Colleges and training providers will have some flexibility over the extra funding going in to 16 to 19 study programmes from August, but leaders warn funding rates will still not be high enough.
As part of the government’s education recovery package announced in October’s spending review, an extra £800 million has been committed over the next three academic years to fund an additional 40 learning hours for students on 16 to 19 study programmes and T Levels.
This will increase the national FE base rate by 8.4 per cent – rising from £4,188 to £4,542.
There was little detail at the time about how the extra funds can be spent by providers with concerns raised about possible restrictions on how the funds can be used and increased bureaucracy.
Spending review documents described how extra study time “will be used for extra teaching and learning – including in English, maths and other subjects – depending on a students’ individual needs”.
The Department for Education published further guidance today which suggests providers will have more control over how to spend the extra funding than originally thought. It outlines acceptable uses of the extra funds, including more time on qualifications and supporting students who need extra help with maths.
While the “primary focus” remains more time for teaching and learning, providers will be able to use to provide mental health and wellbeing support around a students’ individual needs.
The examples provided include extra help with exam resilience and study skills, enrichment activities to “build social connection” and one to one therapeutic work with a mental health specialist.
Providers are warned, however, that non-qualification activity like this must be put in place according to the needs of individual students, rather than spent on generic activities for whole groups of students, such as through tutorials.
In return, providers will be expected to submit a “short” end of year report so the agency can check the extra funding is being spent appropriately. Although the agency advises that these reports should be no more than two pages in length, they list eight points that must be covered.
David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges said: “It feels like this retains flexibility for colleges to do what they need to do to support learners to succeed. We’ve worked closely with officials to make sure they didn’t end up with massive new bureaucracy for what is a marginal amount of hours which is marginally funded.”
Neil Thomas, principal and chief executive at Dudley College of Technology told FE Week that “it is good to see maths and wider support being recognised as we are seeing a lot more students with these needs”.
The Sixth Form Colleges Association welcomed today’s guidance, describing it as “sensible and proportionate”.
James Kewin, the association’s deputy chief executive, said: “We particularly welcome the fact that activities linked to mental health support will be funded through these additional hours.
“When combined with the wider announcements in the spending review, our members now have a degree of certainty on 16 to 19 funding they have not had for some time, along with a material increase in per student funding”.
While welcomed by college leaders, this extra funding will do little to ease impending cost pressures on next year’s budgets, such as staff pay awards, rising energy costs, inflation and the national insurance increase.
Hughes agreed that the funding “doesn’t address the cost pressures facing colleges”.
“Also, we shouldn’t have had to have had a pandemic to get the extra hours. We’ve been arguing for extra hours for five years based on comparators with every other OECD country where we lag a long way behind,” he added.
“It’s also a shame that it’s only funded at a marginal rate, when the overall funding rate for 16 to 18 is still 10 per cent behind where it was in 2010 at the end of the spending review.”