Welfare to Work

‘Pay schools by results to improve GCSE English and maths grades’, say apprentice trainers

Association of Employment and Learning Providers

Press release – 1 October 2012

 ‘Pay schools by results to improve GCSE English and maths grades’, say apprentice trainers

 Schools should be subject to a payment-by-results regime to improve pupils’ GCSE attainment in English and maths, according to the training providers who train most of England’s apprentices.

The providers say that this radical reform would help address employers’ complaints about young people not having the necessary basic skills to make them job ready.

The call comes after the introduction of new government requirements for apprentices to pass GCSE-equivalent tests in the two core subjects as part of the successful completion of an apprenticeship programme.

Training providers are being asked to rectify in a very short time and for very little money what 11 years of statutory schooling and thousands of pounds’ worth of public investment have failed to achieve for over a third of school leavers.

In a new position paper on improving the life chances of young people in a very challenging economic environment, the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) argues that ‘output related funding’, which is commonplace in state-funded post-16 vocational education and employment programmes, should now be applied to academy and secondary school funding in England.

AELP proposes that in the event of a D grade or lower in one of the core subjects, a percentage of pupil funding should be held back and redirected to help pay for remedial English and maths provision as part of a young person’s pre-apprenticeship training.

The association has welcomed the Deputy Prime Minister’s announcement last week to give schools extra money for Year 7 students who struggled at Key Stage 2 but believes that this measure combined with AELP’s proposal which is directly related to Year 11 attainment will, as a carrot and stick approach, form a powerful incentive for schools to improve their provision.

AELP points out that with demand for high quality apprenticeship places growing, many employers are starting to turn away young people if they don’t already have the desired ‘pass’ grades with the situation worsened by this summer’s controversy over the GCSE English results.  In the event of not achieving a C grade, young people must either sit the new ‘functional skills’ tests within an apprenticeship framework or achieve the required level of attainment in some form of pre-apprenticeship or preparatory training.

AELP advocates in its paper that functional skills tests should now be removed from full apprenticeship frameworks and placed in a government-funded preparatory module.  It says that the idea makes even more sense in the light of the tougher grading proposed as part of the government’s plan to replace GCSEs with EBCs and the preparations for ‘Raising the Participation Age’ to 18.


Graham Hoyle OBE, AELP’s chief executive, said:

 “Payment by results might seem a radical idea for schools, but it is nothing new for independent learning providers, including charities, who are providing support for some of the most disadvantaged young people in society. 

 “Reforming the funding system in this way would surely offer an incentive to schools to reduce the current failure rate, ensuring a higher proportion of pupils leave statutory education ready and able to be selected onto an apprenticeship programme or be job ready.  We really must be bold in tackling the common complaint from employers that too many school leavers lack the basic skills in literacy and numeracy which they need for the world of work.”

School teachers must be ‘taught’ about apprenticeships

Another key AELP recommendation in the position paper seeks to address the scandalous situation of careers advice in schools, as exemplified by recent research undertaken by the independent education foundation Edge, which found that a third of pupils have never been presented with the option of taking up a vocational course and that 77% of A level students surveyed were even discouraged from pursuing vocational paths.

AELP wants new measures to ensure that all teachers, not just so-called careers teachers, are fully aware of what apprenticeships are, how they operate, how they can be accessed and the positive career benefits they offer.

In addition, at least one teacher from every secondary school should undertake work experience with an apprenticeship provider and become the apprenticeship champion for their school.

Voucher system needed to encourage more SMEs to offer apprenticeships

In response to concerns that not enough small and medium sized businesses are offering apprenticeship places, AELP proposes that vouchers be made available to employers, especially SMEs, which would enable the training provider to draw down part payment against the completion of a full apprenticeship programme.

Vouchers would be marketed as a direct government financial contribution to employers, reducing their costs of accessing the apprenticeship programme, while at the same time enabling the government to incentivise the take-up of apprenticeships.

The scheme would avoid the requirement for government to become involved with apprenticeship framework designs which must be left clearly in the hands of employers, who would continue to be the major funders of apprenticeships.

Also in its paper, AELP recommends that SMEs might find the apprenticeship programme more attractive if employers were given an increased flexibility and choice over the ‘core and options’ approach currently at the centre of virtually all apprenticeship frameworks.   This would involve a wider range of optional modules to be selected by the individual employer from an occupationally based list.

Graham Hoyle added:

 “There should be greater clarity regarding who pays for apprenticeships.  Government should accept responsibility for ensuring that potential apprentices reach the minimum levels of English and maths and other generic ‘soft’, employability skills, with employers continuing to fund the acquisition of skills and competencies they require to improve the competitiveness of their organisations.” 

AELP member training providers train in excess of 70% of apprentices in England and the proposals in the AELP position paper have been submitted to the current government review of apprenticeships being undertaken by former Dragon’s Den investor, Doug Richard.

 apprenticeshipspolicypaper 01Oct12


Contact Aidan Relf on 07710 305182


Notes to editors


1. AELP position paper: The AELP position paper, ‘How to develop, strengthen, improve and increase the number of apprenticeships’, can be downloaded at: www.aelp.org.uk.


2. Output Related Funding precedents: The output related funding (ORF) element of an apprenticeship comprises 25% of the total funding, i.e. 25% of the funding is only paid to the training provider when an individual successfully completes the full programme.  The government has also recently applied ORF to one of its Youth Contract programmes.  Many of the young people which AELP members are supporting have previously been not in education, employment or training (NEET) and some come from very disadvantaged backgrounds; so the challenge of supporting them on an ORF basis is no less than that which would be placed on an inner-city secondary school.


3. ‘Loss-making’ functional skills provision: The average apprenticeship lasts over a year and many technical apprenticeship programmes can take 2 to 3 years.  The Skills Funding Agency recently proposed that it would pay an apprenticeship training provider £336 per learner to successfully complete the functional skills element of an apprenticeship instead of the £178 it currently pays, which leads to the provider having to absorb huge losses on its tuition of this part of the programme.  The proposed new rate would still be significantly below cost and the agency has now agreed to review it, recognising that the proposed rate bears no relation to the cost of classroom provision that seeks the same outcomes or the £500 that the Deputy Prime Minister is now offering to schools for Year 7 remedial provision.


4. Current core subject GCSE attainment: The statement above on GCSE attainment in English and maths is drawn from official DfE data which  shows that 65.5% of students achieved grade C or above in English in 2011 in England while 58.8% achieved C or above in maths.


5. About the Association of Employment and Learning Providers: The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) is the leading trade association for vocational learning and employment providers in Britain.  The majority of its 600+ members are independent private, not-for-profit and voluntary sector training and employment services organisations.  Membership is open to any provider committed to quality provision and it includes over 50 FE colleges involved in work based learning. 70% plus of apprenticeships in England are delivered by AELP members.  Over 70% of the Work Programme prime contractors are AELP members with many other members delivering the programme as sub-contractors.   AELP providers currently engage with almost 300,000 employers across the country and last year they helped 117,240 learners complete an apprenticeship.


Web: www.aelp.org.uk  Twitter: @AELPUK


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