Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Mark Dawe said:
“Following the DfE statement dated 17 April on the possibility of some financial support for providers of apprenticeships and adult education, AELP is pleased that the minister has promised to MPs that further details will be published by the end of this week.
“However in the absence of published criteria so far, we are concerned that the proposed “targeted support” will involve some form of arbitrary selection of providers that may not be fair or justifiable.
“The letter refers to enabling “high quality providers” remaining active as a result of the promised support but how will the DfE define ‘high quality’? All apprenticeship providers have recently been through a reapplication process to be on the government’s Register of Apprenticeship Training Providers (RoATP) which was much tougher than the first time around and those who secured non-levy apprenticeship contracts and procured non-devolved Adult Education Budget contracts with the ESFA went through a highly competitive tendering process which left many Ofsted grade 1 and 2 providers empty-handed. AELP is therefore uncertain what additional criteria will be used to justify the DfE’s ‘targeted support’. Full transparency is required.
“AELP notes that Gillian Keegan’s letter also makes reference to the Cabinet Office supplier payment guidelines which clearly state that the protection should apply to all government contractors. The guidelines certainly don’t appear to allow for the type of filtering-out exercise that the minister’s letter suggests and so AELP will be studying very carefully what the DfE publishes at the end of the week.
“We will be looking for support that will pay for providers on profile, i.e. based on normal levels of delivery, and in common with other government departments, MCAs and public bodies, there should be no threat of reconciliation if providers have shown a genuine attempt to deliver learning.
“The pandemic should not be used as excuse by the DfE to reduce the provider supply base, especially when it was quick to protect grant funded provision of whatever quality.
“We remind the DfE that the Chancellor of the Exchequer stated last month, “We must ensure that firms whose business models were viable before this crisis remain viable once it is over. This includes those firms not covered by CBILS or CCFF”. AELP expects this Friday’s announcement not to run counter to Mr Sunak’s clear intentions.
“Ministers should also remember that they should not be punishing apprentices and learners who have chosen to place their careers and skills progression in the hands of independent training providers. As last week’s AELP Covid impact survey showed, many providers have tried to minimise the amount of staff furloughing to maintain as much learning as possible - a fact recognised and applauded by the minister in her weekly newsletter. Gillian Keegan states at the start of her letter that the government wants to ensure that learners are supported and their training can continue, but this can only happen if a financial support package is put in place for all contracted providers, thereby minimising the need for further furloughing of provider staff.
“Finally if the government is really serious about protecting vulnerable and disadvantaged learners, it should be coming forward with a package that supports traineeships and study programmes as well.”
(N.B. 19-26 Traineeships are covered by AEB funding, but 16 to 19 aren’t)