The government has been forced to defend its commitment to education after reports this weekend revealed secret plans to slash funding for apprenticeships.
According to The Observer, papers leaked from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) on 12 October, have suggested £252m of cuts in the delivery of key training programmes, including Train to Gain, Adult Apprentices and Skills for Life.
Hitting learners after the age of 19 the hardest, the memo estimates a cut of £100m would mean losing "a total 133,000 learners from the baseline". The total "efficiency savings" would therefore result in the loss of 335,000 learners, despite the government pledging to invest more in young people and upskill the nation to battle the recession.
Chancellor Alistair Darling promised £5bn of spending reductions in April, but insisted cuts would not compromise front-line services.
"It remains our commitment to protect front-line services and identify savings through efficiency measures and improving value for money wherever possible," said a spokesman for BIS over the weekend.
"The skills sector has received record investment in recent years and we will shortly be publishing the skills strategy setting out our long-term plans for investment in skills to contribute to the future growth and success of the UK economy."
A pre-budget report, expected later this month or early in December, is likely to officially unveil which policy areas will be protected from cuts in future years.