From education to employment

Do not allow ESFA to clawback any funding for Adult Education budget – Petition

Support colleges by preventing the Education and Skills Funding Agency (@ESFAgov) from clawing back any Adult Education funding (#AEB).

The Government should introduce greater flexibility on this decision since autumn 2020 to reflect the impact of disruption caused by the pandemic this academic year.

Adult education has been impacted very significantly across England over 2020/21. The combination of local restrictions in autumn 2020, national lockdown and reduced hours at Job Centres has had a particular impact on courses for those with lower skill levels or who are unemployed and has disrupted college ability to meet this year’s targets.

Colleges have been advised to not use the Job Retention Scheme (JRS) for non-commercial staff, which could have reduced costs.

At 10,000 signatures…

At 10,000 signatures, government will respond to this petition

At 100,000 signatures…

At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament

Funding for adult education is at a critical stage. Collesge are about to face demands for £millions of grant funding from Government to be repaid, because fewer adult students have been able or willing to study during the pandemic.

Leicester College, amongst others are asking you to sign the petition:

Sign this petition

AEB reconciliation announcement: Clawback of funding will reduce the financial strength of colleges 

In a letter sent last week to the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, David Hughes has warned that if the cuts go ahead, colleges may have to scrap courses – including delivery of the government’s flagship #TLevels, as well as finding themselves at risk of being plunged into financial intervention, or being forced to make large numbers of redundancies: 

Rt Hon Gavin Williamson MP,
Education Secretary,
Department for Education,
20 Great Smith Street,
London SW1P 3BT

Wednesday 14 April 2021

Dear Education Secretary,

RE: AEB reconciliation announcement

The announcement last week that a 90 per cent threshold for delivery on the adult education budget (AEB) will be introduced will have a disproportionate impact on many colleges given the other funding hits they have endured in the last 12 months.

Last year, the threshold for AEB delivery was set at 68 per cent – as a recognition of how difficult it is to deliver adult education in a lockdown. Demand for adult education has been similarly impacted this academic year – as a result of national and local lockdown measures, reduced JSA referrals and many adult learners being unable to study online, whether because they are undertaking practical courses or because they suffer from digital exclusion. I attach as an appendix a set of case studies which show the different contexts that made delivery of adult education particularly challenging this year, and the impacts the uniform approach risks having.

Colleges have been asking since last summer for a decision to be made on the threshold ahead of the current year. The announcement so late on in the year to introduce a threshold of 90 per cent is a major challenge, both in failing to reflect these challenges colleges have faced and in undermining the ability of colleges to reduce costs already incurred.

The clawback of funding will reduce the financial strength of colleges, move a large number into financial intervention, and force colleges to reduce capacity for adult education, just as demand will be increasing. As the roadmap opens up our economy, more people will want and need to retrain and reskill. Colleges will be in the forefront of that but will be hampered by this AEB clawback.

A simple solution would be for DfE to take a business case approach, as it did successfully last year, allowing colleges to set out where and why they haven’t been able to deliver 90 per cent of their AEB provision, and for concessions to be made on a case-by-case basis. I very much hope that this can be pursued.

The AEB problems are a good example of why the longer-term systems reform are needed that you have championed in the Skills for Jobs white paper. It is clear that the FE system as it stands is overly complex, lacks trust, drives significant inefficiencies, is focussed on process rather than outcomes and presents far too many obstacles to colleges. In short it hampers colleges from delivering what is needed and drives compliance with arcane funding and audit rules and regulations.

The White Paper very positively describes the need for stronger accountability measures (such as learner progression and outcomes, meeting local need and supporting key labour market priorities) and simpler funding and regulation. We are very keen to support you in implementing those changes.

I would be very pleased to discuss these matters in more detail and AoC and college leaders stand ready to work with you and your officials to co-create a system which helps deliver the ambitious technical education plans you have.

Yours sincerely,

David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges

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