Future funding eligibility of qualifications
As you will most likely be aware, the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) – which is responsible for the funding of adult/further education (in England) – is continuously reviewing where it spends its money, through its new business rules.
The SFA’s goal in changing the way it works is predominantly to ensure its budget of £4billion is able to be spent on areas of need and in addressing the Government’s skills agenda. One recent change in the business rules has been to remove from the list of qualifications eligible for adult (19+) funding any qualifications that have been QCF-accredited for over two years, for which no learners have ever been funded, or there have been fewer than 100 funded adult learners in an academic year. This process does not impact on the eligibility of such qualifications when delivered as part of an Apprenticeship, assuming that the qualification is listed on the relevant Apprenticeship Framework.
The SFA conducted its first review of such qualifications six months ago, allowing awarding bodies to challenge any qualifications on the ineligible list. A few 1st4sport qualifications were in the process of being taken up as part of funded programmes, and we were generally able to successfully challenge the decision and keep such qualifications on the eligible for funding list; others we were unsuccessful in challenging. We didn’t need to challenge the future eligibility of a number of our qualifications, as they are only ever delivered as part of an Apprenticeship. We have, however, been assured they could still benefit from funding in the environment for which they were designed.
The second review phase has now begun with a fresh set of data from the SFA, including a review of the qualifications which were challenged last time and for which funded enrolments were promised! As a result of this process, some 23 1st4sport qualifications will lose their eligibility for funding from 1 August 2014, and a further 11 have low enrolments. It is very unlikely that we will be able to do anything about challenging the eligibility of qualifications that have never benefitted from adult funding; we will however be reviewing (with our partners where appropriate) those with low enrolments, largely on the basis that such qualifications are generally unique, not available from any other awarding organisation, and learners could be disadvantaged by not being able to access funded provision. We have submitted our challenges and will no doubt hear the outcome in the new year. While we support the logic of removing qualifications from funding eligibility, where there is no evidence of a need for funding, we do need to try to ensure that the business rules aren’t applied excessively and learners aspiring to achieve niche qualifications suffer as a result.