Learners’ part-time paid jobs could be publicly-funded as part of the new study programmes for 16 to 19-year-olds, FE Week can reveal.
It had appeared the Department for Education (DfE) would only allow unpaid work experience organised through colleges or independent learning providers to form part of the programmes.
College principals had warned this would have been unfair on students who, for example, attended a course four days a-week and did a part-time job on their day off to help pay their way through education.
Such youngsters would have been forced to give up their paid employment to leave enough time to complete the required amount of unpaid work experience.
But DfE has told FE Week of new guidance.
A spokesperson said: “Work experience and supported internships will be funded where the provider has planned, organised and supervised the placement and it forms a part of the student’s study programme.
“Work experience or part time work organised by a student independently to their course would not be funded.
“However, teaching time spent helping students ensure that the part-time work they are undertaking directly benefits their study goals could be.”
And Marina Gaze, Ofsted’s deputy director for FE and skills, told FE Week: “We are fully aware that some learners develop good employability skills while on paid employment they have arranged privately.
“Having discussed this with the DfE, we can confirm that this activity can be included as part of the 16 to 19 study programmes, but only if the provider is involved in the learner’s development.”
Andrew Patience, principal of new College Stamford, was one of those to previously raise the issue. He said: “I am delighted that reason has prevailed and DfE and Ofsted have obviously changed their views. It’s a good thing that valuable, paid work can now be taken into account.”
George Trow, principal of Doncaster College, agreed the concession was “entirely sensible”. He said: “Paid work experience already set up by our students is an important introduction for them to the world of employment. Many students need to work part-time and during their holidays to pay their way through college.”
Donald Taylor, chairman of the Learning and Performance Institute, which represents independent learning providers, said: “Learning at work is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. Whether you are fully-employed, work part-time or a student, what you learn is valuable and should be recognised as such.”
Vanessa Potter, from West Sussex-based independent learning provider Asphaleia, said: “The move will further reduce barriers to increased participation, thus supporting learners, education providers and employers to embrace statutory requirements.
“Study programmes are now a more viable and attractive option for many learners.”
The DfE spokesperson said: “Work experience or part-time work can be of real benefit to students in developing employability skills — particularly if this work is relevant to the course they are undertaking.
“This is something that the DfE and Ofsted would encourage.”
The Education Funding Agency also confirmed that, “only work experience with external employers should be counted towards and recorded as a work experience learning aim from 2014/15.
“Simulated work environments should be separately recorded as non-qualification activity.”