Shadow Education Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey

Thousands of jobs could be lost and the courses relating to many of Britain’s 627,700 #apprentices suspended if @EducationGovUK refuses to follow Government advice to protect independent apprenticeship providers.

The stark warning from Labour has been included in a letter to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson from Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey and Labour’s Shadow Apprenticeships Minister Toby Perkins.

A recent survey from the Association of Education and Learning Providers has found 25 per cent of apprenticeship providers rated their chances of survival as less than 50 per cent without Government support as incomes have crashed due to courses being unable to complete, low new starter numbers, and funding being halted.

The letter from Labour exposes how the Government has failed to respond to previous Ministerial letters on the subject, and comes after one leading provider claimed that without the guidance being followed, their losses “would be unsustainable”.

Rebecca Long Bailey and Toby Perkins have demanded that the Government follows its own guidance from existing budgets to avoid “the appalling impact this could have on hundreds of independent apprenticeship providers and hundreds of thousands of apprentices”.

Their letter has asked for the Education Secretary to “immediately confirm that the department will follow the guidance contained within Cabinet Office Procurement…or explain why the department does not consider it to apply in this case?”

Long-Bailey and Perkins have warned that they will try to force a Parliamentary debate if the Government continues to refuse to give apprenticeship providers a response to their request.

The Cabinet Office Action note 02/20 on supplier relief due to Covid-19 instructs that:

“All contracting authorities should: Urgently review their contract portfolio and inform suppliers who they believe are at risk that they will continue to be paid as normal (even if service delivery is disrupted or temporarily suspended) until at least the end of June.”

Yet the Department for Education have refused to confirm that they will apply that to apprenticeship providers. Instead Government has referred vaguely to ‘support for quality apprenticeship providers’ in a letter to all MPs issued by Minister Gillian Keegan last Friday.

Full Text of Letter

Dear Gavin & Gillian,

We write to follow up on the letter sent by the previous shadow Apprenticeships Minister, Emma Hardy MP to Gillian Keegan on 25th March 2020, concerning the crisis facing independent apprenticeship providers.

The crisis has been exacerbated by the Department for Education’s failure, thus far, to follow the Cabinet Office’s Procurement Guidance. We want to stress the appalling impact this could have on hundreds of independent apprenticeship providers and hundreds of thousands of apprentices.

We are not aware of any substantive reply to Emma’s letter nor to her Parliamentary Question which the department was unable to answer today. I am aware that Mark Dawe on behalf of The Association of Education and Learning Providers (AELP) also wrote to you on this subject on the 29th March 2020.

You will be aware that as many as 25% of Apprenticeship providers have responded to the most recent AELP member survey to indicate that they expect to have to close if the department refuses to follow the Cabinet Office guidance. This would not only lead to the loss of thousands of jobs directly employed by apprenticeship providers, but leave hundreds of thousands of apprenticeship courses suspended, with apprentices unable to complete their studies.

The industry isn’t only suffering from the inability to finish many of their courses due to the employers or end point assessment being unavailable, but it is clear that many of the next generation of apprenticeship starts will be delayed or cancelled due to closure or uncertainty amongst employers.

We would remind you that following the Cabinet Office guidance does not require your department to spend new money. This is simply about paying the monies already allocated in the 2020-21 DfE budget for apprenticeships.

We entirely understand how busy your department is right now, but this huge issue could be resolved very quickly.

Can we ask you to immediately confirm that the department will follow the guidance contained within Cabinet Office Procurement note 0220 ‘supplier relief due to COVID-19’ or explain why the department does not consider it to apply in this case? The indecision is deeply damaging and will lead to apprenticeship providers laying off staff or suspending courses unnecessarily.

We are available to discuss this at your very earliest convenience, and would ask you to make an urgent statement to the House clarifying the position next week. We give notice that we will pursue this by all parliamentary means possible if the industry does not have an answer on this by the close of Wednesday 29th April 2020.

Yours sincerely,

RLB / TP

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