Half of apprenticeships in scope for ‘exceptional’ funding review opt-out

IfATE chief ‘disappointed’ more apprenticeships couldn’t be targeted

IfATE chief ‘disappointed’ more apprenticeships couldn’t be targeted

14 Mar 2023, 16:38

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Only half of the 20 apprenticeships in the government’s “exceptional” funding uplift review will go through the accelerated process.

Jennifer Coupland, chief executive of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE), revealed today that employer-led trailblazer groups for 10 of those in scope have opted out.

The decision has left some training providers, who were not consulted, “hugely disappointed” as they struggle to offer the programmes because of high costs.

Those that have declined the offer include trailblazer groups for apprenticeships in painting and decorating, carpentry and joinery and engineering technician (see table for full list).

Coupland also couldn’t commit to meeting the May 1 deadline for introducing the new funding bands for those standards that are going through the process. She expressed her own “disappointment” that more apprenticeships wouldn’t benefit from the policy.

In November the Education and Skills Funding Agency announced plans to quickly increase funding bands in the hardest hit sectors to recognise the impact of soaring inflation on training delivery, with an ambition to unveil details of the process at the end of that month.

The IfATE announced in January that this “exceptional funding band review” would only apply to 20 “high-volume apprenticeships in skills shortage occupations and priority sectors”.

The chosen standards represent about 20 per cent of all apprenticeships starts. Evidence for an uplift was needed by early March and the new funding bands had planned to be implemented by May 1.

IfATE said the exceptional review will not include the full apprenticeship content or end-point assessment review that the ordinary revisions process includes, to help speed up the process.

But Coupland told today’s Annual Apprenticeship Conference that she could not “sit here and say that it will be May 1 when they will go through”.

She said the institute received “different responses” from the 20 trailblazer groups that were identified for the review, where “one didn’t want to go for it and another clutch said they would prefer to go through the usual funding band process, because they actually wanted us to review their end-point assessment, the content of the apprenticeship as well as the funding”.

Coupland added: “We were disappointed that we couldn’t extend the exceptional funding band process.

“We’ve had to prioritise because that’s the thing you do when you’ve got an affordability question.”

Brenda McLeish, chief executive of The Learning Curve Group, was angered by the announcement.

“If we can only get half of the 20 reviewed there is clearly an issue with the process and infrastructure around how the reviews happen,” she said.

“In the meantime, providers are opting out of delivering a lot of these standards which are high priority from an employer skills perspective because they just cannot afford to deliver them. IfATE needs to stand up and take responsibility for that.”

Sector leaders previously complained that the exceptional funding band review would only apply to new starters and would not address the challenges of training current apprentices.

Challenged on this by FE Week after her speech, Coupland said: “It has always been the case that if a funding band changes, it applies to new starters only. That is the situation that we have got for any of these exceptional funding band cases. We need to have it in line with policy and also because of affordability considerations.”

McLeish said that the institute should backdate the new funding rates for the 10 going through the exceptional process to the beginning of the academic year. “It would be a small little victory in the midst of all this mess,” she added.

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  1. It’s largely irrelevant saying that 100 standards are going through the ‘normal’ review process and will see the majority get a band increase.

    That might just be because the existing band didn’t cover the costs or because the content has changed. Real transparency would see the average of the cost estimates published alongside the eventual funding band decision. It’s all too opaque.

    67% achievement target is a pipe dream if ‘affordability’ trumps quality. What is the IfATE thinking on that?

  2. The model being used takes no account of premises or utility costs at all. It was had enough to magic these out of thin air before, but when your utility bill goes up by 300% in 12 months it becomes a lot harder to soak up rent, rates heat and light that are not being considered in the calculation.

    I guess they thein these don’t cost anything? And for anything that requires a workshop as well as a classroom it is 2 lots of rent, rates, heat and light. So a double whammy!

  3. albert wright

    The ability to request an increase in funding to more accurately reflect the costs to providers of delivering an Apprenticeship qualification at subject level is a remarkable opportunity for the sector and should be handled with care.

    When it comes to Universities and qualifications at level 4 and above, there is no equivalent mechanism, which is a great pity.

    I find it amazing that individual Universities are not asked / obliged to provide their regulators and monitors, with information about how much it costs them to deliver individual subject qualifications. The £9,250 a year they receive for each undergraduate, regardless of the subject involved, is a flat amount and the same amount whether it is English, or Mathematics , or French or Sociology or even Medicine and regardless of the cost to deliver in different locations. The University of Oxford and Sunderland University get the same payment even though the curriculum for the same subject may be very different.

    There are separate adjustments for specific subjects that fall into a “higher cost ” group, but these are surrounded in secrecy when it comes to finding out any detail. For many subjects and institutions the funding amounts associated are extremely important to the organisations affected.

    In the case of a medical degree, the full cost over 4 / 5 years is about £190,000 in total.

    Yet when it comes to the individual student, their student loan repayment is based on £9,250 a year, the same as a student studying English, who on average, will be unlikely to earn over £100,000 a year 3 years after graduation as is often the case with Medicine.

    This difference in the funding regimes of FE and HE is already raising questions with Apprenticeship Degrees jointly delivered by FE Colleges / Employers and HE University providers.

    My hunch is that for subjects that are mainly skills based, Universities are being paid more than colleges.

    Who knows what will happen after the accelerated reviews if a level 3 Apprenticeship ends up being funded at more than £9,250 for 12 months?