My generation will recall the great days of evening classes on the rates during the 1970s and 1980s; local councils funding nil or nominal cost classes for adults in pottery making, woodwork, car maintenance, Serbo-Croat and flower arranging. It was all very Margot Leadbetter, in that the beneficiaries were generally the aspirational middle classes who could afford to buy a pottery kiln, set of carving chisels or bathtubs of cut flowers. A chum of mine, an accountant, did a car restoration course at the local tech and afterwards spent about £20k buying and restoring an old MG.
History, of course, is not written that way. For those under 40 such as the Guardian's Lola Okolosie, adult education was about brave councils fighting poverty and class disadvantage and bringing the light of literacy to the poor and ignorant. The slow death of evening classes on the rates for Lola is symptomatic of a war on the poor rather than the consequence of the ever-expanding costs of child surveillance and custody by councils.
Lola is of the generation and milieu that believes that the State should do everything for them, including no doubt wiping their arses. The State, however, can't incubate the drive for self-improvement, so strong in our people in the early part of the last century that it supported an entire mass publisher - Dent - bringing an Everyman's Library of cloth-bound 8vo knowledge into Glasgow tenements, Plaistow attics and rented rooms. An amiable Scots vagrant once accosted me on the Strand quoting Wordsworth - his mother was a Dent subscriber.
Whilst early evening classes may have been the continuation of self-education by the local State, they didn't stay that way for long. Do gooders and social fiddlers soon realise that the poor are not queuing in droves to spend several hours of good drinking time learning irregular verbs. So the classes soon changed to attract motivated middle-class attenders keen to learn Spanish or Italian for their holidays, or how to bend and spot-weld steel sheet in the case of my accountant chum. Nice if you can afford it - but now we can't.