The government is set to introduce minimum teaching hours for its controversial English and maths condition of funding policy and scrap the 5 per cent tolerance threshold.
Significant changes to rules around English and maths resits were announced by the Department for Education today as it revealed a 1.89 per cent increase to 16 to 18 funding rates for the 2024/25 academic year.
The divisive “condition of funding” policy, introduced in 2014, means that colleges must help students who failed to achieve a pass – grade 4 or above – to retake their GCSEs, or else risk losing funding.
Department for Education rules haven’t stipulated a minimum number of teaching hours for those resit students until now.
But from September 2024, full-time resit students will be “expected” to study at least three hours per week for English and four hours for maths and pro-rata for part-time learners.
This study should be “stand-alone, whole-class, in-person teaching, with any additional support, such as small group tuition or online support, supplementary to these minimum classroom hours”, according to the new rules.
The minimum hours rule will only be an “expectation” in 2024/25 to “reflect that despite best efforts not all institutions may be able to meet this from as early as September 2024”.
But it will become a strict rule from 2025/26 from which point funding reductions will be made in cases of non-compliance.
FE Week understands the DfE had become concerned that colleges had moved away from offering these sorts of teaching hours after the Covid-19 pandemic.
Today’s announcement said the new minimum classroom teaching hours “reflect the established practice noted across institutions pre-pandemic”, and added: “We know that many settings are already meeting the minimum hours or are on a journey back towards this. Our amendments will ensure that this progress is consistent across the country, so that all students receive a standard number of taught hours.”
Phased removal of 5% tolerance
The DfE will also implement a phased removal of the 5 per cent tolerance rule starting from 2025/26.
Currently, the department applies funding reductions to colleges above a tolerance of 5 per cent of total 16 to 19 students for learners who do not meet the condition of funding. Funding is removed for each student above the tolerance level at half the national funding rate.
Officials announced today that they will change the tolerance to 2.5 per cent in the academic year 2025/26, which will impact funding allocations in the 2027/28 academic year.
The tolerance will then be scrapped altogether in the academic year 2026/27, which impacts 2028/29 allocation.
FE Week understands the DfE drew up the plans after becoming concerned at rising rates of non-compliance.
Today’s announcement said: “The aim of removing the tolerance is to support as many students as possible to achieve a level 2 English and maths qualification.”
David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, described the new conditions of funding as “wholly unhelpful” and called for them to be suspended.
“Expecting colleges to be able to find new staff to deliver an extra 100 hours of English and 140 hours of maths teaching is simply unrealistic, particularly when schools who are paying so much more cannot find those teachers themselves,” he said.
“Around 200,000 students resit a GCSE or functional skills in English and/or maths in FE colleges. The extra hours would require about 800 extra maths teachers, and 400 extra English teachers. That won’t happen unless fair pay is addressed as a matter of urgency.”