Short changed as the seasons change
We’re at the beginning of an interesting year. Ahead of the budget in autumn that will set out the government’s spending profile, we already have sight of the challenges we face in the forthcoming session.
Of concern over the summer were rumours that the Adult Education Budget (AEB) may be at risk from treasury policies set to protect key government departments after Brexit. It was reported over the summer that cutting this budget would be a mistake as this risks future prosperity and earning potential of our adult population. In addition, a lot of the skills measures mentioned in the 2017 budget seem to be coming from the Department for Education (DfE) underspends, so the AEB may be at risk here too.
We’ve also seen that the apprenticeship levy still continues to raise less funding than expected. Continued poor economic conditions have no doubt contributed to this, as well as employers retaining the funding, as they have 2 years to use it from it going into their digital account. An overall increase in employment has probably protected the apprenticeship levy against worse case scenarios, however we do ask the treasury that apprenticeship levy underspends are fed back into the apprenticeship system, and guarantee sufficient funding for non-levy payers. The unspent funds in an employer’s levy account should be fed back into the apprenticeship funding system to fund non-levy payers’ apprenticeship programmes and additional funds should be made available to support the 98% of employers who are not levy payers.
With the renewed focus on technical education, isn’t it about time for an increase in funding rates for 16-18 year olds, at least in line with inflation, and to challenge the rationale behind the drop in funding once a learner reaches 18?
The funding rate for students aged 16-17 in education has been frozen at £4,000 since 2013-14. This equates to an approximate 9% cut based on 2017 prices, with the funding rate for 18 year olds frozen at £3,300 since 2014. This disadvantages learners who need additional support at this age, or who may be taking 3 year programmes. This is especially true for learners looking to undertake T Levels for a transition year.
Speaking of T Levels, we’d ask that maintenance loans are extended to facilitate participation on T Levels by 19-23 year olds. Full-time maintenance loans will cover the living and transport costs of 19-23 year olds on T Levels who want to be full-time students first and workers second. If part-time T Levels for 19-23 year olds are introduced, part-time maintenance loans will ease the financial pressure of young adults to put earning before part-time learning. We’ve produced a white paper with the Campaign for Learning with more detail on this proposal.
Finally, looking ahead, we’re asking that the treasury works with the Department for Transport to ensure all young people have access to affordable public transport, so they can access employment, technical education and apprenticeship opportunities. This need is particularly acute for education providers and employers of young people in rural locations or sectors, such as Agricultural, Environmental and Animal Care or Catering and Hospitality (as highlighted by the DfE in their recently published survey Employer engagement and capacity to support T Level industry placements).
We’ll await the Chancellors announcements, and hope they will support the vital work our sector does. In face of the uncertainty to come, we can be sure that our work is more important than ever. Our country needs skills that we can provide, and our learners need these skills to move on to future success.