The adult education budget has been significantly cut over the last decade, to the annual £1.5 billion it is today.

And, we are told, as a result there are colleges in financial turmoil, training providers losing out in ESFA tenders, and ESOL courses with waiting lists in the thousands.

Yet this week we reveal that 441 providers have failed to use tens of millions of allocated AEB funding.

Many are colleges and the AoC was quick to blame “restrictive” funding rules and low rates.

As a former college curriculum planner myself, I’d argue that pointing the finger at the funding system is too simplistic.

In truth, it is often poor planning, over-optimistic targets and a preference to under-deliver rather than go unpaid for the costs of over delivery that’s to blame.

In response the ESFA appears to be taking two sensible steps.

Firstly, encouraging colleges to reduce unrealistic allocations, presumably with a view to reallocating the funding in-year to those able to use it.

And secondly, introducing a policy that commits to fund three percent of any AEB over-delivery in 2018/2019. It’s a complex issue – but surely the absurdity of leaving scarce FE funding unspent can’t be allowed to continue?

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