Special Westminster debate on apprenticeship cuts tomorrow

A special Westminster Hall debate called by campaigning MP David Lammy into FE Week’s exclusive revelations on apprenticeship funding cuts takes place tomorrow morning.

The debate approved by the House of Commons Backbench Business Committee, which will run from 9.30am until 11am, will see apprenticeship and skills minister Robert Halfon answering tough questions on the controversial reforms.

It comes after FE Week discovered in August that cuts proposed by the Department for Education would cause framework funding rates for 16- to 18-year-olds to tumble by more than half in some of the nation’s most deprived areas.

We subsequently launched the #SaveOurApprenticeships campaign, which successfully called for a government rethink – with DfE announcing on Tuesday it would now pay an extra 20 per cent on the funding band limit for 16-18 year-olds, and £60 million “additional support in areas of disadvantage”.

However, further FE Week analysis into the impact of this u-turn (click here to download) found that while the cuts now aren’t set to be quite as high as before, most frameworks will still feel cuts of 20 per cent or more.

Mr Lammy (pictured above) is expected to say during the debate tomorrow that while the government has gone “some way towards mitigating the worst effects, particularly on cuts for 16-18 year olds and funding for disadvantaged areas”, the “devil is in the detail”.

“Despite this u-turn, areas like my constituency of Tottenham still face huge cuts,” he will add.

He will warn: “There is an FE college in every constituency, so these cuts in funding will directly affect thousands of young people in every single constituency.”

Mr Lammy will also recognise that additional funding to support disadvantaged areas “was quietly scrapped completely in the proposals published in August”, and “last week’s statement promised a ‘simplified version of the current system of support’”.

Yet, he will add, “the minister has told FE Week this [£60 million of additional support] is only guaranteed for one year”.

FE Week’s analysis of the impact of the funding u-turn announcements showed, for example, that with popular sectors such as hairdressing and engineering, at levels two and three respectively, there could still be a maximum drop of 49 to 51 per cent.

Mr Halfon, who will also face questions on apprenticeship reforms at a Sub-Committee on Education, Skills and the Economy hearing, on Wednesday (November 2) told FE Week last week: “Since announcing the proposals for apprenticeship funding, we have listened hard to all the feedback we have received to ensure people can gain the skills they need now and for the future.

“In order to help providers adapt to the new system, we are introducing an additional cash payment equal to 20 per cent of the funding band limit when they train a 16-18 year old on apprenticeship frameworks.

“But we’re not stopping there. I am committed to ensuring that, regardless of background or ability, everyone in the UK has the opportunity to benefit from an apprenticeship –whether to take their first step on the career ladder or progress within their career.

“That’s why we’re investing £60 million in supporting the training of apprentices from the poorest areas”.

FE Week will be going along to Westminster Hall tomorrow morning, so look out for our live tweets as the debate rages.

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