign and campaign video as widely as you can. There's also a branch guide to help with running the campaign on a local level, which takes you through the process step-by-step. It's an opportunity to get more involved in your branch - there are so many roles available. 

Adult community education (ACE) ways forward.

We also had the opportunity for a discussion, led by Naina Kent (UCU NEC ACE rep) about a vision for ACE for the future. Naina is keen to work with other ACE activists to develop our vision building on UCU's previous work, and looking to the future in an increasingly complex ACE sector, Naina spoke about some areas we can develop including - our terms and conditions; our professionalisation as a sector and how we defend it; the value of adult community education; what it is and how we can work with other partners to create a manifesto of our aims as a sector; universal entitlement to free education; and democratic accountability to our learners and communities, including an inclusive liberating curriculum. A working group will draft a document for members comments at the annual meeting and before by email too. Naina outlined how this document written by ACE members can play a part in campaigning for ACE, in order to raise its profile, and acknowledge the imaginative and important work that our tutors do every day.

Anyone who would like to be involved in developing this document please contact: Naina Kent and David Bussell and they will be in touch. 

Thanks again to those of you who made the meeting and we hope to see you all again soon for the annual ACE members conference early in the new year. We will send the date out very soon. 

With best wishes,

Jane Thompson UCU bargaining and negotiations official
Naina Kent NEC ACE/FE

Last updated: 9 April 2024