Our first series of funding masterclass webinars, run in June 2023, aimed to provide Advanced FE and skills customers with top-level updates and reviews of some of the key funding issues facing providers in 2023 to 2024 and beyond. I am Beej Kaczmarczyk, Chair of Corporation at Chesterfield College Group, with extensive experience as a senior manager in FE colleges, schools and the private sector. As an acknowledged expert in Education funding policy, leadership and management development, curriculum development and vocational education, I had the pleasure of co-hosting this series alongside Advanced product experts.
The three webinar titles covered:
- Update on the funding of programmes for adult learners
This webinar provided an update on the funding of programmes for adult learners, including the Adult Education Budget (AEB), Advanced Learner Loans (ALL) and National Skills Fund (NSF). It also considered implications of the proposed changes to the further education funding and accountability system for the planning and delivery of adult provision, nationally and in devolved authorities, beyond 2023 to 2024.
- Update on ESFA 16-19 funding for 2023 to 2024
In this webinar we reviewed changes to the funding of study programmes and T levels for 16–19-year-old students for 2023 to 2024. We considered how these could impact on the provision of education and training for young people, and on the planning, costing and delivery of programmes for young people, including foundation learning and pre-apprenticeships.
- Making the most of learning support funding for young people and adults
This provided an update on the arrangements for the funding of learning support for young people and adults on a range of programmes including study programmes, adult skills and apprenticeships, focusing on how best to optimise funding whilst meeting audit requirements.
This Masterclass Series provided participants with the opportunity to inquire about the primary changes impacting these domains, contemplate the potential implications for their respective organisations, and propose actionable strategies to maximise the benefits or address arising challenges from these changes.
During each webinar, I was accompanied by Advanced colleagues to heighten awareness about how their extensive product range, which includes ProSolution and PICS, can empower providers to optimise funding sources and streamline provider monitoring.
For the update on adult funding, recent changes to Adult Education Budget allocations for providers outside of devolved authorities, which meant a 2.2% increase in final earnings for 2022 to 2023 and 2023 to 2024, as well as raising the over-delivery threshold to 110%, were very welcome. The different ways in which effective providers could maximise their adult funding by focusing activity on national entitlements, local flexibilities, low wage flexibilities, non-regulated learning, English, maths and digital skills entitlements, and learning in the workplace were all considered. Providers offering learning to residents in devolved authorities, e.g. Greater Manchester, can already take advantage of many of the flexibilities offered in devolved areas. Provision of sector-based work academies, skills bootcamps and the free courses for jobs offer, and their impacts on adult participation, particularly for level 3 upskilling and retraining, were also covered. This webinar looked at different ways to increase adult funding, including learning funded by advanced learner loans, by more effective marketing to increase numbers but also how to grow the average size of each funded learner more effectively. The role of Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) was only briefly mentioned, more will follow once these have been fully developed, as will the impact of the Lifetime Loan Entitlement. Proposed changes to the further education funding and accountability system raised the potential for multi-year funding allocations and possibly increases in the base rates of adult funding – all good news for the sector!
For the update on 16-19 funding, we focused on recent increases in the funding rates for study programmes and T levels, though the increase in study programme funding does not reflect current inflation rates, T levels faring much better. Changes to cost weightings for subjects where there are difficulties recruiting specialist staff were discussed. How providers could maximise their funding of young peoples’ programmes by understanding how each element of the funding formula worked, including student numbers, average planned hours, cost weightings, retention rates, and disadvantage factors were all covered. Critically, the data requirements here are not just about compliance and audit, but also about how best to retain students and ensure high levels of satisfaction with their programmes.
ProMonitor and ProPortal help to ensure effective tracking of the student journey from applications through to destinations. The webinar looked at the factors that needed to be considered when planning both study programmes and T levels to maximise funding and student outcomes. Curriculum planners would also have to ensure that their average classes met overhead cost contribution rates, not only in the first year of two-year programmes but also in the second year, very important for T level planning. Just as important were the implications for students not sure of their future career directions, especially at levels 1 and 2, of the removal of traineeships, and the need to have alternative pre-apprenticeship programmes.
The relative certainties of 16-19 funding compared to insecurities associated with adult funding and apprenticeships mean that many providers are refocusing their provision on younger people. But the threatened removal of funding from level three programmes that are not T levels, which could be extended to qualifications at level 2 and below, could put those decisions at risk, especially if the students who are not able to study T levels have no suitable alternatives, and become NEETs.
In the last webinar in this masterclass class series, we covered the topic of additional learning support funding across all the funding streams, including apprenticeships. The key messages here were that learning support funding (LSF) is about additional support for individual learners above that which is provided to all learners as maintenance on learning programmes, e.g., tutorial and in-class advice, and that LSF is an investment, which can bring benefits in increased attendance, retention and completions, and ultimately, increased income. We identified the different ways in which LSF is provided for young people through the 16-19 formula, disadvantage funding paying for low-cost high-incidence additional learning support and high needs funding for students requiring at least £6,000 support per year. Less well sourced is LSF for adult learners and apprenticeshere although most providers know about being able to claim £150 per month per learner where support is assessed, planned and delivered, fewer are confident about excess learning support when spending is more than £150 in a month, and how to evaluate the impacts of LSF on adult participation, retention and achievements. We spent some time describing how the earning adjustment statement is used to record and claim excess learning support, as well as the availability of Access to Work funding for apprentices and supported internships.
In July, the government announced that, in order to be able to fund higher pay increases in the sector, colleges will be allocated an additional £500m over the next two years. The mechanism chosen is to route the additional money through the 16-19 funding formula, by increasing per-student rates of funding and programme cost weightings (in certain subjects only). This appears to favour colleges with larger proportions of 16-19 students at the cost of those with higher proportions of adult learners. More details will follow soon.
In conclusion, the Funding Masterclass Series provided a valuable opportunity to review and discuss recent changes in funding for adult learners, 16-19 year-olds, and for learning support. This series was expertly delivered by myself and Advanced professionals. We provided an opportunity where our audience were able to consider the implications of these changes and explore ways in which providers can maximise their funding sources as well as audit requirements. Through the series, attendees had an opportunity to gain a better understanding of the funding landscape and how best to access available resources. We look forward to continuing our work in this area in order to ensure learners have access to the highest quality education.