ESFA publishes AEB funding rules and extends free courses to workers earning just over £16,000

Adults earning less than the national living wage and who live outside of Mayoral combined authorities with devolution deals will continue to benefit from fully funded training next year.

Prior to 2018/19, adults had to have been on benefits to receive full funding for education courses.

Last year, the Department for Education launched a trial enabling providers in receipt of ESFA funded adult education budget to fully fund learners who are employed and in receipt of a low wage and cannot contribute towards the cost of co-funding fees.

The DfE confirmed today, in its publication of the draft AEB funding rules for 2019/20, that this trial will continue next year.

It pointed out that the low-wage threshold has been increased from £15,725.50 to £16,009.50 – so anyone in employment earning less than this amount will benefit.

“The trial will help to increase AEB participation and lift social mobility barriers to learning for those who would not otherwise engage due to course fees being unaffordable,” today’s announcement said.

Current AEB fee remission rules focus on providing full funding for eligible unemployed adults – such as those on benefits – young people aged 19 to 23 with skills below level two, and adults aged 19 and over who do not have English and maths up to level two.

Currently, individuals who do not fall into one of these categories may have to contribute up to 50 per cent towards the cost of their learning.

The new full funding eligibility criteria include those that are “eligible for co-funding for provision, up to and including level two” and “earn less than £16,009.50 annual gross salary”.

To confirm learner eligibility providers must have “seen evidence of the learner’s gross annual wages in these circumstances, for example, this could be a wage slip or Universal Credit statement, within three months of the learner’s learning start date, or a current employment contract, which states gross monthly/annual wages”.

They must also “enter the ILR monitoring code (363) for every eligible learner they fully fund through this trial, this is imperative as we will use data collected to inform future adult funding policy development”.

From September, the AEB is being devolved to six combined authorities – in Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, the West of England, the West Midlands, Tees Valley, and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – as well as the Greater London Authority.

As a result, the extension of the trial “only applies to individuals resident in areas of England outside of the MCAs/GLA areas undertaking ESFA funded AEB learning,” the DfE said.

The MCAs and GLA will publish their own funding rules “that will apply to providers in receipt of devolved AEB funding”.

Last year, the GLA said adults in the capital who earn less than the London living wage of £19,890 will have their training fully funded from 2019/20.

Its published funding rules confirm this: “You may fully fund learners who are ‘employed’ and would normally be co-funded [if they] earn less than the London Living Wage as an annual gross salary on the date of the learner’s learning start date.

“Learners will be deemed to earn less than the London Living Wage as an annual gross salary if they earn less than the hourly London Living Wage at that point in time, multiplied by 37.5 (hours per week), multiplied by 52 (weeks per year).

“Based on the 2017/18 London Living Wage, this would be £19,890, but AEB Procured providers will need to check the updated rates each year.”