Govt determined on 'hobby' class cuts

The Government has ruled out reversing cuts to Adult Community Education (Ace) despite protests against the move.

More than 100,000 protest postcards are expected to arrive at Parliament from people affected by cuts to Ace funding.

Money for Ace programmes offered through secondary schools will be cut by 80 per cent from January and other programmes will be cut from 2011.

Community Learning Association through Schools (Class) president Maryke Fordyce said the cuts would affect more than 200,000 people in courses ranging from cooking and painting to business management.

The cuts would lead to job losses for up to 200 co-ordinators and about 2000 tutors.

Class was printing protest postcards and giving them to Ace providers to send to the Government. About 75,000 had been sent out and demand was so high that Class was printing another 50,000.

A review of Vote Education released last week showed spending on adult and community education was forecast to reach $50.6 million by 2012-13, up from $15.4m 12 years earlier.

Education Minister Anne Tolley said her office had received "a number of postcards about Ace" but was not counting them.

They were the result of "a campaign based on misleading information and orchestrated by the Labour Party", she said.

The funding cuts were about priorities, and the Government had chosen to focus spending on numeracy and literacy programmes, she said.

"I'm faced with demand to fund extra places for young people wanting skills training. Is it reasonable to deny them funding in favour of personal interest and hobby courses?"

Labour tertiary education spokeswoman Maryan Street said the protests were a grassroots movement. Community anger at the decision had been underestimated by Tolley and Finance Minister Bill English.

The Press