Covid: Colleges face losing tens of millions of pounds

By Jeanette Long
BBC News education reporter

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Further education colleges in England warn they could lose tens of millions from a change in government policy.

The Department for Education (DfE) has said unless they deliver 90% of this year's training, they must return some of their Adult Education Budget (AEB).

Last year the threshold was set at delivering 68% in recognition of the challenges of the pandemic.

The DfE acknowledged the situation was "still difficult" but said many colleges had delivered online teaching.

A spokesman said: "We are announcing this change now, to help providers plan their provision better for the remainder of the 2020-2021 academic year."

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, has told Education Secretary Gavin Williamson that colleges will be forced "to reduce capacity for adult education, just as demand will be increasing".

In a letter, Mr Hughes said: "A simple solution would be for DfE to take a business case approach, as it did successfully last year, allowing colleges to set out where and why they haven't been able to deliver 90% of their AEB provision, and for concessions to be made on a case-by-case basis.

"I very much hope that this can be pursued."

Mr Hughes warned that if the cuts go ahead, colleges may have to scrap courses - including delivery of the government's new flagship vocational qualification, T-levels, which will help prepare young people for the world of work.

He said the longer term commitment by the government to invest in colleges was welcome, but this immediate clawback of cash threatened to undermine adult education.

Lifetime Skills Guarantee

Last September, Prime Minster Boris Johnson delivered a keynote speech promising "radical change" to the adult education system in England to help boost the post-Covid economy.

He said a new Lifetime Skills Guarantee would offer a fully-funded college course to all people over 18 in England without an A-level or equivalent qualification.

The AEB is used by employers and individuals to fund a large range of training for people over the age of 19.