As editor of FE Week I’m used to skills ministers being economical with the truth.
I’m used to questions going unanswered or hearing non-answers to the question being asked.
What has come as a new surprise, though, is the new minister claiming in a DfE blog something that simply is not true.
Essentially, he argued that FE Week has been selectively emphasising only those 16-to-18 frameworks in which the funding rate has been falling.
Robert Halfon’s exact words were: “While FE Week has highlighted some frameworks will be losing some funding, there are some that will have increased funding, and not just in science, technology, engineering and maths.”
I was immediately sceptical because the Skills Funding Agency has applied a consistent approach to the new framework rates.
It set the new rate for all 16- to 18-year-olds at the current, much lower, adult rate, while later admitting it had removed both the disadvantage and area cost uplift.
So I asked the DfE to provide some examples in which the 16-to-18 framework funding will rise from May 1, to justify the minister’s claim in his blog.
After a bit of prodding, it replied with three: logistics operative at level two, accounting at level three and farriery at level three.
Naturally I had to do the analysis myself, and even after including the proposed £1,000 provider incentive, I calculated that the logistics framework funding has fallen between three and 34 per cent, that accounting fell between 29 and 51 per cent, and that farriery dropped between 41 and 60 per cent.
In all three cases, far from the funding going up, it fell across the board, and as much as 60 per cent.
How does the DfE explain this?
I sent back my analysis and prodded again for a reply, and was told that in fact these examples aren’t about 16- to 18-year-olds at all. In fact, they “refer to 19+ frameworks” – while “the op-ed was written with a broader scope in mind”.
Surely this means the DfE would want to correct Mr Halfon’s blog? Surely the minister would want to amend the record?
However, neither the DfE nor Mr Halfon took the opportunity to correct the blog, which I find immensely disappointing.
The simple fact is that we are campaigning against this government’s decision to fund 16- to 18-year-old frameworks at the much lower adult rates.
I was really grateful the minister came and spoke at the FE Week campaign event, but I repeat my request to him, this time in the pages of FE Week.
Mr Halfon, please correct your blog to remove the untruth about the way these rate cuts have been applied.