The Association of Employment and Learning Providers have raised concern over a clause in the Non-Levy Funding ITT around DfE sign off on press releases and media contact surrounding the Non-Levy Funding contract. Within the terms of the contract sent out by the Education and Skills Funding Agency, clause 25.2 states:
The Text of any press release or other communication to be published by or in the media concerning the subject matter or this contract shall require the approval of each party which shall not be unreasonably witheld or delayed.
A DfE spokesperson commented “This clause is not designed to block providers speaking to the media or communicating their work in any way. This is simply to make sure that communications are agreed by both parties involved – something which is not new to ESFA contracts and is common in contacts such as this. We work closely with providers to support their work and promote the benefits their training brings to people across the country.”
Concern has been raised across the sector that if this ‘media’ clause was enforced, the DfE would be overwhelmed with the sheer volume of press releases and requests for contact with the media. Surely the department doesn’t need to approve every press release or contact with the media?
National Apprenticeship Week has been a huge success in celebrating Apprenticeships and improving the Apprenticeship brand with the general public, employers, learners, future learners and families of learners. The volume of press releases during National Apprenticeship Week would be huge, if a bottle neck of press releases or media approval occurred during National Apprenticeship Week, surely this would work against building the Apprenticeship brand, rather than promoting Apprenticeships.
Mark Dawe, Chief Executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) comments: “We never said that the government was trying to block communications between providers and the media. Our concern relates to the practicalities of ESFA staff having to approve hundreds of local press releases about individual apprentices which often have to be turned around very quickly.
“AELP is not aware of this provision ever being included in previous ESFA and SFA skills contracts and if it has been, it has certainly never been enforced. The clause needs to be reviewed before contracts are signed.”
My Two Pennies Worth from Gavin O’Meara, CEO of FE News:
At FE News we have been working hard to promote best practice across the sector for the past 14 years. Colleges, Providers, Awarding Organisations and employers struggle to make time to share their good news stories as it is. The sector has so many brilliant examples of how Apprenticeships have made a massive impact to individual learners, to employers, to communities and families. This should be celebrated and shared.
Apprenticeships are a brand, it only takes one negative article to counter 50 good news stories. With this in mind, we need to push the positive news in the sector, which far out weighs the very few negative things that are happening in the sector.
Adding in the potential of DfE Press Release and Media sign off is going to surely create a further unnecessary hurdle. We should be celebrating best practice, we should be celebrating how an Apprenticeship has made a difference to the social mobility of a learner, how it has positively impacted their family, community and how Apprenticeships improve the productivity or bottom line for an employer. Surely we should be encouraging more good news to promote the Apprenticeship brand in a positive light, not swamping the poor DfE media team with media requests and press release sign off’s.
What do you think? Should DfE have to sign off any press release or contact with the media about Non Levy Funding?
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