Vita Skills set for shake-up in adult education funding
A consultation process on a “more transparent” system for setting funding rates for some apprenticeship standards has been launched as part of the government’s wider review of post-16 qualifications at level 3 and under.
A spokesperson for the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education [IfATE] said: "The purpose of this consultation is to make sure funding recommendations are evidence-based and transparent".
“We want the decision making process to be clearer to employers, providers, awarding organisations and everyone else involved with delivering apprenticeships.
“It is a positive step to help address previous concerns about funding band decisions and we welcome as much constructive input as possible.”
The sector has been given until April 6 to respond to the consultation.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson suggested that over 5,000 qualifications with a low uptake in students could be culled as part of future cuts.
Williamson said: “Removing funding for qualifications that have no or low numbers of enrolments will help make sure students have a clearer choice of the qualifications on offer, and ensure they get the skills they need to progress.”
The wider government review aims to ensure that all post-16 qualifications are "high-quality, necessary and support students to progress into employment or further study”.
However, the consultation process does offer training providers an opportunity to ensure that low-uptake qualifications that feed into valuable areas of the economy are protected, and this has been greeted with approval by those in the industry.
The consultation will likely come as welcome news to Manchester based Vita Skills, who have previously stressed the importance of smaller training providers being involved in dialogue with the government on funding issues.
Managing director Emma Ridgeway told The Parliamentary Review: “It’s perhaps because of confusions that there is a shortfall in the number of apprentices and that many providers of training and education have gone bust“It's necessary for the government to involve smaller companies like us more closely and to communicate more clearly. To ensure we don’t fall victim to such changes, we ourselves try to keep in contact with the council.
“For example, remit over the adult education budget is due to be passed over to councils, so we’ve begun talks with Greater Manchester to ensure that Vita Skills does not become collateral damage in this transition.”
Ridgeway added: “We’re still not clear on what will happen over the next 12 to 18 months [after the consultation], but we are nevertheless doing our best to weather whatever storm comes our way’'.
The consultation has won the support of others in the industry. Chief executive of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes, said that making the qualification landscape easier to navigate for students and employers was important, but stressed the importance of protecting low-enrolment qualifications.
Hughes said: "I am pleased at the approach being taken which should protect highly-valued but low enrolment qualifications which provide crucial skills, often in smaller sectors of the economy. We also welcome the opportunity for colleges to feed into the process alongside the awarding bodies they work with.”
Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, added: “We agree that funding for qualifications with low or no enrolments should have their funding reviewed. A consultation is welcome as it will enable us to make the case for strategically important qualifications with a very low number of students.
Tom Bewick, chief executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies, also warned that although the evolution of vocational training means that some qualifications will inevitably become “obsolete”, it is important not to leave learners “cut off from valuable and relevant opportunities in their local communities”.
Bewick adds: “There are hundreds of niche qualifications with low enrolments or they serve those with special educational needs, that could be axed by this exercise if government does not proceed with some caution."