Students from the most deprived backgrounds and those from ethnic minorities will be hit hardest by new apprenticeship funding proposals, experts have warned.
The proposed funding rates for 16-18 students, currently being consulted on by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), amount to cuts of between third and a half in many frameworks, according to analysis by the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).
And the removal of the "disadvantage uplift" will disproportionately affect young people from ethnic minorities, according to Matt Garvey, managing director of the West Berkshire Training Consortium.
Andy Forbes, principal of CONEL, told TES that according to his college's calculations, reductions in funding rates ranged from 6 per cent to 48 per cent, with 37 of the 44 frameworks analysed suffering cuts of 25 per cent or more.
"The reason why this affects us so badly is that the new simplified funding formula has taken away at a stroke all the extra funding London has historically received under the 'disadvantage uplift' formula," he said. "In our case, 12 per cent extra for Enfield and 20 per cent for Tottenham."
Providers would also be rewarded for offering lower-band apprenticeships to 16- to 18 year-olds, for example in cleaning, over higher-band ones in subjects such as engineering and construction. "The proposals are out for consultation, so we can only hope the Department for Education listens to reason when they realise what they’ve done," Mr Forbes added.
'Discriminatory and regressive'
Writing for TES, Mr Garvey describes the government’s funding proposals for apprenticeships as "discriminatory and regressive", adding that the plans, published by the SFA last week, "undermine three decades of progressive social policy".
Area uplifts have been in place to support learners from deprived postcodes, and the abolition of these will affect ethnic minorities far more than the white British majority, he argues. "Therefore this proposal of flat funding bands discriminates (unintentionally or otherwise) against ethnic minority learners."
He adds: "Given that a majority of ethnic minority learners live in deprived postcodes and there will no longer be extra financial help to support them, we must deduce that, post-2017, they will experience increased disadvantage as a result of these proposals."
Funding in the hands of employers
An SFA spokeswoman said that, through the apprenticeship levy, the apprenticeship budget was forecast to increase over this Parliament to £2.5 billion by 2019-20 – double the budget in 2010-11.
She added: "In future, we will be putting funding in the hands of employers and the system needs to be simple for them to navigate, choose the apprenticeship training they want to purchase and negotiate on price. That means we have to simplify some of the complex funding arrangements that currently exist, while retaining the right incentives for high-quality training.
"We know that taking on a younger person entails some extra cost to employers and providers and that’s why we propose to give them each a cash payment of £1,000 when they train a 16- to 18-year-old, or a 19- to 24-year-old care-leaver or a 19- to 24-year-old with an education, health and care plan."
The adult funding rate for Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) pathways would be increased by 40 per cent at level 2 and 80 per cent at level 3 and above, she added.
The spokeswoman stressed that payment would be agreed between the employer and the training provider, and employers could choose to pay above the SFA’s payment bands.
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