Skills, Welfare to Work

– "We can't Afford ringfenced budgets in further education"

Association of Learning Providers
Press release – Friday, 15 October 2010

‘We can’t afford ringfenced budgets in further education anymore’, say training providers

The government should open up the supply of further education in the same way that it is with the rest of the education system, training leaders have urged ministers in advance of the spending review.

Further education will then be much more responsive to the needs of employers and learners as the government wants, according to the Association of Learning Providers (ALP) in its response to a BIS consultation on a new skills strategy issued today.

ALP argues that a decision to continue ringfencing large proportions of the £4.5bn FE budget for just colleges would fly directly in the face of open market principles laid down since the election by the Prime Minister and BIS’s own secretary of state, Vince Cable.  The Association also points to a pre-election commitment made by BIS minister David Willetts that giving colleges more operational freedom should come hand in hand with them facing greater competition from independent learning providers.

ALP believes that the state of the public finances means that we simply cannot afford this type of ringfenced protection anymore.  It strongly rejects the argument that independent providers should only be allowed to step in when a college has failed to deliver learning effectively, saying that the country simply cannot afford to wait for failure to occur nor pick up the costs of dealing with it.

The Association is also keen to nail the myth that independent providers are only interested in picking the ‘low hanging fruit’ in adult learning.  ALP has many private and third sector providers, including those involved in the delivery of welfare-to-work programmes, who have worked for many years to seek out and help the hardest to help in the most deprived areas and estates in the country, often achieving life-changing outcomes.

Where the publicly funded skills market is open, training providers say the benefits are clearly seen.  One of the coalition government’s first announcements on entering office was to set a target of an additional 50,000 apprenticeship places to be filled this year and David Willetts told the Conservative party conference that this will be easily exceeded.

ALP chief executive Graham Hoyle OBE comments: “Once again, independent training providers, who continue to be the majority providers of apprenticeships and adult work based learning, have demonstrated their flexibility and ability to respond quickly to changing priorities by delivering excellent results for the government.  As David Willetts said, we have to do more for less; and independent providers can help meet this challenge if they can operate in a fully open system under a single FE budget.

“The coalition government has continued to uphold the previous administration’s adoption of the Leitch principles of a demand-led market driven by the choices of employers and learners.  Leitch also recommended a timetable, now four years old, that the market should also be completely open by 2010 to public, private and third sector providers.  This hasn’t happened and the budgetary pressures mean that we cannot afford any further delay in implementing an open market policy.  ALP members, and their employer customers too, would be at a loss to understand if BIS failed to follow the Prime Minister’s personal blueprint for greater choice and competition in all public service delivery.”

Support for expansion of apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship provision
ALP believes that the government’s strong support for apprenticeships is the correct way forward for meeting the skills needs of the economy and the Association advocates the development of a four-level all age apprenticeship programme.  This also requires finding a new high quality pre-apprenticeship route, not just for young people, including those in the NEET group, who would have previously benefited from proper work based programme led apprenticeships but also for older people, both employed and unemployed, who would benefit from accessing a full apprenticeship.

Currently sitting under separate departments, the Young People’s Learning Agency and Skills Funding Agency should be brought together into a single procurement agency, or if that is not possible, they should at least use the same systems and processes to avoid costly and wasteful duplication of activity in relation to vocational learning for young people.

In its response, ALP also says that against a backdrop of severe local authority cuts, the system cannot function efficiently without an impartial information, advice and guidance service throughout the country and the government is urged to intervene before local services are decimated.

The response also sets out how further education can deliver more by ridding providers of excessive, and often unnecessary, bureaucracy associated with monitoring and audit of processes.

The ALP responses to the two BIS consultations on skills strategy and skills funding can be downloaded HERE


Contact Aidan Relf on 07710 305182

Notes to editors
1. About the Association of Learning Providers
The Association of Learning Providers (ALP) is the leading trade association for vocational learning and employment providers in Britain.  The majority of its 500+ members are independent private, not-for-profit and voluntary sector training organisations.  Membership is open to any provider committed to quality vocational learning and it includes over 50 FE colleges involved in work based learning.

ALP members train a significant majority of the apprentices in England and are the major deliverers of New Deal and Train to Gain contracts on behalf of government.  More information is available at:

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

twitter link Facebook link Linked in

Subscribe here


twitter link Facebook link

Featuring Recent Posts WordPress Widget development by YD