Image of Croydon Public halls

CALAT is one of the largest adult education providers in the country offering more than 500 part-time courses every year in various venues across the borough of Croydon on behalf of Croydon Council.

Our award-winning provision has been delivering courses to residents in the borough for over 70 years. The programme includes a variety of recreational, academic, pre-vocational and vocational courses in childcare and teaching assistant training, creative arts, health and social care, business administration, ICT, languages, English and maths, English for speakers of other languages and courses for adults with learning disabilities. We also work with businesses and employers to deliver training aimed at raising the skills level of employees and developing the workforce.

A brief history of Adult Education in Croydon

Although there were a number of private education classes in Croydon as far back as 1880, when the Quaker-organised Croydon Adult School was founded (its aim, we are told, was to ‘help men and women to live to the top of their physical, mental and spiritual capacities’), it was not until the Education Act of 1944 that adult education became a mandatory provision for local authorities.  The Act stated that ‘it shall be the duty of every local authority to secure the provision for their area of adequate facilities for further education’, including ‘leisure time occupation in such organised cultural training and recreative activities as are suited to their requirements for any persons over compulsory school age who are able and willing to profit by the facilities provided for that purpose’.  In other words, as the Chief Education Officer at the time put it, ‘it is our duty to provide for what is generally known as adult education’.

In the autumn of 1945 the first 10 adult education classes were offered, under the auspices of Croydon Polytechnic, and 214 students were enrolled.  Within a year, a further 14 classes had been added with some 450 students on the roll.  Already it was clear that the demand for adult education was likely to increase, and the summer of 1947 saw the appointment of the first dedicated Organiser for Adult Education, thus relieving the Polytechnic of the responsibility for providing adult education.  By 1948, more than 70 classes had been established for some 1,500 students.  Interestingly, the Education Committee Report of July 1947 states that the Commandant of the local prisoner-of-war camp had even requested permission for POWs to attend evening classes, ‘the prisoners themselves paying up to 10 shillings a week for the instruction.  The Committee recommend that appropriate facilities be offered at a reduced sessional fee of five shillings’.

In these early days, courses for adults were classified under the general headings of art and crafts, drama and literature, music, physical recreation and social studies, and were held ‘wherever there is room for them’; in school halls, classrooms and church halls throughout the Borough.  An adult education booklet was produced to publicise the courses available and in 1949-50 2,000 copies of the adult education prospectus were issued.  However, these were ‘quite insufficient to meet all requirements and the spring issue has been increased to 12 pages consisting of 3,000 copies’.

Fast forward more than 70 years. Croydon Council still offers provision for adult education in the Borough through its award-winning Croydon Adult Learning and Training (CALAT) service.  The name may be different but the links back to those early days remain.  The ten courses of 1945 have increased to some 500 today.  Times have changed and the range of provision has increased dramatically over the years.  CALAT now offers many courses that lead to qualifications, and some subjects, notably ICT, that would have been unheard of in 1945, yet many of the subjects offered in the 40s still remain popular.  Today’s adult learners can choose between weekday, weekend or evening classes and CALAT has three centres in the borough.

Adult Education in Croydon through the ages

All materials courtesy of Croydon Local Studies section