Skills minister Anne Milton has been accused by shadow FE minister Gordon Marsden of betraying the trust of almost 200 students remaining in limbo after the collapse of their training providers more than a year ago.
Mr Marsden said: “The minister was made personally aware then of the plight of learners who through no fault of their own were victims of this action. Yet not only has her department not found alternative provision for half of them, but is continuing to keep their loan debt hanging around their necks”.
Tes recently reported how 180 students remain without courses despite having taken out loans to pay for them, after the companies that had been running the courses went into liquidation.
John Frank Training and Focus Training & Development Ltd both went into liquidation in November 2016, followed by another provider, Edudo Ltd, in January last year.
Mr Marsden said: “It's completely unacceptable for the government to be leaving hundreds of loan-funded learners both in debt and without training providers more than a year after John Frank and other providers had their contracts terminated”.
He added: “It is a breach of faith – in the commercial world it might well be considered a form of fraud – to keep people, who have already been let down, still forced to carry a debt for provision promised but not now provided”.
Sending out the wrong signal
This comes after Ms Milton, in written responses to questions from the shadow skills minister, pledged that the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) and Student Loans Company (SLC) would “seek to identify suitable alternative providers where learners can complete their studies”. She also said: “We are committed to offering, as far as is practicable, a solution for each learner”.
Mr Marsden said the government’s handling of the situation “sends out a terrible message to those already dubious about taking out learner loans in training, that Ministers are apparently prepared to leave them high and dry”.
The government should swiftly find new courses for students or “completely write off the loan debts of those affected”, according to the shadow FE minister.
Although the students have been granted an exemption from paying back their loans over the past year, the SLC has yet to state whether it will write off the loans.
The DfE and SLC were approached for comment.