The government announced in August that from next May they will be cutting some 16-18 apprenticeship framework funding rates by over 50% in the most deprived parts of the country.

Well, when I say announced, what I mean is they published a searchable spreadsheet with the new rates, so I had to work out the implications myself.

FE Week published the analysis on 19 August, which – with the help of over 50 MPs – found its way into the Guardian, Independent and Mirror.

On Wednesday we launched our first official campaign in parliament, with the simple ambition to encourage the government to rethink this part of their reforms.

For all those that sent in their support, or anyone in any doubt of our ability to mobilise around a worthy cause, the following is an account of how the day unfolded.

Before midday, during an Education Select Committee, the Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, was quizzed by Catherine McKinnell MP about “very serious concerns” to 16-18 apprenticeships rate cuts. Ms Greening responded, “It’s a consultation. And we need to get on with the apprenticeship levy” and also added “we need to try and make sure we get it right.”

Reference to a consultation was a promising start to the day, as the government had barely acknowledged the cuts. Until this point they had been holding the line that there would be much more apprenticeship funding overall and they were just simplifying the system.

Ok, so the three-week consultation might have officially ended on 5 September, and change to the rates didn’t feature as a consultation question, but at least there was an acknowledgement now that the government was listening on this specific issue.

Less than an hour later, the Prime Minister came to the dispatch box – literally – for her weekly question time. To her surprise, she was asked by Richard Burden MP about the 30 to 50 percent apprenticeship rate cuts and her view on the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) “car crash” criticism.

The PM responded to say she didn’t recognise the situation, which promoted an independent fact-checking charity, Full Fact, to take a look.

They agreed with the analysis, concluding “some popular apprenticeship schemes for 16-18 year olds could receive between 30% and 50% less funding for each apprentice”.

As for the IMI, well, their boss was less than impressed, going on record with FE Week to say it was “typical of this administration. They are either deliberately misunderstanding or, like a drunk man in a china shop, they are unaware they’re about to break everything,” 

Shortly after PMQs, the official #SaveOurApprenticeships campaign event began in a parliament committee room, as well as online, where it was at one point trending on Twitter as the fourth most used hashtag in the whole of the UK.

Even before my welcome, the event started with the new Skills Minister Robert Halfon encouraging me to get over 100 people into the committee room early and he then shook everyone’s hand personally. 

So, Mr Halfon, prove you can be persuaded by measured and evidence-based debate

I had invited the minister to address the room, given he holds the key to undoing the rate cuts, but he was of course not supporting the campaign, which runs against his own policy.

However, on the specific purpose of the campaign, to reverse the rate cuts, he conceded: “We need to look at all of those figures and we are, that is the purpose of the consultation, I expect that there will be some people who are concerned but again, as I say, that is the purpose of the consultation.”

You can read a full transcript of what he said here as well as his related opinion piece in FE Week here.

At the end of his speech he directly addressed Gordon Marsden and David Lammy, who had helped organise the launch event, and said: “I am not annoyed by what Gordon and David are doing, I actually welcome it because it helps us with our thinking. If I were them, I would be doing exactly the same thing.”

So, where does that leave us?

It leaves us with nobody in any doubt, right up to the PM, that this is an issue many MPs are now campaigning about.

The impact on 16-18 funding rates first reported by FE Week has now been verified by a fact-checking charity, so who would dispute that left unresolved, it will damage the government’s credibility around boosting social mobility and justice?

So, Mr Halfon, this is perhaps your first opportunity as apprenticeships minister to prove consultations can be influenced by measured and evidence-based debate.

To date, you’ve said all the right things, now do the right thing and put an end to any apprenticeship funding cuts that hit the youngest and most disadvantaged hardest.

FE Week campaign launch
FE Week campaign launch

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  1. PBD strongly supports this campaign. Simplification is fine and we understand that the government wants to encourage the move to new standards. But in many sectors, no standards are yet available. The scale of these proposed cuts will force many providers to abandon apprenticeship training, while those that remain will have to charge employers well above the government cap in order to make ends meet. As drafted, these proposal will be catastrophic for quality, for apprenticeship recruitment and for jobs. Read our consultation response at

  2. I support the campaign. The consequence of these cuts is that specialist low volume high industry demand apprenticeships, such as in technical theatre, will end. It won’t be economically viable to run them. Far from increasing employer and learner choice it will decrease it. Where’s the social mobility in that!

  3. I support the #SaveOurApprenticeships campaign. The huge cuts in funding (up to 50% for some of our most popular apprenticeships)are unsustainable and it is the young people who will be hit hardest. The additional services that we provide for 16-18 year olds such as interview skills, a recruitment service to place them into employment and the ongoing pastoral support are essential to their successful transition into the workplace. The proposed funding cuts will jeopardise these services and reduce the opportunities for young people to find and sustain work and training. I hope that the SFA and Robert Halfon live up to their promise of listening to the consultation results and re-think these damaging cuts.

  4. Beverley Slynn

    I support this campaign, it would appear this proposal was made by people who have absolutely no understanding of the impact this will have on young people who want to take the apprenticeship route at 16.

  5. I support this campaign.

    Even for Stem subjects there is a significant impact – we have modelled with one of our major engineering employers Framework 539 – Mechanical Manufacturing Engineering. Using standard 16-18 and 19-23 learners (ie no area weighting, no disadvantage uplift, no large employer reduction) the rates arrived at are as follows:

    16-18 £15325
    19-23 £5786

    Using the initial funding guidance received (at para 14)if you then apply the 80% loading to the £5786 rate giving a funding value of £10414.80 – it also states in the same paragraph 14 that the framework will then be allocated to the nearest funding band effectively rounding this down to the Band 9 £9000 band (which is in line with the Government linked banding tables) rather than up to the Band 10 rate of £12000.

    In effect this reduces the amount of funding available to each 16-18 learner by £6325 if the proposal is adopted in its current form. If a learner had been 19+ this would of course be an increase of £3214 per learner. From a funding viewpoint in 2015/16 our starts by age profile for Engineering on level 3 programmes was roughly 2/3 16-18 with 1/3 19+ so in effect for every 100 learners (we support 175+ starts per year)funded on the new rules we will receive c. £318k less over the life of the programme.

    As we discussed this confirms (based on our current understanding) that any new starts post 30/4/17 would be funded from the Levy at the maximum rate of £9000. This will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible to deliver a viable programme unless the new standard is in place by the time your new starts commence in September 2017, or the Government adjusts its current proposals, or Employers all agree to make an additional payment outside their levy pot or we as a provider run at a loss for the period leading up to the standards launch and negotiate prices to recover these losses over the longer period. This reinforces the point that even for 16-18 stem learners there will be a significant impact on funding and Apprentice recruitment.

  6. I support this campaign. If these proposals go ahead the impact on apprenticeships for young people will be massive and runs the real risk that some pathways will disappear since they will not be deliverable within the proposed funding rates. SME and micro businesses offer really valuable apprenticeship opportunities for young people but they will not be in a position to make up this shortfall. Hopefully this campaign can raise the profile of these damaging cuts and allow apprenticeships to continue to be a valuable progression route for learners of all ages.

    • Judith Butler

      I support this campaign. If we are to encourage young people who wish to progress into apprenticeships then the colleges need the financial backing and support from the government to be able to deliver a quality training experience and develop future skills. Cuts to funding are discouraging and frustrating for colleges wishing to offer the very best quality of training to a 16/18 year olds – investment is required at this early stage to help a young person on their chosen career path. Lots of support is required as it can be quite daunting the transition from school to the workplace.

  7. I Support the campaign

    These cuts to the funding of Apprenticeships will have a massive impact both on providers and the number and type of Apprenticeships we can offer and this will have an obvious knock on effect on young people on what is available to them.

    We feel this will be especially felt in rural parts of the country like us in the Southwest where travel costs of visiting employers is high.

    If you pay £125 a month for an Apprenticeship that either means a drop in quality or many less Apprenticeships being offered.

  8. I support the #SaveOurApprenticeships campaign. The huge cuts in funding (up to 50% for some apprenticeships)are unsustainable and it is the 16-18 year old age group who will be hit hardest. The proposed funding cuts will jeopardise the delivery of services and reduce the opportunities for young people to find and sustain work and training. This will also force many quality providers to pull out of delivering training in apprenticeships.

  9. John Parker

    I support the #SaveOurApprenticeships campaign. The huge cuts in funding are unsustainable and it is the 16-18 year old age group who will be hit the hardest.

    This will force many providers currently delivering excellent training programmes to pull out of the delivery of apprenticeship training.

  10. James Stockdale

    I absolutely support this campaign. The levy is fraught with risk, as it has not been fully tested (I’d also say the same about the trailblazer standards in many cases). Steve Nash from the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) is 100% spot on – this is a car crash waiting to happen and if the brakes are not put on soon, with further detailed consideration given – we could be looking at irreparable damage to the Apprenticeship brand. #saveourApprenticeships

  11. Chris Bradley

    I support this campaign. Perhaps those involved in the “informed” decision making process did not read Professor Alison Wolf’s report which prompted the levy, or maybe it has just been dismissed. The report says:

    “Under current funding arrangements, three million new apprenticeships would leave funding of only £2567 available per apprentice. Currently, only two apprenticeship frameworks, out of more than 200, receive government support below £3000, meaning it will be impossible to meet the three million target and improve the quality and labour market relevance of apprenticeships at the same time.”

    I know this campaign is about the huge 16-18 funding rate reduction however in general terms how can the government/SFA actually believe that having three funding bands below £3,000 is realistic in light of the above report’s findings? Unbelievable!

  12. I support this campaign – young people who are not academic and need a vocational route will be disenfranchised by these swathing cuts to funding. Increase in University tuition fees will also put many young people off the idea of staying on at school to take this route and we need to provide them with a high quality and respected alternative.

  13. I very much support this campaign. We must ensure there is real joined up thinking to ensure all 16-18 year olds have top quality choices and opportunities no matter what their ambitions are. It is unthinkable that a policy can be allowed to target those with the most to lose.

  14. I support the #SaveOurApprenticeships campaign.
    Not only will the cuts disadvantage young people. It will put traning providers out of business as they will not be able to deliver the quality needed for the funding proposed.

  15. I wholeheartedly support the #SaveOurApprenticeships campaign. Funding cuts of up to 50% for some apprenticeships are unsustainable in the long-term. It will also limit the opportunities for young people to find and sustain work and training. These cuts will also force many high quality providers to pull out of delivering training in apprenticeships. How will this help the Government to achieve its target of 3m apprenticeships by 2020?

  16. Gail Dalton-Ayres

    I support this campaign….funding cuts on this scale will have a serious impact as less funding means less quality provision out there as providers can not provide like for like quality provision with such drastic funding cuts.
    Learner will lose out in the end …government will never reach its targets – no one wins here!

  17. Derek Street

    This has my full support, once again the Government prioritise an initiative such as apprenticeships, set unrealistic targets and then of course reduce the funding, there will then be another review disguising why the project did not work.

    If this is a Government priority funding should be increased in order to support its success.

  18. I Support this campaign 100%, I have worked with Apprenticeships for more years than I care to admit and if this current proposal goes ahead then the Apprenticeship brand that has been gaining strength over the last few years will suffer irreparable harm, a secondary impact of these proposals could lead to more job losses in the FE Sector as providers react to a further reductions to funding.

  19. I support the campaign. I am very concerned that the removal of funding will have a detrimental effect upon the most disadvantaged in our society. We should not sacrifice the future of our young people by cutting their access to work and training just for the sake of reducing admin! If we are to face the future out of Europe stronger together then we need to improve the nation’s productivity by boosting skills and we need to do that now through apprenticeships.

  20. I support this campaign – These cuts will have a detrimental effect on the growth of 16-18 apprenticeships in areas of deprivation. The funding of level 3 apprenticeships frameworks in particular is so uneconomic for training providers that it will be detrimental to progression in subject areas that have high demand by employers.

  21. James Brooks

    Yet again the Government plan to cut funding for providers delivering apprenticeships, it is almost they don’t understand not all people (youngster 16-18) want to go on to FE at college or university. This was very much the case for me, I took the opportunity to study and train as an electrician via an apprenticeship (the best thing I ever done).
    The Government really need to understand by making cuts after cut after cuts will only ever hinder the productivity of our country!!! as many of these skills are only ever passed on via an apprenticeship by skilled people who have done the profession (like myself now a lecturer for electro-technical). I wonder who will do the electrics, plumbing, building or plastering for example when the skill set is lost because no one has the funding to pass on this valuable knowledge.
    Many studies have shown in the next 15-20 years the UK will be short of all skills sets within construction and engineering, Now the UK is leaving the European Union we cannot rely on additional support provided by European workers. I feel the Government is short sighted and is failing to see the short fall in its forward planning, we must act now to protect our skill sets and productivity.

  22. I support this campaign.
    If you combine the cuts in 16-18 years old funding in construction with lack of deliverable standards in construction means in 12 months we will not have a level 2 entry pathway in any primary trades, the primary entry trades For young people

  23. Lorna Freakley

    I support this campaign, having worked with a range of providers and employers over the last 18 months in ensuring that new apprenticeship standards are understood and the implications of the Levy, these funding cuts will have a significant impact on recruitment.

  24. Berenika Wilkins

    I fully support this campaign. The government needs to reconsider not only the proposed disastrous funding cuts to 16-18 apprenticeships but also their suggested timetable for the new RoATP, transitional arrangements for existing apprentices and subcontracting.

  25. Lindsey Johnson

    I support this campaign! The reduction in rates will make some frameworks unaffordable to deliver to a high quality standard, including some which are key to our local economy (e.g. agriculture, construction).

    The end result will reduce opportunities for young people, with fewer employers able to find quality apprenticeship provision in their local area, and whole sectors uncatered for.

  26. I Support this campaign #saveourapprenticeships

    16-18 Year old funding is used to not only train this age group but also pays for;

    A youth recruitment team to source Apprenticeship vacancies and fill with the most suitable candidate

    Secondary school interaction to provide IAG for students & teachers on the benefits of the Apprenticeship & traineeship schemes

    Interview ready & CV writing workshop’s to fill a huge skills gap with school leavers

    Without Providers Promoting the benefits of employing a 16-18 year old apprentice to employers – how will these vital vacancies be sourced?

    How will young people access Apprenticeships?
    How will this keep our school leavers in Education & training until 18?
    How will this help fight youth unemployment?

    We cannot allow the lion’s share of funding to be used to upskill 19+ learners already in employment. This is what will happen if we do not fight the 16-18 funding reforms!

  27. Graham Plant

    I support this campaign. The perfect storm is gathering, rate cuts, 16-18 education requiring co-investment, bespoke Standards not fit for all, levy payers expected to carry the load, area reviews, strategic planning required for next May with so many variables… the list goes on!

  28. I fully support this campaign. If the government wants young people to have the opportunity to secure a future career, investment is needed in apprenticeships.It is the only way to learn a vocational trade and secure a future career for many young people. I spend most of my time trying to find apprenticeship jobs for learners and that’s what is important.The new RoATP and its timetable is also a concern but funding to help learners gain an apprenticeship should not be an issue. Stop wasting money on full time vocational training courses with no apprenticeship job outcomes and put the money into apprenticeships based on a day release basis. The skills shortages in construction should be seen as an opportunity.

  29. Chris Ward

    I support this campaign. The proposed funding changes will jeopardise the number of small businesses prepared to recruit an apprentice and consequently damage the opportunity for less academic young people to benefit from the apprenticeship routeway into permanent employment and training. The cuts will impact the quality of training that can be provided, the Government should reconsider.

  30. We at Yourfeed support this campaign! We have a 22 year old CEO who is a brilliant case study for apprenticeships. As a Young Entrepreneur, Jack is changing the face of youth employment and has pledged to connect 2 million millennials to commercial opportunities by 2020. Anyway we can support just let us know! You can find out more about Jack at Maybe worth getting in touch.

  31. Stephen Millross

    Well done. Maybe it will force some politicians to confront the reality gap between what they claim they would like to happen and what is likely to happen if they act the way they intend to.

  32. I support this campaign!! The proposal regarding reducing 16-18 funding will put many smaller providers out of business; how are we meant to run a business on between 50- 70% less funding? I believe there will be a massive decrease in apprenticeship provision should this go ahead. I am also concerned regarding the timeline for RoATP, transitional arrangements for learners and subcontracting changes

  33. Gemma Gathercole

    I support this campaign. With these reforms, the government is reaching far and wide and attempting to do so incredibly quickly. As a result, the apprenticeship brand could be irrecoverably damaged. I can understand why the government want to promise employers a ‘simple’ system, however, the is a link between simplicity and fairness that cannot be ignored. These reforms will remove vital money from programmes run in areas where staff costs are higher and more crucially remove money from learners in deprived areas and the youngest learners in the apprenticeship programme that require more intervention and support than will be available to them in future. This is wrong. Money collected by the levy becomes public money and with public money comes a requisite level of complexity that should be understood.

  34. I support this campaign. We are passionate about delivering high quality apprenticeships which meet the local needs of employers. However, I am concerned that the funding changes may result in us having to re-evaluate whether or not it is affordable to continue in this area of work.

  35. Mark Andrews

    I fully support this campaign. I have re-calculated the funding my college would receive on STEM programmes only (by far the best funded under the new regime), and like for like funding for my current 16/17 end date cohort is 15% down before any disadvantage uplifts are taken into account. This totally flies in the face of the policy commitment to STEM subjects and to the idea of widening participation to areas where delivery is much more costly.

  36. Ian Cassidy

    I fully support his campaign.I am concerned that we are being steamrollered into all of these reforms without the people that are making the decisions fully understanding the implications of their decisions.

    The current system is not broken, but needs some improvements. Please talk to the people that know what is best for apprentices. These reforms could make a real mess of things and leave a very damaging legacy for apprenticeships in the future.

  37. I support this campaign. 16-18 funding needs to be maintained for apprenticeships to continue to engage this age group of young people and offer a genuine vocational option for young people from A levels and College courses.
    Apprenticeships are a proven vehicle into sustained employment, as evidenced by many people I meet on a day to day basis and includes myself.

  38. I support this campaign. These changes will hit the small businesses hard. The landbased sector is predominantly small businesses with an ageing work force and their is need to support apprentices in this area.

  39. I support this campaign. Government should be most concerned with true value for money, which often means paying fair rates. Not to do so encourages a mentality (too often becoming a reality) of “cutting corners,” to the cost of industry and to The Country’s young people.

  40. Jeff Lester

    I fully support this campaign. It makes no sense, the government making statements that we need more apprentices and then saying “Oh by the way we will expect you to pay for it, not us”. you cant have it both ways. we need more apprentices to bolster an ever decreasing experienced workforce. without the monetary support, we will go on decreasing this experience and rely on more outside influence and help. get back to the great workforce we used to have and the envy of the world.

  41. I completely support this campaign. The Apprenticehip programme may well flourish for large corporate employers under the reforms, but for every other employer there is no way that the programme can be sustained. Whilst providers and employers will certainly struggle, the worst thing is that young people will lose out on massive opportunities.

  42. Paul O'Neill

    I fully support this campaign and agree with the “china shop” analogy. Matthew Hancock and Doug Richard have started a real catastrophe without fully managing to achieve the first aim.

  43. I agree with the warnings above. The funding rate changes, and the move to end assessment, will directly and indirectly discriminate against learners who have already been repeatedly ‘failed’ (in both senses) by the education system who I am often able to use the current apprenticeships model to turn around in life; it looks like many of the apprenticeship programmes and types currently on offer will cease to be financially viable for providers, closing those career paths off completely to would-be apprentices.

  44. Janet Robinson

    I totally support this campaign. How the government can think that we are able to deliver high quality apprenticeships on a shoe string beats me. This will cause some good Training providers to go as cannot sustain the delivery and operations of the programme. Young people will be disadvantaged and remain thinking the only route is 6th Form and A levels and Colleges and Training providers will move their provisions to the most higher banded sectors. A disaster just waiting to happen. Let’s get this right for the sake of apprenticeships

  45. Jean Rogers

    I fully support this campaign. If the proposed funding cuts stand it will be financially impossible to provide quality training for our apprentices, especially in remote areas in the South West . Why has so much been offered to STEM related occupational areas whilst savagely cutting the more traditional trades like hairdressing and construction? We will lose some excellent training providers who are able to successfully promote and deliver quality apprenticeships and will fail young people with aspirations that will not be fulfilled.

  46. Excellent and very worthwhile campaign. It should be of really concern that the implications of the proposed changes including the rates will have a major impact on supply and the capacity to see through the reforms. Ultimately this will, at its worse, damage the economy longer term.

  47. Jacqui Henderson

    FE Weekly is to be commended for having launched this campaign. Having been involved from the very early days of the revival of apprenticeships I am devastated at the new proposals. I fully support this campaign and strongly urge others to add their name to the list. It will damage the future of our young people, deny employers of the highly skilled young employees they need and have a negative effect on our whole economy.

  48. I support the campaign wholeheartedly. Everyone needs to see the benefits of Apprenticeships and especially how hard it can be to encourage employers to invest just time let alone money onto training and qualifications. Please back this campaign.