There is plenty to write about this week. Today we are looking at end point assessment and the whole end to end delivery of apprenticeships and I have been meeting with various people connected with the IfA – so important that this organisation is a success. With the lines of responsibility shifting, and sometimes blurring, between delivery, assessment and training it is important AELP understand and ensure the best possible apprenticeships across the whole apprenticeship cycle.

But today is about allocations. They went out yesterday afternoon for the 8 month “pause” period. Let’s all remember, none of us would have wanted to be in this position and have tried to advise government for the past 2 years what would happen. Without letting the Government and ESFA off the hook, we are now where we are, and we have to make sure that the goal of stability and transition is met – and is not once again rhetoric hiding further poor implementation.

Early on it is really difficult for AELP to tell what the national picture is for the allocations –and we get no summary from ESFA despite asking. While some providers seem to have got what they expected, many are saying they are being allocated funds that are way below their requirements. And this is meant to be a growing programme!!! Surely a bit of over allocation should have been expected, not significantly less!

So let’s look in a bit more detail at what is needed to ensure that there is a stability, transition and transparency. While the ESFA have been clear about the process they have used, they are being very opaque about some of the crucial details which makes it incredibly hard to understand what the true picture is:

  1. £440m for the 15 month period for starts. This was meant to be adequate funding for the 15 month period from 1 May 17 (next week!!). The ESFA have never provided the data showing the starts for the equivalent period prior to now, the funding drawn down for those starts and then applying the national split of levy / non-levy – which we believe is roughly 60%. Was the £440m ever enough?
  2. Let’s say it was enough – what proportion of the £440m has the ESFA decided to allocate for the 8 month period – a critical figure. While many of us would have liked 8/15ths - which again would have provided some flexibility, if you assume a steady rate of starts for a 12 month programme the 15 month period, then the funding need is roughly 33% of the £440m for the first 8 months – about £147m. What proportion of the £440m has been allocated?
  3. The ESFA has calculated, and they admit which we accept, it is never going to be 100% accurate, the proportion of each providers delivery that is currently non-levy. Given there may be errors and providers want to try and replicate the calculations the figure used needs to be shared. Why haven’t the ESFA shared the provider percentages with providers, what have they got to hide?
  4. The ESFA should be able to provide every provider with their calculation of their total starts (on which the non-levy proportion can be applied) for the current period 1 – 8. Again for transparency reasons – why not share this figure. Then providers can compare their estimate to that used by the ESFA but more importantly see that there is a smooth transition occurring and there is a genuine continuity in funding – ie this figure and the allocation shouldn’t be dramatically different. ESFA should share the current period 1 – 8 funding for starts

If it is the case that the majority of providers are saying that their allocations are significantly down, then either there has been some error in the calculations or there was never enough funding allocated in the first place. As I said at the start, maybe it is only a small proportion of providers dissatisfied – but then help us deal with that small proportion. The reality is these figures will come out eventually so why not share them now. If the civil servants want calm during the election period the last thing they should be doing is not sharing and winding up the sector - should be working with the sector to iron out any issues. Without this approach there is going to be a lot of confusion and noise over the next few weeks that no one has the time for when we are all trying to deliver this new agenda.

Aside from the initial allocation AELP are pushing for an early growth point (after three month delivery with a very quick turnaround) – at least with this opportunity, all providers will have a chance to demonstrate their actual run rate, changes in costs due to move to standards or growth that happened after the current period 1 – 6.

AELP are also very aware that with the period of pause and certain rules like sub contracting being paused, there are other rules that may not quite make sense. We are gathering all the feedback we get along with our own review and feeding it in to the ESFA – we and/or the ESFA will publish the answers to these queries as soon as they are available. As an example the question has been asked does the prime have to collect the 10% contribution for non-levy paying employers if the delivery is through a sub-contractor. The unofficial answer is that the most important thing is that the 10% is collected and that it is ultimately the Primes responsibly. However if the sub-contractor is collecting the 10% and can show it in their bank account that should be adequate evidence. As I have said – this is unofficial at the moment and we all know how important it is to get something in writing – keep those questions coming in to us – [email protected]. You can also use this email for letting us know about your allocation – good or bad please.

Maybe in the future DfE and ESFA will listen more to those who know what is happening on the ground and how learners, trainees, employers and parents might react across the country to various policy initiatives – a plea and an offer to let us help. We can also help with employer engagement, provider readiness, school engagement, careers support – but that is for another day. One thing we can’t do is make it any worse!



Reproduced from this week’s Countdown newsletter

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