The entire £1.5 billion adult education budget (AEB) should be put to tender, according to the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP).
Currently, 50 per cent of the budget is the responsibility of the Mayoral Combined Authorities (MCA) and the Greater London Authority, while the other half is under the control of the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).
Around 90 per cent of the £1.5bn budget is currently allocated under grant arrangements to colleges and community learning providers. But the AELP says that chronic underspending of the budget – which stood at £63 million in 2016-17, rising to £76 million in 2017-18 – means that adult learners across the country are falling through the gaps in provision.
The AELP estimates that in 2017-18, just under a quarter of the total AEB was subcontracted by colleges to independent training providers to deliver adult skills provision.
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The AELP is urging the government to consider a 100 per cent commissioning model for the AEB, which would allow provider groups to bid for a "realistic funding amount" based on their capacity to deliver the courses.
This would, it argues, ensure that the delivery of the provision reaches the learners at the right place and at the right time.
Mark Dawe, AELP’s chief executive, said: “We can’t afford to tolerate any more the poor value being delivered under the adult education budget. By moving to full commissioning, more adults in local communities are likely to receive the support they need to secure sustainable employment."