From education to employment

FE reacts to Skills Funding Statement

The government set out plans yesterday for funding over the next two years with its Skills Funding Statement.

The plans include reducing the adult skills budget by 19% to around £2 billion over the period. Below is a selection of responses from leaders in the Further Education sector to the announcements:

Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP):

“These budget reductions mean that providers have to focus on delivering high quality programmes that deliver the most benefit for employers, learners and the local economies. The cuts come after a number of years of overall budget reductions and real term rate cuts. Providers have responded positively and continue to deliver higher quality provision.

“The statement recognises that providers need the freedoms and flexibilities within the contract to respond to the new challenges and we are concerned that some of those flexibilities have been reduced by restrictions on managing the ASB contract lines introduced this year.”

On funding of Apprenticeships:

“The statement confirms that the government will launch another funding consultation in the spring although we have yet to see the results of the previous consultation. AELP has expressed concern over some of these proposals in relation to compulsory contributions and employers managing the funding. This will have a significant impact on SME employers taking on Apprentices.

“Many of these employers only have one or two apprentices so these employers will not want to manage the funding directly. We have always believed in giving employers the choice of funding route and most would prefer to work through an experienced training provider although clearly the choice as it is now is with the employer.”

David Hughes, chief executive of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE):

“This is undoubtedly a tough settlement, although many of the details were announced in last year’s spending round. In that respect it is less bad than many had feared. NIACE called on the Deputy Prime Minister to ensure that opportunities for those who had benefitted least from their initial education should be protected at all levels, from literacy and numeracy all the way to higher education. We are pleased that he and the Secretary of State, Vince Cable, have managed to do this.

“There will be an unwelcome shrinkage in publicly supported provision, but we are relieved that in the rhetoric at least the government is very supportive of maintaining wider access and progression throughout the system.

“The danger though is that by pushing responsibility for deciding cuts onto individual providers, overall coherence in the system will be lost and adults will not have the opportunities they need to get on in learning.

“There is a need for LEPs, local authorities and employers to work with further and higher education providers to ensure that local economies get the skilled people they need and adults benefit from their learning.”

Lynne Sedgmore CBE, executive director of the college association 157 Group:

“The announcement of the new FE Capital Investment Strategy is naturally welcome, as is the clear acknowledgement, both in the Skills Funding Statement and the secretary of state’s speech, that FE colleges play a vital role in the future of the UK economy. They are indeed, as Dr Cable says, ‘energetic and dynamic places’, and this in the context of increasing funding challenges.”

Peter Roberts, chair of the 157 Group and chief executive of Leeds City College, said, “We knew that significant cuts to the adult skills budget were coming, and we know that this will place real pressure on colleges. However, we are relieved that the Skills Funding Statement does not add significant further cuts to those we were already aware of.

“The skills minister is absolutely right to congratulate further education providers for the important part they play in skills development, and we believe today’s figures do allow us a short period of stability during which we can focus on the important business of equipping adults with the skills they need to be successful. Provided that individual provider allocations are issued swiftly, colleges that have been awaiting today’s detail in order to plan their provision for September can now get on with ensuring their curriculum offer is responsive to the needs of their local economy.”

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