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Community education continues despite cuts

DANIELLE STREET
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2013

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Community educators are spreading the message they are open for business in the wake of the recent closure of another community education centre.

Mt Albert Grammar Community Education closed its doors for the last time in December prompting programme co-ordinators from Western Springs College and Mt Roskill Grammar centres to alert the public that they still are taking enrolments for 2013.

The demise of the Mt Albert centre means there are only 12 community education centres operating in the greater Auckland region.

There were 37 Auckland centres before the government implemented funding cuts for community education in 2009.

Mt Roskill centre co-ordinator Jennifer Carson says it still receives a little funding for classes that have components of literacy, numeracy or English as a second language.

"The majority of the general classes now are self-supporting, so the prices had to go up a little bit to reflect that. But we try to keep them as low as possible to make them affordable for the community," she says.

Ms Carson says that despite best efforts to keep the prices within reach she has seen a drop in enrolment numbers in the last few years.

"I think some people thought that community education had closed down because there was so much publicity around how the cuts were going to kill community education," she says.

"People haven't actually realised that some of us did manage to survive and are still battling on."

Western Springs Community Education does not receive any funding and is completely user-pays, co-ordinator Bridget Klubien says.

However, she set up the centre as a small business venture in conjunction with the school's board of trustees to keep classes reasonably priced.

"But I get paid less money now, significantly less, than I did when we had funding because we lost $50,000, and we haven't been able to recoup that in student fees."

Despite a large drop in enrolments immediately following the government cuts the numbers are slowly starting to rise, Ms Klubien says.

"Publicity is a constant challenge, because it is really expensive and of course if we paid a lot then the fees would rise, and then enrolments would drop."

The pair say that their two centres offer a variety of courses priced from $20 to about $100 and cater to people from 13 upwards.

Classes range from sewing to pilates, from abstract painting to an introduction to business tax.

"People come for all sorts of reasons," Ms Carson says. "In terms of our general classes it can be just the social side of doing something, and that might be through a cooking class or a fitness class or some sort of hobby."

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She says others take courses as a taste-tester before investing in long-term tertiary study.

"For some people its a stepping stone into a career, or an opportunity to explore a career before committing a lot of money," Ms Klubien says.

For more information visit: aucklandcommunity education.co.nz.

- Central Leader

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