Following the closure of the 16-19 funding formula review consultation at the start of the month, FE Week asked Paul Warner, director of employment and skils at the AELP, and Lynne Sedgmore, executive director of the 157 Group, for their thoughts on simplification, funding rates and methodologies.

Simplification is about much more than reducing paperwork. In AELP’s view, whilst recent attempts to simplify the post-16 system have been well-intentioned, most have simply altered processes rather than tackling the issue of desirable outcomes head on.

What is needed is an improvement in our ability and willingness to review what we’re doing and crucially why we’re doing it, to try and ensure that outputs match up with policy intent.
Just reducing the number of boxes to tick, or making it easier to understand rates calculations, are not in themselves enough. Whilst there is much that AELP can agree with in the current YPLA consultation on simplification of funding, we believe that the key issue is really maximising the freedom for providers to create bespoke packages of learning for each individual.

There is little to be gained for example from the current situation whereby unemployed 16/17 year olds cannot study single units of qualification with a provider not holding a Foundation Learning (FL) contract, even though the provider may have an Apprenticeship contract in which those units are being perfectly satisfactorily delivered. Who gains from that?

This is a reflection of an entrenched programme-led structure within young people’s provision that does not chime either with SFA’s move to a single adult budget, nor with DWP’s move to a “black box” approach, where in both cases the fundamental principle is that providers can deliver what is needed by the learner or employer, rather than what a prescribed programme allows.

Foundation Learning can’t just be “simplified” or “made more flexible” if it is to succeed – it needs an overhaul from the ground up.”

For YPLA to hold on to programme-led structures post-16 is therefore out of alignment with the general thrust across government for proper responsiveness to the demand for skills.

It is an outdated approach that in essence Professor Wolf was only last year openly criticising.

The funding structure to support this total flexibility should aim to both enable young people to become qualified, and encourage their entry into work.

It should encourage the delivery of both of these elements by rewarding the delivery of both outputs for one person, in terms of provider funding, at a proportionately higher level than the achievement of just one of them.

This would enhance the worth of qualifications by encouraging the attainment of those that are directly relevant to prospects of work.

This desirable output is signally not being addressed by the current structure of FL, which ignores the employers’ presence almost completely, even though the desire to increase learners’ progression into work is constantly cited as the reason why Entry to Employment was dropped and FL introduced.

Foundation Learning can’t just be “simplified” or “made more flexible” if it is to succeed – it needs an overhaul from the ground up.

Just “simplifying” is accepting that “in an ideal world, we wouldn’t start from here”. Young people’s provision, and particularly FL, needs some fundamental changes if it is to result in anything of worth in terms of economic recovery. Simplification should be incidental to this aim, not the other way around.