EFA’s 18 March 2014 16-19 Funding Letter

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Mick Fletcher comments.

The latest EFA funding letter for 16-19 year old students covering the 2014/15 academic year can be found here [PDF].

Those with the time and energy might want to compare it with the equivalent letter for last year, which is archived here [PDF]. This shows that the total budget has gone down from £7.43 billion to £7.18 billion – a fall of over 3%, which when put against an inflation rate of around 2% means a real terms cut of over 5%.

Some but not all of this is accounted for by the 17.5% cut in the rate for 18 year olds. The national funding rate for full time 16-19s remains at £4,000 per full time student, which is below the level in HE or pre-16 schools.

Ambiguous wording carefully disguises the fact that the planned number of apprentices actually falls over these two academic years from 257,400 to 240,000. There is no figure this year for total spending on apprenticeships, which it seems will be announced by the SFA shortly. The stalling of growth in this area must add to concerns about the impact of the Richard reforms, which still seem to envisage the need for employers to make cash contribution for 16 and 17 year olds and is widely thought likely to cut employer demand still further.

Nor is there any further detail or indicative allocation for Traineeships, although they remain a high priority. There is nothing on the Youth Allowance. Indeed, the paper is surprisingly quiet about the increase in participation needed to reach the RPA target. Last year’s letter identified that only 91.5% of 16 year olds were engaged in activity that met RPA criteria: so one might have expected this year’s announcement either to reflect the increased numbers resulting from the new legal context, or to set a target or strategy to meet it. The lack of an apparent policy drive in this area suggests that the real impact of RPA is simply to shift responsibility for dealing with the problem of being NEET from government to the individual young person.

Only in one area is there more detail in the 2014/15 announcement.  EFA is planning for 39,000 high needs students post-16 (i.e., up to the age of 24).  It is not possible from these documents to know whether this constitutes growth, a cut or a steady state.

Finally, the letter reminds institutions that although the method of allocating the £150 million of discretionary bursary funding available to institutions seems seriously flawed, there would be considerable turbulence were it to be allocated instead in relation to pupil premium numbers -– see http://goo.gl/5Dyigv [PDF]. In essence, such a change would benefit urban institutions with disadvantaged students (which is what one might have thought it was intended to do )  In announcing that there would be no change this year however the government explained that : ‘Basing allocations on the number of students eligible for Pupil Premium shifted the distribution of funding significantly and towards urban institutions with large concentrations of disadvantaged young people’.  They were clearly hoping that this would be offset by a rurality factor to reflect transport costs, but modelling showed that this was not the case.

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