Apprenticeship levy warning to early years sector

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Settings are urged to air their views in the Government’s apprenticeship levy consultation after a leading training provider warned that ‘catastrophic’ funding cuts are in store.

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Apprenticeship funding cuts proposed

With the deadline for responses fast looming in less than two weeks, Ross Midgley of PBD Early Years Training said training companies are likely to pass on thousands of pounds of the predicted 60 per cent shortfall to childcare providers - or be forced to cut corners on quality.

 ‘There’ll be a massive fallout of good training providers and the ones that are left will have to cut corners so that quality of training will decline,’ said Mr Midgley.

‘Unless the SFA [Skills Funding Agency] changes these proposals, most [training] providers will withdraw from apprenticeship delivery altogether.

‘This will have a catastrophic effect on nurseries’ ability to recruit, dwarfing any of the claimed effects of the GCSE requirements.’

The government plans to do away with complex standard funding rates and instead make a contribution to the fees that employers agree with training providers. The Government’s public relations machine has stressed the positives, making the proposals – to cover the cost to small employers of training their youngest apprentices, plus a £1,000 top up each for trainers and employers, along with a 90 per cent subsidy for trainers – sound like an ‘absolutely fantastic deal for all concerned’, he added.

However, there is a ‘ridiculously low’ proposed cap on the sum the training and childcare providers can negotiate, which means that ‘90 per cent’ would be calculated from a much lower starting point, he claimed.

Giving an example, he said the Level 2 Children and Young People’s Workforce framework rate is currently £4,370, plus another £345 for the functional skills ICT (information and communications technology). 

At present, for an apprentice aged between 16 and 18 years old in a deprived area, this would generate an uplift to £7,426, compared with the proposed £3,000 (made up of the £2,000 cap for this framework plus the £1,000 add-on) an effective drop of 60 per cent.

While he accepted that the ‘Government doesn’t owe training providers a living’, Mr Midgley warned against the disastrous consequences of a rapid roll-out, with plans for a May 2017 launch.

He added, ‘Anything that training providers say may look like self-interest, but if settings can see where this is leading, I think their voices can make a big difference.’

The papers for the consultation, which closes on 5 September, can be downloaded here.

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