NIACE chief executive David Hughes

There have been no applications for the adult learner loans announced earlier this year for higher-level or advanced Apprenticeships, according to figures out today.

In total there were 8679 applications for the loans aimed at learners aged 24 and over studying at Level 3 or 4.

However, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) has warned that this represents only around 2% of the total number of people learning at this level in 2010/11.

The loans, called 24+ Advanced Learning Loans, apply to those starting their course or Apprenticeship on or after 1 August 2013.

NIACE chief executive David Hughes said the figures raise questions over whether the whole £129 million of funding for this programme will be utilised.

"From the start we have been particularly concerned about whether loans will work for the Apprenticeship programme," he said.

"The fact there has not been a single loan application from apprentices is extremely worrying, especially if this leads to older adults not being able to access higher-level or advanced Apprenticeships. The Government's own figures assume that loans for Apprenticeships by 2014/15 will be a third of the overall take-up. This data suggests that the Government needs to take specific action to ensure the implementation of loans is a success.

"While there were always likely to be teething issues following the introduction of loans, anything that risks stopping adults from accessing higher level opportunities to progress further with their learning is something that cannot be ignored. Adult learning has a key role to play in ensuring a sustained economic recovery and in the wider benefits that learning will bring to individuals and communities. We will continue to support the sector and to monitor these figures closely to see how they develop as we get closer to September."

Natalie Thornhill

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