A number of members have flagged up a concern that funders and Ofsted believe that providers are much better placed to accommodate the challenges of lockdown #3 and that it is almost business as usual. This has been a notion that GMLPF has been keen to challenge.
In a recent meeting with Ofsted, GMLPF pointed out that lockdown #3 was throwing up a range of issues (raised by members recently) that were impacting on providers’ ability to deliver and complete training programme successfully, not least:
- Lockdown #3 was seeing a significant increase in the number of staff and learners (or members of their immediate family) contracting Covid or having to self isolate and that this, unlike the other 2 lockdowns, was presenting a much greater challenge for providers’ ability to deliver learning as effectively as in previous lockdowns
- Digital Poverty – whilst there had been some welcome developments in the ability to source IT kit and broadband access for students on Study Programme and AEB locally in the LCR other programmes such as Apprenticeships were far more affected and significant numbers of learners still lacked access to IT equipment to be able to learn remotely. It was made clear that providers had loaned out equipment where possible and were designing alternative approaches to engagement and delivery where learners did not have access.
- Loss of Appetite for Learning – the increased prevalence of Covid, both positive cases as well as increased numbers requiring self-isolation, in the run-up to lockdown # 3 as well as the practicalities of managing lockdown ie home education has seen a decreased appetite for learning from employers and learners impacting on starts but also retention
- Functional Skills and EPA – whilst acknowledging that there had been some freedoms and flexibilities Ofsted needed to be aware that in many sectors those flexibilities did not go far enough and that many learners were simply unable to complete. This could be because assessments needed to take place in a work setting which was now closed because of lockdown , work coaches were now deployed elsewhere, practical exams ie driving tests not being possible resulting in learners not being able to complete etc
- Increases in Unfunded Learners & Increasing Risk of Learner Drop Out – because of FS and EPA issues in the main, many learners were now unfunded (talks with providers suggests that this can be as high as 30% currently) which was impacting significantly on providers. This also raises provider caseloads as new learners come on programme. However, some providers have also reported that delays in EPA are impacting the motivation of learners to remain on programme and complete. In particular, this appears to be impacting Apprentices who want to move on to National Minimum Wage from Apprenticeship Wage and who are actively looking for alternative work.
I promised to provide an update to Paul Cocker and Bev Barlow around some of the above points. If members have any useful examples to share, in support of the above points, I would be grateful if you could drop me a short note and I can weave them in (anonymised) into the update for Ofsted.