ESFA announce changes to 16 to 19 funding rules from August 2019

Study programme learners aged 16 to 19 who’ve passed GCSE English and maths are set to be barred from level one courses from next year, the Education and Skills Funding Agency has revealed.

The proposed rule change, published today, prompted the Association of Colleges to warn that the government was in danger of creating the “wrong incentives” for learners.  

Learners “with prior attainment in English and maths at grade four or above that are undertaking a vocational qualification are not expected to be on an entry level or level one core aim” from 2019/20, the ESFA guidance said.

The new rule, included as an advance notification of a planned change to funding guidance, would still apply “even if they have no previous experience in the vocational area”.

Instead “they should undertake a core aim at level two or above, except in exceptional circumstances”.

Julian Gravatt, the AoC’s deputy chief executive, said it had “some concerns that government will create the wrong incentives for students”.

A 16-year-old who wants to become a bricklayer or carpenter may start with a level one course and “it may not make sense to penalise them for passing their maths and English GCSEs first time around,” he said.

It’s not clear how many learners this new rule is likely to affect, and Mr Gravatt said the AoC would be consulting its members “to work out how significant an issue this is”.

One college leader took to Twitter today to voice his concerns about the new rule.

“Think there are a fair number of young people staring their vocational journey at level one nationally who do have their maths and English,” Jerry White, deputy principal at City College Norwich, tweeted.

“Maths and English GCSE does not prep young people for laying bricks very well in my experience.”

The new rule was included in the ESFA’s review of end of year 16 to 19 study programmes data for 2016 to 2017.

Other changes for 2019/20 include a cap on the number of hours of study per learner it will fund on compressed delivery programmes.

“The number of hours a student may study during a week should not be greater than the maximum number of hours a young person can legally work during a week,” it said.

“ESFA will therefore restrict funding to the first 40 hours per week and both the study programme’s planned hours and planned dates will need to reflect this”.