From education to employment

New Business Rules cuts funding for over 1400 qualifications

The Skills Funding Agency’s Technical Guidance for its new Business Rules published last week sets out the process and business rules that it will use to approve qualifications for funding in 2014/15.

The Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) has expressed their concern that “the new rules and the resultant significant reduction in the number of qualifications eligible for public funding will have serious implications for awarding bodies but also for the breadth of the offer available to providers and learners.” The latter is of crucial importance – increasing the credit value of qualifications just to meet the new minimum thresholds without careful consideration of the coherence of the programme is not the solution.

The increased threshold for Level 2 and 3 qualifications mean that L2/3 Awards on the QCF will no longer be eligible for funding; awarding organisations have a window of opportunity to put the case for retaining some of these qualifications. However, there were shifts from the original proposals and the news is better than originally anticipated for Entry Level and Level 1 provision; OCN London welcomes the reduction from the original proposed minimum threshold of 12 credits to 6; good news for those adults returning to learning seeking to achieve in small steps as they build confidence to continue and progress – integral to the original purpose of the QCF.

There are other shifts which are to be welcomed including the option to seek FE support for qualifications (rather than just employer support) and the opportunity for a broader range of progression provision with a clear and explicit purpose to be funded rather than a complete focus on employability.
Awarding organisations will need to review their qualification portfolio against the rules and make decisions to either amend those qualifications to meet the new rules, accept that there is a market for the qualifications as they stand, outside of the publicly funded arena or develop a new offer.

However, a studied analysis of their offer for each awarding organisation will be time consuming and resource intensive, involving consultation with providers and employers where appropriate; all of this work needs to take place by November.

As we celebrate 30 years of the Open College Network in London and the achievements of the OCN movement in gaining funding, recognition and accreditation for adult learning, the long-term impact of these changes remain unknown. We recognise and endorse the need to provide learners with a meaningful programme of learning and our hope is that these new funding rules will have less of an impact on accredited provision for adults wanting to improve their lives through education than previously feared.

Jacquie Mutter is acting chief executive of OCN London, a national awarding organisation offering support to FE providers planning to start up an Access programme

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