Minister confirms funding support for colleges

Apprenticeships and skills minister Gillian Keegan has written to colleges praising their response to the coronavirus outbreak

Julia Belgutay

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Apprenticeships and skills minister Gillian Keegan has written to college leaders in a bid to address concerns about their finances as college campuses close following the coronavirus outbreak. 

In her letter to college and sixth-form college leaders today, the minister confirmed that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) will continue to pay grant-funded providers their scheduled monthly payments for the remainder of the year.

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She said colleges’ allocations for 2020-21 will have been confirmed by the end of March, and “payments will be made as scheduled”. She added: “I hope this can provide you with the funding certainty you require as you seek to address the impact of responding to Covid-19.”

The minister said that because of the activity-based funding model for apprenticeships specifically and independent training providers generally, the government was “urgently looking at the impact of the current disruption and how we can help to mitigate that”.

“For other funding streams, we will be making decisions on where existing rules and models may need to be modified in relation to any planned reconciliation and future year allocations.

“For colleges in significant financial difficulties, the existing support arrangements remain in place including emergency funding. Please do speak to your ESFA territorial team about this. We are also working on more detailed operational guidance, which will be circulated as soon as possible.”

The minister thanked sector leaders for their hard work and continued commitment during “a very difficult time”: “We are facing an unprecedented challenge and I recognise that as teachers and leaders working to provide education and support to learners in your institutions, you are on the frontline of our national effort.”

Ms Keegan said she appreciated that the decision, announced by education secretary Gavin Williamson on Wednesday 18 March, that FE providers should stop classroom delivery from 23 March “will have a huge impact on you as college leaders, as well as your staff members and learners”.

“I have already heard some hugely impressive stories on how colleges and other providers across the country are reacting – including using online resources to continue to deliver education for your learners, offering support to schools in your areas and establishing crucial communications channels with learners and parents.

“These illustrate how you are pulling together with ingenuity at this time and typify the spirit that runs through our brilliant further education sector. I’d like to thank you for all the work you have put in so far and for all that is surely to come in the coming weeks.”

The decision to cancel all exams in schools and colleges had not been taken lighly, she wrote, and she was encouraging awarding organisations to show “the maximum possible flexibility and pragmatism to ensure students are not disadvantaged”.

“We are certainly in an extraordinary situation and I am extremely grateful for the huge amount of work being done across the sector to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on our staff, students and institutions.”

Earlier this week, the minister took to social media to try to reassure colleges and apprenticeship providers, and thank them for their "hard work and cooperation. 

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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