31 Oct 2016, Hannah Crown
The young poor are bearing the brunt of apprenticeship funding cuts, early years training providers have warned.
Changes to the way early years apprenticeships are funded, which were announced last week, could result in cuts of up to 50 per cent for the worst off.
According to analysis by early years training provider PBD, providers accepting 16- to 18-year-olds in the most deprived areas of the country face cuts of 42 per cent in Level 3 funding compared with the previous system. For comparable Level 2 courses, the cut is 49 per cent.
This is despite the Government scrapping plans to stop paying a cash weighting for deprivation following an outcry.
‘Despite the new incentives it seems the Government is still targeting young people in inner cities for the greatest cuts,’ said PBD’s Ross Midgley.
Better-off Level 3 apprentices face a 28 per cent reduction in their funding, while the picture is worse for equivalent Level 2s (39 per cent).
Association of Employment and Learning Providers CEO Mark Dawe has said that new funding bands for early years apprenticeships (see box) are ‘making the training of early years apprentices inviable’.
The reaction is a response to a DfE consultation on apprenticeship funding changes launched in August. After a group of Labour MPs and the Education Select Committee expressed concerns about the likely impact on social mobility across all sectors, education secretary Justine Greening announced that a deprivation supplement of up to £600 would be available along with a 20 per cent cash boost for training providers of 16- to 18- year-olds.
However, both these paymentsapply only to frameworks – they will not be in place when the standards which replace them are in force.
Ms Greening said the new funding system, which comes into force next April, ‘will ensure apprenticeships are high-quality, meet the needs of employers and provide opportunities for millions more people’, and had come about after ‘extensive discussions with employers and training providers’.
But the predicted funding shortfall is leading providers to warn that fewer young people from deprived backgrounds will be able to get apprenticeships.
A representative of one early years training provider, who did not wish to be named, said their senior management team was meeting next week to review their strategy in the face of the cuts. She said, ‘We have always been open access – we believe in taking people from disadvantaged backgrounds who might not have opportunities elsewhere. We have a lot of examples of unemployed learners going the whole way through and now doing management training. That is not something we want to give up. But this is making us re-evaluate that and that is really sad.’
She added, ‘We have tried as a provider to train the right people. That control is being taken away – the system is going from being very learner-centred to employer-centred. The concern is that employers are going to be more selective about who they put on an apprenticeship.’
The hold-up over the early years apprenticeship standard, currently the subject of a disagreement between the Government and employers over GCSE requirements, and the current Level 3 recruitment crisis have left the sector feeling constantly ‘squeezed’, she added.
AELP chief Mr Dawe said, ‘It seems that the sector is now facing a double whammy when the Government is meant to be doubling the amount of free childcare. First, it can’t recruit because of ministers’ insistence on good GCSEs rather than functional skills; secondly, these new funding bands are making the training of early years apprentices inviable. The only immediate crumb of comfort is the Government has promised to keep these bands under constant review, but the recruitment crisis in childcare would suggest action to put these right is needed now.’
Employers also ‘may decide that apprentices are no longer a recruitment option’ without sufficient funding, said a spokeswoman for Pre-school Learning Alliance.
‘In order to address the growing recruitment crisis in the sector, it is essential that the Government puts in place policy that makes early years apprenticeships viable and attractive to employers. This is all the more important given the recruitment challenges that have been created by the English and maths minimum GCSE requirement,’ she added.
The DfE has been asked for a comment.