Look beneath the funding rates and ‘complification’ is everywhere

Look beneath the funding rates and ‘complification’ is everywhere

The Skills Funding Agency is very proud of themselves, and they will want to share their success. They will tell you repeatedly that in 2013/14 (assuming they still exist after the recently announced review) more than 7,000 different qualification rates will be just 30 (see table below right).

This, they will say, is proof. That’s right, proof that simplification is possible, and all that ‘complification’ (see page 6) has been consigned to history.

But before you believe the hype, let’s look at the evidence presented in the document “A new streamlined funding system for adult skills”, published last month.

Perhaps we need the C4 fact checker, because all may not be what it seems.

Firstly, it seems inevitable that the large employer discount will remain, so 30 rates could become 60. Then there is the 25+ discount, adding another 25 rates for non-large employers and 25 for large employers. So up to a possible 110 now.

Secondly, there will need to be reduced rates for learners who have already achieved one or more of the apprenticeships framework qualification. For example, if an Advanced Apprenticeship learner already has GCSEs in English and maths A*-C then the funding agency will not want to fund the key or functional skills. Or perhaps the learner is exempt from some of the NVQ units. Again, double funding will not be allowed. Hence, providers will need to discount the funding rate (as they do now) and to arrive at a new one.

Thirdly, every year that the Qualification and Credit Framework hangs around unloved but without alternative, more and more learners are accumulating credit. Ask the Skills Funding Agency what the rate would be for a learner enrolling on a Level 2 Diploma who has already achieved the nested Certificate. Perhaps they already have the Award and now they are progressing to the Certificate.

The reality is that the Skills Funding Agency have no answer to this accumulation of credit issue in funding terms, yet even the BIS Loans Consultation attempted to tackle it. That document said: “achievement of prior credits will be taken into account to avoid duplication, therefore reducing the amount of loan required”. This is a rather unfortunate ‘complification’ that does not fit into their 30 rates success at creating the table below.

If the Skills Funding Agency had be bold enough to set a national credit rate, although not a perfect science, then discounting for prior attainment in this way would be a non-issue.

Ask the SFA what the rate would be for a learner enrolling on a Level 2 Diploma who has already achieved the nested certificate”

Let’s move beyond the 30 rate claim and see where other ‘complifications’ fester.

It would be nice to think with a rates table the need to look them up via an online database (LARA) would no longer be necessary. But it is not a table, it is a ‘matrix’. This means you will need to look up the programme weighting, of which at first glance it seems they are being reduced to five.

As the table below shows there will be standard (or as I like to call it ‘very low’), low, medium, high and specialist programme weightings. Five is already one more than being proposed by the Young People’s Learning Agency for 2013/14, yet check the small print. Low, medium, high and specialist will differ depending on whether it is an apprenticeship or not. So in reality nine different programme weightings are being proposed!

Then there is the disadvantage uplift (DU), which is arguably the most complicated part of the demand-led funding formula. You do not know the DU value until you have recruited the learner as it is based on their postcode, and it can be worth up to 32 per cent more (accurate to four decimal places).

Despite early plans to scrap the DU element of the funding formula, it is now not only remaining but being extended to the one area where currently it is not used: non-apprenticeships workplace training (formally Train to Gain). Complification guaranteed.

Of perhaps most interest is that the main ‘simplification’ introduced in 2008/09 is being scrapped in the name of ‘streamlining’. The  current provider factor for learner-responsive (classroom) provision is based on historical values, thus providing a significant degree of stability in the system. It seems in our free and flexibile sector stability has almonst  become a dirty word.

So when the Agency wave their rates table at you, say FE Week Agitator has a few questions!