Changes to the allocation of Adult Learner Responsive (ALR) funding have left scores of colleges and training providers up and down the country with an immense feeling of apprehension and the likelihood of a great deal of disruption for the months ahead.
Although it is understandable that cuts have had to be made by the Government – it’s in everyone’s long-term interests to attempt to reduce the national debt after all – it now comes down to those affected to try and pick up the pieces. However the manner in which education leaders deal with the situation in the immediate future will reflect on how well the sector recovers later down the line.
With the new funding and regional management structure in place, the further education sector is unfortunately left to deal with the gaping holes in the current system caused by the vast funding cuts across the adult learning sector and centre leaders are left wondering, quite literally, where their next penny is coming from.
As one of the UK’s leading qualification providers, NCFE has in recent months been faced with an urgent need to understand and decide how to fill those gaps and has identified real, tangible solutions to what has instantly become such a widespread problem and cause for concern.
The work of our experienced, in-house research team has led us to determine which qualifications will be supported by the ALR funding stream from September 2010 and those which will not be funded in this way. To account for the latter we have been working hard to identify alternative streams of funding that will help us to fill the gaps, in a bid to pre-empt the cuts.
We have worked hard to ensure that the resources are there for centres to work with and we continue to monitor the situation to keep up to date with any changes and opportunities available. Our business development teams for example have been re-briefed on funding priorities to be able to provide the most current advice to our customers, which is vital in these times.
Looking to the future
Although developmental learning has indeed been severely cut, the overall ALR funding pot has increased by 1.7 per cent and several new funding streams have emerged.
The largest funding cuts in the developmental learning sector have focused on qualifications such as those that are not full level two or three qualifications, as well as Skills for Life and Foundation Learning qualifications. However we’ve also seen areas that do remain eligible for funding, such as Initial Teacher Training courses and provision for Learners with Learning Difficulties and Disabilities (LLDD).
Organisations like NCFE have been doing all they can to ensure that colleges, training providers and other organisations are well-informed regarding the changes, developments and current products available in order to provide the best value, customer care and above all else, efficient service to alleviate the current strain.
For example, at NCFE we have invested a great deal of time, effort and resources into developing a wide new suite of qualifications that not only appeal to a variety of learners, but will also be available through the ALR funding stream. It is important for the sector to remain accessible to all those who want to learn by offering qualifications in a variety of subjects that will help broaden people’s knowledge, expand their horizons and ultimately aid the economy into a long awaited recovery.
Our most recent development is the compilation of useful timetables and instant alerts, which illustrate exactly when our qualifications will make the transition from the NQF to QCF framework.
There is no denying that the FE sector is in a period of great change and with the upcoming election well within sight, things are sure to remain as shaky as ever over the coming months as distinct policies and plans are established. However it is important for all organisations to remain optimistic in the meantime. This sector is never going to be free from its funding problems, and never has it been more important for awarding bodies like ourselves to pave the way for our customers and centres to ensure that we embark on a swift road to recovery.
David Grailey is the chief executive of NCFE, the qualification awarding body
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