About 20,000 students are unfunded - that has to change

The saving on the apprenticeship budget due to a drop in starts needs to be transferred urgently to support the 20,000 young people who are now in colleges, says David Hughes
11th November 2020, 12:01am

Share

About 20,000 students are unfunded - that has to change

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/about-20000-students-are-unfunded-has-change
Colleges Should Be Given The Funding Left Over By The Drop In Apprenticeship Starts, Argues David Hughes

A common feature of all recessions is that young people turn towards full-time education when the labour market tightens. We've seen that in HE with around 15,000 additional undergraduates this autumn over and above planned numbers, all fully-funded by loans, bringing around £400 million into universities.

The FE picture is similar, with around 20,000 extra students in colleges already this academic year, with more likely to arrive next term when the labour market might be at its worst. Unlike in HE, though, those students attract no extra funding because of the lagged learner number approach which has been in place for a number of years. Essentially, it means that colleges get certainty on income, even if the recruitment is below the target, with the allocation of funding being adjusted a year later. It works well in a stable environment; but we live in exceptional times and it is not working well now.


News: Ofsted report reveals the Covid challenge for colleges

More: College funding increases set to be 'eroded' by Covid

Association of Colleges: Transfer unspent apprenticeship funds to colleges


Those 20,000 extra students would bring in around £120 million if they were fully funded, plus the same again next year for those on two-year courses. That's a lot of funding to lose out on for colleges facing big costs associated with Covid, because to keep learning happening effectively and safely, colleges are spending a lot more on PPE, cleaning, transport, extra staffing and technology. Our estimate is that they have already spent more than £75 million and that figure is rising every day. They have also lost income of over £150 million from commercial work, meaning that many are facing very difficult decisions about restructuring, redundancies and savings.

So far, so familiar. Anyone who has read any of my weekly blogs will know that I often talk about funding. Often I am making the case for Treasury to invest more in colleges, to support more students, to support college resilience, to improve facilities, to address long-term staff pay issues and the like. But that's not the agenda for today; instead, I want to make a much simpler and more straightforward point.

The pattern of young people seeking the safe haven of college study programmes has to be viewed in contrast to the stark data on apprenticeships. Overall, apprenticeship starts are down by around 60 per cent, but for young people, it is closer to 80 per cent. That should be no surprise, given the state of the labour market, but what it means is that less is being spent on apprenticeships.

That saving on the apprenticeship budget needs to be transferred urgently to support the 20,000 young people who are now in colleges, unfunded. It's a simple proposal - the law requires young people to stay in education or training to age 18, so we need to ensure that the funding follows them. And the principle is also simple - if the government was prepared to fund them for an apprenticeship, which is now impossible for many, surely the government should be prepared to fund them for a study programme?

So how about it, government? It's a relatively simple stroke of the Treasury pen, to move the money? So not extra investment, just being agile and making sure that the money gets to where it is needed, based on the choices of young people who want to get on in life.

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Register for free to read more

You can read two more articles on Tes for free this month if you register using the button below.

Alternatively, you can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters

Already registered? Log in

You’ve reached your limit of free articles this month

Subscribe to read more

You can subscribe for just £1 per month for the next three months and get:

  • Unlimited access to all Tes magazine content
  • Exclusive subscriber-only articles 
  • Email newsletters