AoC: Transfer unspent apprenticeship funds to colleges

Student numbers in colleges have risen, while apprenticeship numbers fall – and funding should be reallocated to reflect this, says the Association of Colleges

Kate Parker

College funding: Transfer unspent apprenticeship funds

Unused apprenticeship funds should be reallocated to colleges to support them with the rise in student numbers, the Association of Colleges has said. 

New data published by the AoC today shows that 20,000 students in colleges are unfunded, while apprenticeship starts have fallen by 70 per cent among 16- to-18-year-olds, compared with last year. 

The AoC is calling for the unspent money in the apprentice training budget to immediately be transferred to colleges to ensure that young people get the skills and training they need  - ready for when the labour market starts to create apprenticeship opportunities again. 

News: Ofsted report reveals the Covid challenge for colleges

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

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A redirection of unusable apprenticeship funds

AoC chief executive David Hughes said the college funding system was not designed for a big in-year growth in student numbers. He said: “Sadly, many young people have not been able to secure the apprenticeship they want, so have turned to their local college to provide the training and education they know will help them when the jobs market picks up. 

“Colleges have welcomed them, designed study programmes to meet their specific needs and want to help them get ready for the future. Unfortunately, though, the funding system which works well in a stable world, is not designed for such big in-year growth. In many cases, it means that colleges are supporting hundreds of unfunded learners at a time when Covid has already increased their costs and put pressure on their budgets. 

“At no extra cost to the Treasury, a redirection of unusable apprenticeship funds to colleges could help these young people pave a way to a promising future. We want this to be for the next two years, giving time for the labour market to pick up again and businesses to recover from the downturn. By which point thousands of young people will be work-ready and have the skills employers will need to get back on their feet.” 

The data shows that 62 per cent of colleges have seen an increase in 16-19 enrolments - and at the same time, colleges’ outgoing costs have increased due to Covid. 

A report published by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that despite the £400 million extra in funding this year, exceptional rises in student numbers could still generate a real-terms fall in funding per student for colleges. 

Yesterday, Ofsted revealed that nearly all of the college leaders who had interim visits from over recent weeks felt under increasing financial pressure following the coronavirus outbreak.

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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