Peter Marples, Co-Founder, Promote-Ed

So with great anticipation the Secretary of State for education and his Skills Minister has delivered no flexibility to the PTP part of the skills sector. It wasn’t a surprise to me given the requests put forward, particularly for funding that were never deliverable.

I was surprised they didn’t relax the requirement for EPAO to support learners at the gateway but that was about the only concession I could ever see coming. With EPAO’s laying off Associates, there is going to be a major backlog when normal service resumes.

After all, PTP’s are no different to any other private business and the package of support offered by the chancellor is available for all. It would have been impossible to guarantee funding, there is no difference between a PTP and a Private Nursery Provider who receives most of its income from the Government.

I might be missing something but for Apprenticeship providers in the main, on programme payments will continue for the foreseeable future and the process of supporting learners will continue - so evidencing it will becomes relatively easy. I accept this may not be the case in every sector, such as hospitality where withdrawals will be significant but that doesn’t impact everyone.

So my message is clear, stay positive and plan because there is a way through this:

  1. Review your staff lists and furlong staff who aren’t in contact with learners,
  2. Increase case loads because contact will be less regular and you will get through it, even without the business interruption loan !
  3. If you can’t see the way ahead, give us a call at Promote-Ed, our time is free of charge, so use us!
  4. Follow the action plan we published over 10 days ago and you will get through this.

For the large providers, who in the main are private equity owned - they may just have to put some more cash in, after all they will have paid little corporation tax with their fancy structuring. What will be clear is that the decisions won’t be made by the CEO’s of those providers in the forthcoming days. But that’s a discussion for another day.

For smaller providers, you are nimble and flexible and in my view you will be the winners in all of this. It might not feel like it today, but you are hungrier and will come through it.

But as we exit this unprecedented place we find ourselves in, sooner rather than later I hope for you all, it is time to consider and take action so ‘PTP’s are allowed at the ball in future’.

  • We need to look at what a membership body for the PTP sector looks like going forward. It needs to be representative of all providers, inclusive and transparent, not just looking after the interests of the large providers that dominate its board and membership. I applaud David Hughes at the AoC, he has been political, savvy, calm and has delivered for his members. 
  • The ESFA need to show greater leadership and management. They may have been working hard I have no doubt, but hard is not smart. There is however a deeper issue, the role and value they believe PTP’s fill in the skills sector, after all without them there would be little Apprenticeship activity or AEB for that matter. They would never have been able to deliver most of requests put forward by the AELP in the past 2 weeks - but they must come forward and show leadership in times of adversity. Where is Elaine Milner and Keith Smith - silent!
  • The Minister I am sure has only endorsed what she was asked to or briefed on. Don’t blame her when she was being given the civil service ‘spin’, who just happen to be the same people who have been in the same roles, presiding over the same disasters for the past 15 years. It’s the civil servants that need to be accountable!
  • There has never been a level playing field with Colleges nor should the PTP’s expect one. When normal service resumes, we should consider a single representative body for the whole of the Skills sector, perhaps run by David Hughes and the AoC? One powerful voice, politically savvy and delivering real value for its members. 

But all is not lost, the sector is resilient, there will be casualties, take the time to relaunch programmes so they are even better and more employer focussed and above all, as I said a number of weeks ago before this virus struck us, there will be new models of working established, serving all your learners and employers even better.

Peter Marples, Co-Founder, Promote-Ed

If you need an ear, talk to us at Promote-Ed for practical advice, totally free of charge

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