Latest Policy News

Adult Education Budget turmoil

TSNLA Chief Executive Tim Ward has written an article for FE Week criticising the ESFA for “riding rough-shod over the work of many vital third sector providers”.  In the hard-hitting article, he outlines how the recent contracting process has stripped many third sector (and other) adult learning providers of the vital funds they need even to exist, let alone address the needs of their learners. 

The recent procurement process removed at least 50% of funding from some providers ‘without consultation, debate or consideration of the impact’, claims Mr Ward.  Many of the affected providers had been praised by Ofsted for their work in supporting vulnerable learners to progress to further learning and work.  

Tim Ward also wrote an open letter to Peter Lauener, Chief Executive of ESFA, outlining the negative impact of the process, and a further one to the Secretary of State.

Following this representation from the TSNLA and others, the ESFA has since offered additional funding in the 'run-down' contract allowing successful providers to continue to offer 'non-priority' provision for 17/18 only.  But even this required TSNLA CEO Tim Ward to seek clarification, as it was unclear whether the funding was in addition to, or instead of, the award gained under the AEB procurement process. The TSNLA can confirm that it is additional funding and providers will still get the award made to them under the procurement process.

This is good news but the TSNLA will continue to pursue other concerns about the importance of so-called 'non-priority' provision and the position of unsuccessful third sector bidders.

All this comes at a time when FE providers have reportedly failed to spend £200 million of their AEB budget allocations over the past year.  This announcement has angered private and third sector training providers, who were denied adequate funding in the recent AEB procurement exercise while their college and Local Authority competitors were exempt. Many are facing closure due to swingeing cuts in their budgets.

Read more about this and other adult policy developments in the September edition of the TSNLA’s Policy in your Pocket.

Proposed Industrial Strategy

The Prime Minister and the Department for Business, Energy &Industrial Strategy launched a 37-page Green Paper for consultation in January called “Building our Industrial Strategy”. This is part of Theresa May’s post-Brexit plan to reassure businesses worried about the skills gaps. The second “pillar” in the strategy (only behind Investing in Science, Research and Innovation) is Developing Skills. This includes proposals to:

  • Test new “ambitious” approaches to encourage lifelong learning, particularly where industries are changing or in decline. This includes consideration of the role of centres of community learning, looking at individual costs of developing skills, improving outreach, providing better information, and the option to introduce maintenance loans for higher technical education. The Green Paper acknowledges that there is a “growing challenge” with lifelong learning, with people “living and working longer, but training across working life is going down.”
  • Introduce a new system of 15 technical education routes alongside academic ones – already outlined in the Post-16 Skills Plan.
  • Funding new Institutes of Technology to attract more industry specialists, deliver STEM education and provide an alternative to University. These would specialise in technical subjects aligned to the new technical routes at levels 3, 4 and 5 and have “a local focus to deliver qualifications of value that meet the skills needs of local employers”. The extra £170 million capital funding for this will go to existing providers, according to FE Week, providing a “badge of honour” to FE providers that excel at higher-level technical education (similar to the old CoVE status).  It is unclear at this point if independent training providers can apply for the money, or if it will be restricted to colleges.
  • Tackle regional disparities in opportunity and prosperity through better pre-school education, schemes to retain graduates, and measures to increase the take up of apprenticeships.
  • Develop FE Colleges to become centres of excellence in teaching math and English.
  • Improving advanced maths using Professor Sir Adrian Smith’s independent review proposals.
  • Develop a comprehensive careers strategy for technical education, including an “UCAS-style” search mechanism for technical education courses and advice.

The consultation closes on 17 April 2017. To respond, there are 38 questions at the end of the Green Paper.

 Respond to the Green Paper and consultation questions

Innovation in FE & Skills Report

FETL has sponsored a Skills Commission Report titled 'Going Places'.  Lord David Blunkett, Barry Sheerman MP, Dame Ruth Silver and Neil Bates, Principal and CEO of the UK's first college of advanced technology, spoke at the launch in Parliament on the 8th December 2016.

The report, which comes after a FETL funded 10-month inquiry across the UK, focuses on the innovative practices colleges and independent training providers are engaging with up and down the country and, the potential that devolution has for making this innovation more widespread across the system.

Download a copy of the report   

David Hughes from Association of Colleges 'In conversation'

On 24th January, the TSNLA attended an event organised by the Campaign for Learning – In Conversation with AoC Chief Executive David Hughes. Please read the notes to see what he had to say that might be of interest to TSNLA members.

TSNLA response to the proposed re-tendering of AEB budget October 2016

The TSNLA has sent letters to Peter Lauener, Rob Halfon, Richard Atkins, Gordon Marsden and Justine Greening in response to the announcement by the SFA that current Independent Training Providers holding AEB contracts for adult learning will have their contracts terminated next summer, and will need to r e-tender for the work.

Specific issues addressed in this letter include: the lack of a level playing field with large FE Colleges who will not be expected to re-tender for their own contracts, yet can bid for the Third Sector budgets; the vulnerability of Third Sector learning consortia which include many small specialist providers who may by unable to become directly funded; the inconsistency of deciding only this year to apply EU tendering rules when the country has just voted to leave the EU; the absurdity of categorising Third Sector learning providers alongside for-profit organisation;  and the potential devastating on-going impact of Area Reviews and devolution deals that do not include any reference to the third sector.

To see a copy of this letter, see TSNLA response to AEB re-tendering proposals.

The TSNLA have provided a template to personalise and send to local MPs and LEPs.  To write your own letter, see our Template AEB letter for MPs

TSNLA response to Apprenticeship changes October 2016

The TSNLA has sent a letter to Peter Lauener and Rob Halfon raising concerns about some of the changes to Apprenticeships, and the potential negative implications of these.  The changes specifically mentioned are: the new frameworks and their suitability for lower level Apprenticeships; the implications of sub-contracting for the Third Sector due to their current categorisation as Independent Training Providers; and the inadequate funding of Functional Skills.

To see a copy of this letter, please see TSNLA response to Apprenticeship changes

Minister responds to TSNLA letters

The TSNLA has had responses to the above letters, with Robert Halfon reassuring the sector that the SFA hoped to protect providers with AEB budgets below a certain threshold, but saying that while he would be looking at the designation of Third Sector providers and others, there would be no immediate changes. He continued to encourage all providers to engage as much as possible with the development of their local skills plans.

TSNLA have responded to Robert Halfon and Peter Lauener reiterating our concern that the AEB changes will adversely impact the network of small Third Sector providers that either contract directly with the SFA or deliver provision through a Voluntary and Community Sector consortium, by allowing large colleges to tender for the work currently delivered by many of our members. TSNLA is also representing Third Sector providers at an SFA commissioning event to help new commissioners understand what good commissioning looks like from the provider perspective. 

On Apprenticeship Reform, some of the issues raised by TSNLA have now been addressed, including the continuation of subcontracting arrangements (for the time being) and additional funding for those in the most disadvantaged areas. However, TSNLA has written back to the Minster emphasising our concern about overall levels of Apprenticeship funding available for non-levy payers.

As often the Third Sector is “hidden” from government and its agencies because it does not show up at data collection, TSNLA has asked for a specific channel of communication to be established to ensure that the Third Sector can maximise its contribution to the priorities of the SFA and ETA.