Adult learners' experiences from learning age to Leitch: Implications of policy for local implementation and impact on learners

Pudney, Diana (2010). Adult learners' experiences from learning age to Leitch: Implications of policy for local implementation and impact on learners. EdD thesis The Open University.



Centralised policy development seems 'dislocated' from policy implementation at a local level. The intent of nationally developed policy does not take sufficient account of local implementation needs and this, in turn, affects how a particular policy impacts on an individual or community. Since policy development is framed alongside a prevailing political environment (Hill, 2003), it is designed with broad national priorities in mind, often with identified target groups as its recipients. It is developed in a 'top down' way, based on what those with influence and power determine is the best way forward, to achieve the policy outcomes. The tendency is to regard all those within a particular target group as having similar needs, whereas in reality each individual has a unique set of circumstances relating to their life experience (Barton et al, 2006) as well as their physical situation, which can influence the impact a particular policy can have. The further away the detail of policy development is from its implementation sites, the less likely it is to be flexible enough to address a broad range of individual needs at a local level.

In order to understand the relevance of local implementation for individuals' experience, with respect to the impact of Adult Skills policy, the study focuses on one particular aspect of Adult Skills policy i. e. Skills for Life. This was a priority area for New Labour policy development in the earliest days of their government The Skills for Life strategy, arising out of the recommendations of the Moser Report (DfEE, 1999) was conceived nationally through the Adult Basic Skills Strategy Unit but was implemented by local Learning and Skills Councils who developed individual Skills for Life strategies (L&R LSC, 2000) to meet the needs of their own areas. Over the past several years, as part of the process of implementing the government's Skills for Life strategy (DfEE, 2001), there have been major changes in the way that literacy, numeracy and language provision is delivered.

The overall research question for the study is to establish if what individuals' tell us about their experiences of learning has implications for the way in which current Skills for Life policy is implemented at a local level and to what extent does increasing centralisation of policy development limit the ability of local implementation structures to meet the needs of individuals?

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