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'On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to FE…'

AELP chief executive Mark Dawe reflects on how the FE sector fared in 2017 – and puts forward his wish list for 2018

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AELP chief executive Mark Dawe reflects on how the FE sector fared in 2017 – and puts forward his wish list for 2018

When I was asked by Tes to write something for the end of the year, looking ahead to 2018, I thought great: I will do the 12 days of Christmas. 

In true Christmas spirit, the Education and Skills Funding Agency, the Institute for Apprenticeships and the Department for Education just keep giving and giving, making my job a little easier. 

So here is my attempt, with a little help from the team at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers.

On the first day of Christmas, Anne Milton sent to me

  1. One billion pounds of funding for non-levy apprentices guaranteed and a procurement that actually works (repeat the last bit after every verse)
  2. Two hundred more non-levy contracts for providers to SMEs
  3. Three hundred million pounds of underspent adult education budget allocated through commissioning
  4. Four…sight to flex the 20 per cent off-the-job apprenticeships rule (sorry)
  5. Five new year’s honours for the dedicated staff of independent training providers
  6. Six…ty million pounds of disadvantaged funding properly allocated
  7. (A solution to the) seven-year high in homelessness levels (stretching it, I know)
  8. Eight hundred pounds to deliver functional skills maths and English to apprentices
  9. Nine out of 10 training providers rated good or outstanding by Ofsted
  10. Ten per cent employer funding contribution removed for 16-to-24 year olds
  11. Eleventh place in League One for Plymouth Argyle (oops, not in the minister’s gift)
  12. Twelve months of policy stability in the sector

Real apprenticeships?

Even though I have run out of days, I have to add: 150,000 future hopes for young people allowed to do functional skills instead of GCSE retakes.

And finally – no, really this time – I hope a little bit of Christmas cheer is sprinkled over level 2 programmes. The Scrooges in the DfE and IfA – not, I might add, Ofsted and the skills minister – question the validity of level 2 learning and whether apprenticeships at this level are real apprenticeships. They have excluded level 2 from the gold standard of T levels and suggested that every learner coming into the FE system ought to be able to achieve a level 3.

With 40 per cent of individuals coming out of school without even a level 2 in English and maths – not to mention 9 million adults having still not achieved this benchmark – there needs to be a recalibration and realisation of what everyone on the ground is having to deal with.

Decisive action

The really serious point is that we actually have a good suite of skills policies and they could really work if a few gaps are filled in. What we are facing is the most disruptive, diabolical implementation I have witnessed in my FE career – and I have seen some bad ones. Without decisive action in 2018, we will damage productivity, social mobility and the FE infrastructure. Could someone with common sense just bang some heads together and make 2018 the year of sensible decisions and transition?

And to finish, one resolution from me: never again will I try to change song lyrics. I will leave that to the experts, such as Ian Pryce, who gets my vote for “FE personality of the year”. Merry Christmas, everyone.

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