IfA loses funding rate review battle but uncertainty drags on

An employer group that won an appeal over the Institute for Apprenticeships’ handling of funding rate recommendations is still waiting for a final decision, FE Week can reveal.

We reported in May that the education and training trailblazer group had rejected the IfA’s recommendations for the three FE teaching standards it is developing.

The group lodged an appeal against the IfA’s process, and was told in July that it had succeeded – leading to the original recommendations, which ranged from £5,000 to £9,000, being binned by the appeal panel.

This meant the three standards were sent back to the IfA’s route panel to have new funding bands assigned to them, which should have happened at a meeting on September 13.

Instead, the panel deferred its decision, according to Jo North, chair of the trailblazer group.

She told FE Week that the group hasn’t been told the reason for this delay, only that the panel needed to carry out “further work with training providers to inform the funding band recommendations”.

According to a letter sent by the IfA to Ms North, dated July 5, the group appealed on four bases: failing to comply with agreed procedure; failing to take account of relevant information; making a decision based on a mistake of fact; and the institute exceeding its powers.

The appeal was turned down on three out of four of these points, but “the appeal panel considered it was, on balance, persuaded by some of your arguments” in relation to the first point.

These related to the “transition of the process from the Education and Skills Funding Agency to the institute” and the “request from the trailblazer group regarding their attendance at route panel”.

Ms North told FE Week she had asked three times to attend the meeting and “each time it had been declined saying there was enough expertise on the panel”.

Despite the ruling, she was also excluded from the September meeting – even though she said she was asked to be on standby.

The level five learning and skills teacher standard was first published in August 2015, while the level four assessor/coach and level three learning mentor standards were published in October the same year.

Ms North said the level five standard had actually been approved for delivery in March 2016, subject to a number of small changes, but because of a lack of communication between the ESFA and the IfA this was never published.

That miscommunication had cost “at least 2,500 starts”, Ms North said.

“We want some action. Everyone is wanting to deliver. My inbox is full every day of people wanting it,” she said.

An IfA spokesperson said it was “working to establish appropriate funding bands to support high quality delivery and provide value for money, and bring these standards through to delivery as quickly as possible”. 

“We are grateful to the education and training trailblazer group for all of their hard work so far. We are aware of their concerns, and are already in contact with them to get these resolved.”