Unfunded learners: ESFA request more information

GMLPF has been discussing the increased numbers of unfunded learners with the ESFA, other northern networks, and AELP.

Anecdotally, it seems members who deliver apprenticeships have seen a significant increase in unfunded learners (and more learners on breaks in learning). This is due to learners being unable to complete functional skills, occupationally relevant exams or EPA.

The issue was raised with ESFA again today in a Northern Skills Network meeting, with reference to a looming crisis for large parts of the sector.

ESFA have now asked us to provide tangible examples of the difficulties providers (colleges and ITPs) are having due to the pandemic and lockdowns. So, could I urgently ask if you could provide me with some examples (the whats, whys and impacts) of how providers are suffering from:

  • High levels of unfunded learners – please give the approximate percentage of learners who are unfunded; is this figure increasing?
  • Early leavers – have you seen a deterioration in retention rate; what the reasons are for this?
  • EPA backlogs – are you seeing a backlog; is this in particular sectors eg I am aware it is a particular issue in hairdressing?
  • FSQ (English & maths) assessment delays – is this an issue?
  • Barriers to completing license to operate qualifications – is this an issue; is it specific to certain sectors ie I am aware that the need to pass a driving test may hinder completion of transport related Apprenticeships
  • Has/will the increase in unfunded learners affect your organisation’s finances and accounts this year and, in turn, impact on your ESFA financial assessment? I ask this question with the RoTAP refresh in mind, and the need to flag this up and convince the ESFA that the financial assessment may need to be more relaxed this year.
  • Any other issues which you think would be of value ie what is the monthly monetary cost associated with increasing numbers of unfunded learners

It would be helpful if you could e-mail by return to [email protected]  any useful intelligence so that I can share it with NSN who can then share it with ESFA and raise it with ministers.