Course fee increase is backed

ADULT learners will have to pay more for education courses after civic chiefs backed a price rise.

From August, course fees for Hartlepool Borough Council-run vocational courses will rise by 10 per cent to about £105 and other courses by 15 per cent to about £150 a year.

Education bosses say the setting of adult education fees is a difficult balancing act between generating enough income and meeting costs.

Labour councillor Ged Hall approved the rises at a meeting of his adult and public health services portfolio.

From August, vocational and first steps learning courses will cost £105 for a 60-hour course, up from £95, and £35 for a 20-hour course.

Personal and community development learning courses will cost £150 for a 60-hour course and £50 for a 20-hour course.

Coun Hall said: “It is always a very difficult balancing act. While the new charges may be difficult for some people I think that overall they are quite reasonable. Even with these rises, course fees are still among the lowest in the region and they are still good value.”

New national guidelines from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) also mean people on a range of benefits – except those on Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) and recommended to take a course – will have to start paying their own fees.

Those no longer eligible include people on council tax benefit, housing benefit, income support and working tax credit.

Last year about 1,000 town residents received free courses. Almost three-quarters were on JSA and would still be eligible for a free course next year.

Coun Hall asked officers to prepare a report later in the year to see if there had been a knock-on effect and also to contact businesses to try to encourage their workforce to sign up for courses.

A range of courses including literacy and numeracy, family learning, family literacy and neighbourhood learning in deprived communities will remain free of charge.

For more information about adult education courses call the team on (01429) 868616 or go into the office in Tower Street, Hartlepool.