BREAKING: SFA to allow funding ‘top-up’ for new Esol quals

Concerns about delivery costs for new English for Speakers of Other Languages (Esol) qualifications have been addressed by a Skills Funding Agency move to allow “top-up” funding.

Single funding rates for the Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF) Esol qualifications had led to fears that providers might be out of pocket for full time courses  — a full 27-credit qualification, for example, has been set the ‘matrix’ rate of £1,265 for around just 227 hours.

But the SFA today revealed a system of “topping-up” to give Esol providers extra funding for longer courses [click here], by allowing them to claim funding for the additional hours by adding ‘non-regulated learning aims’ to the course.

The move was welcomed within the Esol delivery sector as “a really sensible move over something that could have had a significant impact”.

The new QCF qualifications have been under development since February last year when the SFA set out the principles to shape the future of Skills for Life Esol.

An SFA spokesperson said: “In addition to these [fixed] rates, providers offering new Esol qualifications can claim additional funding using the ‘non-regulated’ funding mechanism to take account of any shortfall in funding resulting from the rates matrix.

“This means that for learners undertaking their QCF ESOL qualification, where single rates do not provide enough funding to cover costs, the provider can add to this using the ‘non-regulated’ mechanism.”

They added: “We have agreed this approach following consultation with our Funding External Technical Advisory Group and it is intended to reflect the diverse nature of the Esol learner intake.

“It retains the use of the matrix but enables ‘top-up’ where necessary, and only for those learners where the single rate is insufficient to complete their QCF Esol qualification.”

Steve Hewitt, funding manager at London’s Morley College, told FE Week: “I’m very pleased the Skills Funding Agency has allowed topping up of Esol funding, because the fixed rate would not have been sufficient.

“This is a really sensible move over something that could have had a significant impact and had been of serious concern to a very large number of Esol providers.”