Halton residents taking Adult Learning courses develop valuable skills for success in life and work.

Learners improve their confidence and independence, with many continuing their education or moving into employment.

These are some of the findings by Ofsted which recently carried out a two-day inspection of Halton Borough Council’s Adult Learning Service, which provides a range of adult and family learning courses across Halton.

It was the first inspection since 2017 and the service is delighted to have maintained its ‘Good’ rating. Inspectors collected a wide range of evidence to inform their judgements, including visiting learning sessions, scrutinising learners’ work, getting the views of learners, staff and other stakeholders, and examining documents and records.

The service had also recently expanded its curriculum offer to include ‘High Needs’ provision through the Supported Internship programme, aimed at those aged 16-24 who are on an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP).  This meant that the service had to update all their policies to reflect that they also now work with children, along with extensive safeguarding children training for all the staff.  The inspection report concluded that learners on supported internships develop vital employability skills such as timekeeping, literacy and numeracy.

The inspectors found that Halton’s adult learners are motivated to achieve their goals and improve their lives, and that courses prepare them for their next steps, such as  further study, employment or improving their personal lives.

Learners improve their confidence, independence and self-esteem, and those on well-being courses develop emotional resilience and techniques to help alleviate stress and anxiety.

The report described areas where the service is performing particularly well and areas where it needs to improve.

Service leaders ensure that their curriculums closely align both with the borough’s skills priorities, as well as the diverse needs of residents – they challenge most learners to improve their skills, confidence, self-belief and ultimately, their lives. After completing their courses, around half of learners remain in, or gain employment. A substantial number of learners progress to further learning.

Leaders ensure that tutors are well qualified and experienced, they are trained on effective assessment and providing useful feedback to help learners to improve their work. As a result, learners receive a good standard of education.

However, they found that in a couple of courses, tutors’ feedback is too generic which means that a small minority of learners do not know what they specifically need to do to improve their work.  This is being addressed.

Leaders have effective improvement processes in place – they have resolved the areas identified for improvement at their previous inspection. For example, the number of learners who achieve their English qualifications has increased and the number who leave before completing their courses has significantly reduced.

The service is continuing to work on improving learners’ attendance to their classes – while attendance has increased, they acknowledge there is still more work to do to make further improvements.

Safeguarding was found to be effective and learners feel safe: “Leaders and staff put learners at the heart of everything they do. They understand the wide range of barriers that learners face, such as unemployment, food poverty and domestic abuse. Leaders provide a warm, welcoming and safe environment for learners to learn.”

Siobhan Saunders, the Council’s Divisional Manager for Employment, Learning & Skills, welcomed the report: I am delighted to say that the Adult Learning Service maintained its Good status even with the changes we have faced, and my thanks go out to all of the staff that made this happen. The Service is clear about its priorities and how to build on its strengths, and has in place a robust Quality Improvement Plan to drive forward its work for the next year and beyond.”

Cllr Paul Nolan, portfolio holder for Adult Learning & Skills, says: We are really pleased by the outcome of this inspection. To maintain its GOOD grading is a fantastic achievement, particularly as was the Service’s first inspection under the new Education Inspection Framework,  and the Service had taken on a completely new cohort of learners. This is down to the dedication of our staff and the hard work of the learners who really do want to do well.  Congratulations and well done to all of you.”