Rural living can seriously affect your access to skills

A new report shows that those living in the countryside face real disadvantages in accessing skills

Photo credit: Press Association

Millions of people living in the countryside are missing out on opportunities to learn and develop skills, with rural communities suffering due to a postcode lottery when it comes to further education.

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Those in rural areas are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to accessing learning compared to their urban counterparts, according to a new report released this week by Rural England.

Further education is singled out as a key area of concern in its State of Rural Services report.

Young people living outside towns and cities have less choice than those in urban areas not only in where they can study, but the types of courses available to them.

The relative lack of public transport in rural areas is a key factor. People living in the countryside who do not have a car and rely on public transport have “reasonable access” to two FE institutions on average – half the number their urban counterparts can get to, according to the report.

The report states: “In rural areas many young people will face long or complex journeys to FE and will have less choice of FE institutions that they can realistically access.”

It warns: “Having less choice of FE institutions is also likely to mean less choice of study courses.”

It is not just further education where choices are restricted for people living in the countryside.

The report says: “Opportunities for apprenticeships are also likely to be scarcer, because there are typically few larger businesses in rural areas.”

It adds: “The paucity of public transport networks and the absence of larger employers are both barriers to delivering apprenticeships in rural areas.”

No recommendations are made, since the main purpose of the report is: “to inform, engage and stimulate debate about the needs of rural communities.”

Responding to the findings, Margaret Clark CBE, chair of Rural England’s Stakeholder Group, commented: “When it comes to access to further education and skills development, rural areas are suffering due to difficulties and poor transport services.”

And Kirstie Donnelly, managing director, City & Guilds, said: “Everyone, regardless of where they live, should have the chance to improve their skills and access great careers.”

She added: “Learners in rural areas already face a number of obstacles in accessing training or apprenticeships. It’s crucial that policymakers consider how they can help people overcome them.”


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