Labour's new shadow education ministers have written to education secretary Gavin Williamson and FE and skills minister Gillian Keegan warning that a lack of action to support apprenticeship providers would be "deeply damaging".
Toby Perkins, shadow minister for apprenticeships and lifelong learning, and Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow education secretary, urge the government to give independent training providers the same amount of funding they would have been receiving had coronavirus not broken out.
They call on Mr Williamson and Ms Keegan "to immediately confirm that the department will follow the guidance contained within Cabinet Office Procurement note 0220 'suppler relief due to Covid-19' or explain why the department does not consider it to apply in this case? The indecision is deeply damaging and will lead to apprenticeship providers laying off staff or suspending courses unnecessarily."
Need to know: Apprenticeship providers on borrowed time, warns AELP
They write: "We would remind you that following the Cabinet Office guidance does not require your department to spend new money. This is simply about paying the monies already allocated in the 2020-21 Department for Education budget for apprenticeships."
Ms Long-Bailey and Mr Perkins add: "The crisis has been exacerbated by the Department for Education's failure, thus far, to follow the Cabinet Office's Procurement Guidance. We want to stress the appalling impact this could have on hundreds of independent apprenticeship providers and hundreds of thousands of apprentices."
More support for apprenticeships expected
More guidance on a "targeted support package" for providers is due to be published this week. In a letter sent to all MPs last week, Ms Keegan said support would only be available to providers on apprenticeships offered by non-levy paying employers where providers hold “a direct contract” with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).
It will not apply in relation to apprenticeships funded from employer digital accounts where the contractual relationship is between the employer and the provider – so apprenticeships offered by levy-paying employers.
However, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) has said it is seeking legal advice over the government’s plans.
The letter in full