Revealed: Colleges lose £1.1m under controversial English and maths condition-of-funding rules

Five training providers have been stripped of more than £100,000 due to the controversial English and maths condition-of-funding rule, according to new government figures.

However, one of them – Plumpton College – claims the Education and Skills Funding Agency has made a mistake and it has not actually lost out on the near £350,000 detailed in the today’s data.

Under original ESFA rules, any 16- to 18-year-old student who does not have at least a C (now 4) in their English and maths GCSEs, and who fails to enrol in the subjects, will be removed in full from funding allocations for the next-but-one academic year.

But the condition was relaxed from 2016/17, with the penalty halved and only applied to providers at which more than five per cent of students did not meet the standard.

FE Week analysis of 16-to-19 allocation data for 2018/19 revealed that in total, 13 general FE colleges were deducted £1,137,091.

Four of them, and one private training provider, had over £100,000 deducted each, totalling £1,008,614.

On the face of it, Plumpton College was hit the hardest, with £348,414 wiped after it failed to meet funding conditions for 237 students in 2016/17.

However, a spokesperson claimed the figure was “incorrect”, and it has not in fact lost that amount.

She said there were “complex and detailed reasons” behind this, partly linked to the college and partly to the ESFA.

The spokesperson did not, however, explain the reasons, other than to say the issue has now been “resolved” by the agency, and therefore there is “no condition of funding fail”.

The Department for Education has been approached for comment.

Barnfield College had the second highest deduction, with £268,126 removed from its allocation for 209 non-compliant learners.

London South East Colleges had the most learners who didn’t meet the condition, having £186,635 wiped for 334 students.

Job Wise Training, based in London, was the only private provider to have over £100,000 deducted because of the rule. It lost £102,826 for 87 learners.

A fifth provider, The Manchester College, was deducted £102,613 for 312 non-compliant learners.

In total, 36 independent training providers shared losses of £625,196, and 31 local authorities were deducted £208,950.

There were 22 university technical colleges and studio schools that incurred fines, with the combined total sitting at £341,198.

No sixth-form colleges were penalised.

This year’s figures for general FE colleges are an improvement on last year, when 19 were deducted £1,211,930.

In December 2016, colleges hit out at the notorious condition-of-funding rule after FE Week revealed a huge flaw which makes it impossible to achieve 100 per cent compliance, even when all learners are enrolled on English and maths courses.

If a learner drops out of a course after the qualifying period of 42 days, they are counted as “funded”, but if they record fewer days studying English and maths during the same period they count as not complying with the rule – even if their last day of attendance on each course is just a few days apart.

Despite this, the DfE decided last year to extend this five-per-cent tolerance indefinitely “in recognition of the continued efforts of institutions” to achieve the targets.