SFA warned over plans to stop qualifications funding

The Skills Funding Agency “risks destabilising the system” with plans to stop paying out for more than 1,000 qualifications, it has been claimed.

The Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) hit out at the agency over its moves to “rationalise the publicly funded offer for adults for 2013/14”.

It could result in the end of agency funding for more than 1,000 qualifications that have seen fewer than 100 enrolments from 2011 to last November.

A further 1,440 qualifications that had no enrolments at all in the same period are also at risk of losing agency funding from August.

A spokesperson for FAB, whose members include the likes of City & Guilds, NCFE, Edexcel and Prince’s Trust, said: “The intention of the agency to withdraw funding from a significant number of qualifications with low enrolments risks destabilising the system and cuts across the free functioning of the market for qualifications.”

Among the qualifications at risk for having had little uptake are ones in touch typing, getting on at work, scalp massage and eyelash perming.

Meanwhile, those at risk for no enrolment include cover supervision of pupils in schools, top person for high-risk confined spaces, estimating and felling and processing trees over 380mm.

Ofqual director of regulation Fiona Pethick has already written to awarding bodies asking them to withdraw their least popular qualifications, “rather than to introduce a new condition requiring this [withdrawal of qualification]”.

An agency spokesperson said: “We are working with the sector to ensure public funding is focussed on qualifications that deliver the highest standards and respond to the needs of learners and employers.”

Nevertheless, the FAB spokesperson said there were “serious concerns” about the agency’s plans.

We have notified the agency of our serious concerns about the impact of their actions”

“We recognise that this action has been taken in the context of the simplification of the adult funding system and general concern about the large number of qualifications that there are currently in the QCF [Qualifications and Credit Framework].

“However, we point out that the QCF was populated in 2010 – 2011 with qualifications that were required and approved by the Sector Skills Councils [SSCs] as part of the UK Vocational Qualifications Reform programme [UKVRP].

“At that time awarding bodies could not develop qualifications for the QCF unless they had the support of the SSCs as representative of the employers in their sector.”

They added: “We have notified the agency of our serious concerns about the impact of their actions, particularly in relation to qualifications with low enrolments.

“We shall be interested in whether our concerns turn out to be justified and shall be monitoring the position closely over the coming weeks.”

However, funding for the qualifications could yet remain in place with the agency having launched a consultation on its plans.

“We recognise there may be a need to continue funding new starts for some qualifications with limited demand,” it says on the agency website, along with an invite for awarding organisations, colleges and training providers to put the case for continued funding for the at-risk qualifications.

The consultation ends at noon on Wednesday, March 6. Visit the agency’s QCF, funding and then implementation webpage for more details.