Issue 112 | December 2020

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On 1 December Ofsted published its 2019/20 Annual Report. The main findings for FE were as follows:

  • General FE college inspections results fell. Inspection results for the FE college sector during 2019/20 fell for the first time in three years, with the number of GFE colleges judged by Ofsted as ‘good’ or outstanding falling from 78% in 2018/19 to 75% in 2019/20. A contributory factor was the substantial number of newly merged colleges that were judged to be requires improvement. Area reviews conducted since 2015 have resulted in almost 100 colleges being merged, although around a half are yet to be inspected by Ofsted. In 2019/20, Ofsted inspected 26 newly merged colleges and 17 were judged to be good, with the remaining 9 judged as requires improvement.
  • Growing concerns over college finances. The pandemic has led to growing concerns over the financial sustainability of the FE and skills sector. One of the reasons for this, says Ofsted, is that ‘…most colleges are at least partly-dependent on apprenticeship levy funding, which is not a guaranteed source of revenue’. The report goes on to say that funding from the National Skills Fund (NSF) will be available from next April, and that this ‘…should help colleges to re-balance their finances to an extent’. Meanwhile, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) says that 64 colleges are currently at risk of running out of cash and that £70 million of emergency funding will be needed this year.
  • Online education is only a ‘partial’ solution. Ofsted conducted a review of online education provision in colleges during the first Coronavirus lockdown. The review concluded that this can ‘…only ever be a partial solution to ensuring a good quality of education and training’, particularly where students do not have access to a digital device or internet connection to enable them to learn from home, or where teachers had been inadequately trained to deliver online learning.
  • ITPs were the weakest type of provider. Independent training providers (ITPs) were deemed to be the weakest type of provider, with grades awarded falling for the fourth year in a row, dropping from a high of 83% graded as outstanding or good in 2015/16 to 74% in 2019/20. Ofsted said that in some ITPs, governance was ‘…not sufficiently challenging in holding senior leaders to account’ and leaders were ‘…not moving swiftly enough to implement the recommendations made during monitoring visits’.
  • Apprenticeships were the weakest type of provision. Of 120 inspections in 2019/20 that included an apprenticeships grade, 3% achieved an outstanding grade, 50% were judged as good, and 38% were graded requires improvement. However, 10% were judged as inadequate, and nearly a quarter of apprenticeship providers that received monitoring visits in 2019/20 were given at least one insufficient progress judgement. In many cases, said Ofsted, this was due to weak leadership.
  • Community learning providers were the best-performing provider type. Community learning providers (CLPs) were judged to be the best type of provider, with 92% being graded as good or outstanding in 2019/20 compared to 91% in 2018/19. This was the fourth year that CLP grades have improved.

A copy of the 2019/20 Ofsted Annual Report can be found at:


Graded Ofsted inspections were suspended in March because of the Coronavirus outbreak. Ofsted then launched a programme of ungraded visits to FE providers. On 3 December, when the second lockdown ended, Amanda Spielman, the Ofsted Chief Inspector for England, said that graded inspections would not resume in January. However, she did say that, subject to public health guidance, inspectors would be making in-person visits to some FE providers. Details of which types of providers will be visited were published on 7 December. Three types of routine inspections will begin again in January. These are:

  • Monitoring visits to new providers that have not yet received one.
  • Monitoring visits to providers judged to ‘require improvement’ for overall effectiveness that have not yet received a monitoring visit since their last full inspection.
  • Monitoring visits to providers judged inadequate for their overall effectiveness that have not received a visit since their last full inspection or that are due their second re-inspection monitoring visit.

In addition, non-routine visits may also be carried out. These are:

  • Monitoring visits to providers if there is a significant cause for concern (e.g. safeguarding)
  • ‘Support and assurance visits’ to colleges and other providers providing 16-19 education
  • Survey visits as part of a‘thematic survey’ of the first T levels commissioned by the DfE (see below)

Visits are expected to last one-day and will result in a report but no grade. However, Ofsted says that it will share its findings with the FE Commissioner, the ESFA, combined authorities and any other relevant regulatory or funding body. A copy of the publication can be found at:


Ofsted has been commissioned by the DfE to carry out a ‘thematic survey’ on the implementation of T-Levels and the T-Level transition programme. The survey will cover the first two years of T-Level delivery in 2020/21 and 2021/22. Ofsted will visit a sample of providers either remotely or in-person where public health measures permit. Inspectors will apply the current Ofsted Education Inspection Framework (EIF) methodology to assess the effectiveness and quality of education with the objective of identifying strengths, weaknesses, areas for improvement and good practice. An interim report will be published in September 2021 and a full report in September 2022. More information is available at:


QARs are produced for adult education, 16-18 and apprenticeship programmes. For each college and other FE provider, they provide a measure of the amount of learning successfully completed and how many target qualifications were achieved each academic year. The Department for Education (DfE) took the decision not to publish QARs in 2019/20 because of the disruption caused by the pandemic, and Ofsted was not provided with the data. The DfE has now confirmed that QARs in 2020/21 will not be published either, however the data will be shared with Ofsted. This means that Ofsted will be able to use the QAR data in any provider inspection judgements it makes and in implementing its risk-assessment-methodology when deciding which providers to visit. More information can be found at:


On 15 December, Ofsted published a report containing a summary of inspectors’ findings during visits to 84 providers (of which 30 were colleges) over the period from 19 October until 4 December. The visits involved interviews with students, teachers and managers. No inspection grade was given, but a letter sent to the provider outlining inspectors’ findings is published on Ofsted’s website. Collectively, inspectors found that:

  • Because schools were overly generous in the teacher/centre assessed grades awarded in the summer, many students were placed on courses that they found too difficult and were unable to benefit from.
  • The assessment of learners at the start of the term identified serious gaps as a result of lost teaching time. This was most apparent in English and maths and with younger students. There were also gaps in the practical skills of apprentices.
  • Providing work placements, particularly for students with high needs and those wanting to work in the health and social care, hospitality and retail sectors, is difficult. Employers are reluctant to provide placements because of increased infection risks. Firms that employed apprentices were going out of business or making their apprentices redundant. Some apprentices were still furloughed and although they had completed the theoretical work, they had been unable to complete the practical work with their employer needed to complete their course.
  • There was an increase in the number of students with mental health issues, and an increase in safeguarding concerns, e.g. dependence on food banks, knife crime and drug and alcohol misuse.
  • Providers were advised to keep all teaching face-to-face for 16 to 18 learners during November’s lockdown, while splitting online and onsite teaching for adult learners. Where possible, providers had taught practical skills in face-to-face sessions and theoretical knowledge online. Some were attempting to simulate practical skills by supplying learners with equipment to enable them to undertake practical projects at home.
  • Providers have been hit hard by the loss of commercial income and ongoing costs of making their sites Covid-safe. They have also had to meet increased staff substitution costs when other staff have had to self-isolate. In addition, there has been a dramatic increase in (as yet) unfunded students.

A copy of the Ofsted report can be found at:


Richard Atkins, the FE Commissioner for England, has published his 2019/20 Annual Report. This will be his last before he steps down from the post next March. The main points in the report cover the following:

  • Colleges entering and leaving formal intervention. 13 colleges entered formal intervention during 2019/20, the same number as in 2018/19. In addition, 3 local authorities entered formal intervention. Of the 13 colleges entering intervention last year, 8 were placed in intervention because of financial concerns. As of 31 July 2020, a total of 35 colleges and other institutions were in formal intervention compared to 23 in 2018/19. 5 colleges left intervention in 2019/20. 2 were as a result of mergers, 2 as a result of the lifting of financial health notices and 1 was where the college had met the necessary improvements and was no longer in need of intervention.
  • Support for principals and governors. The FE Commissioner can call on the services of a team of National Leaders of Further Education (NLFEs). These are serving college principals who have a ‘…strong track record of delivering improvement’. The Commissioner can also call on the services of a team of National Leaders of Governance (NLGs). These are ‘…experienced college governors and clerks with a strong record of supporting college improvement’. As of November 2020, NLFEs and NLGs were supporting the principals and governing bodies in 50 colleges.
  • Lockdown support for colleges. Formal visits to colleges were replaced by a programme of online support for colleges, including reviewing financial forecasts and advice on staff restructuring. In total, 54 colleges were offered between 1 and 3 days of support during the lockdown period.
  • Diagnostic assessments. These involve the Commissioner’s team looking at improvement plans and deciding whether those plans are fit for purpose or need strengthening. The aim is to prevent more serious problems arising in the future. If the Commissioner’s team find areas of concern, the college can be asked to undertake a Structure and Prospects Review (SPR), or the college can be placed in formal intervention. A diagnostic visit can be requested by a college. During 2019/20, the FE Commissioner’s team conducted 11 diagnostic assessments, of which one led to formal intervention.
  • Structural reviews and college mergers. The Commissioner has the power to initiate a Structural Review when ‘…a change to the structure of a college or provision may be needed to maintain financial sustainability and high-quality opportunities for learners’. During 2019/20, 5 structural reviews were completed. This resulted in 3 college mergers and 2 colleges joining multi-academy trusts. Also, in 2019/20, 7 further structural reviews were started which are due to be completed next year.

A copy of the FE Commissioner’s 2019/20 Annual Report can be found at:


On 8 December, the DfE notified schools and colleges that 17 December should be the last day of teaching this term. They were also asked to maintain a rota of staff available for contact until 23 December. This, says the guidance, is to allow enough time for Coronavirus infections to be identified and confirmed by a test and for relevant contacts to be traced. Staff are not asked to be on-call at all times and can designate a time period in the day to receive notification of positive a case, which can be done by text or email. After those six days, schools and colleges will not be contacted by NHS Test and Trace.


The DfE has published a Contingency Framework for dealing with Coronavirus in education settings (excluding universities). The framework is designed to act as a containment measure where there is extremely high prevalence of Coronavirus. However, an educational setting should not implement restrictive measures in the framework without the explicit agreement of the DfE. If the DfE agrees that a contingency framework should be implemented, FE providers should:

  • Only allow vulnerable young people, the children of critical workers, students in exam or final assessment year groups, or those who are unable to complete their educational programme remotely to attend.
  • Provide all other students with high-quality remote education.
  • Allow students to continue to attend special post-16 institutions as per their usual timetable.
  • Continue with apprenticeship deliveryand assessment, which should take place in person where doing so online is not possible.
  • Consider if the Contingency Framework provides more opportunities for staff to work at home, (given reduced numbers of students on-site and the use of remote education for students at home).

A copy of the Coronavirus Contingency Framework can be found at:


The measures in the Contingency Framework in respect of access to online learning are currently frustrated because there are large numbers students in England (around 100,000 according to the AoC) who do not have access to the internet at home and/or a suitable digital device. It was intended that the 16-19 bursary fund and adult learner support funding would help these students get the equipment they need (e.g. laptops). However, demand has outstripped the amount of funding available. Colleges with insufficient hardship funding to meet all student needs have been told to make a case to the ESFA. Thus far, around 16 colleges have asked for around £890,000 in extra funding, however, only around £420,000 has actually been allocated. Details of the 16-19 Bursary fund can be found at:

And details of adult learner support funding can be found at:


Vodafone has reversed its earlier decision to exclude disadvantaged FE college students from its free SIM card offer. The offer provides 250,000 disadvantaged young people in schools who are unable to access education from home with free 30GB SIM cards. Initially, disadvantaged students in FE colleges were excluded from the scheme. However, Vodafone has now announced that it is making a further 100,000 30GB sim cards available and that the offer ‘…is now open to FE colleges to provide connectivity for disadvantaged 16-18-year-olds’. More information can be found at:


The DfE has announced the launch of a new Covid Workforce Fund designed to help those colleges and schools in England with a poor cash position to cover the costs of high levels of staff absences due to Covid-19 and to help them remain open. Schools and colleges will be able to reclaim teacher cover costs incurred since 1 November, but only if they meet the following conditions:

  • The eligibility of colleges to claim will be based on their cash position set out in the November financial return.
  • Schools will first need to use any existing financial reserves but can claim funding once they have used these reserves down to a level of 4% of annual income. They must be experiencing a short-term teacher absence rate at or above 20%, and/or a lower long-term teacher absence rate at or above 10%.
  • Special schools and Alternative Provision schools must be experiencing a short-term teacher absence rate at or above 15%, and/or a lower long-term teacher absence rate at or above 10%.
  • Claims for support staff absences will be on an exceptional needs only basis, and only where necessary to keep schools and colleges open.

The DfE says that further guidance will be published ‘shortly’. More information on the scheme is at:


On 14 December, the DfE published updated Covid-19 operational guidance. The updated guidance says that colleges are required to publish their ‘remote education offer’ on their website by 18 January. This is so that ‘…students (and parents of students aged 19 and below) know what to expect of their FE provider’. The information colleges are required to publish should include:

  • The remote education that will be made available for different learner cohorts (14-16, 16-19, apprentices and adult learners).
  • Delivery arrangements, such as timetabling, virtual learning environments, exams and assessments.
  • Arrangements for students studying courses that require specialist equipment or facilities.
  • Support for students without devices, connectivity or a suitable environment for learning.
  • Support for students with special education needs (SEND).

More information be found in the section on ‘Publication of remote education offers’ at:


In Wales and Scotland all 2021 exams have been cancelled. In Northern Ireland, GCSE and A-Level exams will go ahead but with a three week delay to free up time for extra teaching. In England GCSE and A-Level exams will go ahead, with a three week delay and substantial other changes to take account of lost teaching, Details of these changes were announced on 3 December, which include the following: 

  • Students will be graded more generously in line with the higher national outcomes in 2020.
  • Students will be given advance notice of some of the topic areas covered in GCSE and A-Level exams.
  • Aids (e.g. formula sheets) will be provided in some exams to reduce the amount of information students need to memorise.
  • Additional exams will be held to give students a second chance to sit a paper if their main exams or assessments are missed due to illness or self-isolation.
  • A new expert group will be established to monitor the variation in the impact of the pandemic on student performance across England.

The DfE has said it will set out further details in the new year. A copy of the latest guidance, which covers mainly GCSEs and A-Levels, but also refers to VTQs, can be found at the link below:


The DfE says that ensuring parity between general qualifications and VTQs in 2021 will require more varied adaptations owing to the different qualification types. It has also acknowledged that adapting these qualifications is more complicated and resource intensive than for GCSEs and A Levels. VTQ awarding organisations have been tasked with looking at ways to compensate for loss of teaching time, along with contingency measures that may be needed if students miss exams or other assessments due to self-isolation or illness. The latest Ofqual guidance on VTQ exams and assessments in 2021 can be found at:


On 10 December, Ofqual launched a 10-day consultation on proposals on what information should be provided in advance of next year’s exams. The consultation outlines the basic principles for how much advance information should be provided. Ofqual proposes that any advanced information should not:

  • Be so detailed that students are able to memorise the answers to exam questions.
  • Be so detailed as to allow students to predict the questions and prepare answers in advance.
  • Be so extensive or specific that it damages a student’s progression to higher level qualifications.
  • Prevent the identification of the relative performance of stronger and weaker candidates.

Details of the consultation, which closes on December 20, can be found at:

Ofqual says that it is not planning to add a footnote or caveat to the certificates of students who may have benefited from these exceptional measures next year


The first report is an ‘equalities analysis’ that compares the outcomes of students taking A-Level and GCSE exams in 2020 with those taking the exams in the summers of 2018 and 2019. The headline conclusion is that students in 2020 were not systemically disadvantaged on the basis of their ‘…protected characteristics or socio-economic status’. Data used in the research was used to analyse both teacher assessed grades and calculated grades, stratified by gender, ethnicity, first language, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) status, free school meals eligibility and socioeconomic status. Ofqual’s evaluation found that had calculated grades been awarded (rather than teacher assessed grades), the results would have been more closely in line with the outcomes seen in previous exam results. The evaluation also says that for both GCSE and A- Level, the most consistent and significant effect was an uplift in outcomes for all groups as a result of using teacher-assessed grades compared to calculated grades. The report is at:

The second report involves an analysis of VTQs taken in the spring and summer 2020. The research was based on data provided by 33 awarding organisations on all learners who were awarded a VTQ grade between mid-March and the end of July. The headline conclusion is that grades awarded to those who sat those VTQs in 2020 were not substantially different to grades in previous years. There was, however, an increase in the number of top grades awarded. The analysis also suggests that attainment gaps between different demographic groups did not change significantly and that groups of candidates who share particular protected characteristics or socioeconomic status were not systemically disadvantaged by the impact of the pandemic or the approach to awarding qualifications in 2020. This report can be found at:


On 14 December, Ofqual published the findings of a report on the difficulties faced in introducing nationwide large scale online and on-screen assessment in England. In the report, Ofqual says that these barriers, although not insurmountable, means that assessing large-scale standardised exams (such as A-Levels) and other assessments online would not currently be viable. This is because:

  • There are wide variations in the level and quality of IT equipment available across schools and colleges. There are also significant variations in the level of access to reliable broadband and network capacity. This, amongst other things, would not only potentially be unfair to students, it would also prevent whole cohorts of students from sitting the same assessments at the same time.
  • There are wide variations in the availability of specialist IT staff across schools and colleges. This could result some students being better prepared for online and on-screen assessments than others.
  • The introduction of online or on-screen assessments presents new risks to exam security, particularly if staff experience has been limited to managing the security of paper-based examinations.

A copy of the ofqual report can be found at:


Roger Taylor, the Chair of Ofqual is to stand down at the end of this month (December). Mr Taylor has been a member of the Ofqual board since 2012 and has been chair since 2016. Mr Taylor will be replaced by Ian Bauckham, an academy trust leader, on an interim basis until a permanent replacement is appointed.


Simon Lebus has been appointed as interim Ofqual Chief Regulator taking over from Dame Glenys Stacey whose tenure as interim Chief Regulator finishes at the end of this month.  Mr Lebus previously served as the Group Chief Executive at Cambridge Assessment.


In September, Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched the ‘Lifetime Skills Guarantee’. On 9 December, the DfE published its latest guidance on the scheme. This covered, amongst other things, which courses and qualifications are eligible for funding under the Level 3 offer. Details include the following:

Level 3 offer: From next April, all adults in England over the age of 23 will be able to take a fully funded first Level 3 qualification. Adults aged 19-23 are already entitled to this but adults aged 24 and over are currently required to take out an Advanced Learner Loan to pay for their course. To fund the Level 3 offer, £95 million is being made available from the £2.5 billion National Skills Fund (NSF) announced earlier this year. However, funding will only be made available if the Level 3 courses chosen lead to qualifications that are valued by employers and lead to high paid jobs. This, in turn, involves an assessment of likely wage outcomes, alignment with government priorities and labour market needs. In the latest guidance, the DfE has published a list of 379 qualifications that are considered to meet this criteria. These include courses leading to Level 3 qualifications in areas such as science, technology, engineering, construction, and nursing. However, the remainder of the 1,200 or so Level 3 qualifications available have been excluded because, says the DfE, they are ‘… a low priority for employers and have tended to lead to low wage employment’. Courses currently excluded include those that lead to Level 3 qualifications in hospitality, media and arts, travel and tourism, sport and retail. Adults wanting to take courses not currently eligible under the Level 3 offer can still take out Advanced Learner Loans. The DfE says that courses could be added (or dropped) from the list of eligible qualifications subject to changes in employer demand. The list of Level 3 courses currently eligible for funding can be found at:

Skills Bootcamps: £43 million will be made available from the NSF for a further roll-out of the ‘Skills Bootcamp’ programme. The programme is intended to complement the Level 3 offer and provides intensive free courses of between 12 and 16 weeks duration to enable participants to quickly build up sector-specific skills and to fast-track them to an interview with a local employer. Courses are currently available in digital skills (which include software development, digital marketing and data analytics) and technical skills (such as welding, engineering and construction). Skills bootcamps are currently available in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, Greater Manchester and Lancashire, Leeds City Region, Liverpool City Region and the West Midlands. During 2021 a wider range of course subjects will be offered and in more local areas, subject to local employer demand.

The funding for these schemes will be administered through the ESFA in non-devolved areas. In Mayoral Combined Authorities and the Greater London Authority they will be funded through a separate grant, on the strict condition that funding is used for its intended purpose. The latest guidance on the NSF is at:


Included in the latest guidance above is the list of eligible Level 2 and Level 3 qualifications included in the ‘high value’ one year course offer for 18 and 19 year old school and college leavers. The list is available at:

Again, only courses leading to qualifications ‘valued by employers’ (such as science, technology, engineering and construction) are eligible for funding. More on the high value course offer can be found at:


Schools: In July this year, the DfE announced the biggest pay rise for school-teachers in England since 2005, with every teacher receiving above-inflation rises to their pay range. The starting salary for new teachers in 2020/21 was increased by 5.5% and there was an increase in the upper and lower boundaries of the pay ranges for all other teachers by 2.75%. This is equivalent to a 3.1% increase in the overall pay bill in 2020/21 compared with 2019/20. In addition, during the 2019/20 academic year, around a third of teachers who were earning below the maximum for their pay range received a pay rise as a result of progression or promotion. These increases contributed to the base for the 2020/21 pay award and the average salary of a teacher in a school now stands at £41,822. Although the public sector pay freeze announced by the Chancellor in his recent one-year spending review also applies teachers in 2021/22, pay rises from progression and promotion will be allowed to continue. The introduction of a £30,000 minimum starting salary in 2021/22 will also go ahead. With reference to academies (which now account for more than 50% of schools), these are free to set their own pay rates for teachers and are unaffected by the Chancellor’s pay freeze announcement. Teachers’ pay in academies tends to reflect that in the state sector. More details on teachers’ pay increases in 2020/21 can be found at:

Colleges: Meanwhile in colleges, the average pay of a teacher in FE is £32,500, or around £9,000 a year less than that of an equivalent teacher in a school. Many FE teachers have had little or no pay rise for a decade. FE trade unions had called for a significant pay rise for college workers for 2020/21, particularly after the government injected an additional £400 million into the college sector. However, the Association of Colleges (AoC) has recommended to college corporations (which set pay rates for their own colleges) that college staff should receive a pay rise this year of just 1% this year.  This, says the AoC, is because the extra government funding has more or less been wiped out by the significant loss of revenue from a reduction in commercial activity, lower mainstream course fee income and lower apprenticeship income as a result of the pandemic. To this can be added the costs of a dramatic increase in unfunded 16-18 year-olds attending college this year and the extra costs incurred by colleges in making their buildings Covid-secure. More information is at:


On 2 December, the ESFA published the latest full year apprenticeship and traineeship data for England. This covers the period from August 2019 to July 2020. The data reveals the following:

  • Total apprenticeship starts in 2019/20 fell by 18% compared to 2018/19. The number of apprenticeship starts in 2018/19 totalled 393,400, but this fell to 322,500 in 2019/20. Of the starts in 2019/20, 47% were apprentices aged over 25, and 25% were higher apprenticeships. Starts for both Level 2 apprenticeships and apprentices aged under 19 fell disproportionately compared to 2018/19.
  • Traineeship starts in 2019/20 were also down by 18% compared with 2018/19. In 2019/20, traineeship starts in 2019/20 fell to 12,100, down from 14,900 in 2018/19.
  • Apprenticeship vacancies have fallen. In 2019/20, there were 6,920 apprenticeship vacancies in August, 8,150 in September, and 8,170 in October. In 2018/19, there were 10,490 apprenticeship vacancies in August, 9,760 in September and 9,900 in October. And in 2017/18, there were 14,060 vacancies in August, 12,050 in September and 14,260 in October.
  • Apprenticeship redundancies. Over the period from 1 August until 12 November 2020, the number of apprenticeship redundancies reported was 1,190. Of these, 22% were under 19s, 35% were aged 19-24, while 43% were for 25s and over.
  • Transfer of apprenticeship funds. Since April 2018, levy-paying employers have been able to transfer up to 10% of the annual value of their funds to other organisations via the Apprenticeship Service. This increased to 25% from April 2019. As of 16 November 2020, 7,670 transfers had been approved. Of these, 2,610 (34%) were transfers to levy-paying organisations and 5,060 (66%) were transfers to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that do not pay the apprenticeship levy.
  • Impact of new employer incentives. Under an incentive scheme, running from August to March 2021, any firm that hires a new apprentice aged 16-24 will be paid £2,000 in addition to the existing £1,000 incentive. Those that hire new apprentices aged 25 and over will receive £1,500. The cash is paid in two instalments if the apprentice stays for a least a year, and is limited to 10 apprentices per employer, in England. As of 12th November 2020, the number incentive claims totalled 8,000. By level, of these, 33% were for Level 2 apprentices, 44% were for Level 3 apprentices, and 23% were for level 4 or higher apprentices. By age the vast majority, 6,450 (81%), of claims were for 16-24-year-olds.

Further details can be found at:


The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) launched its first consultation on apprenticeship funding rates in February this year. This resulted in a new funding model that saw some rates cut dramatically. Then, in July, IfATE launched a second consultation on funding rates, but this made some apprenticeships unprofitable, particularly when certain costs deemed ineligible for funding by the ESFA were taken into account. (ESFA ineligible costs currently include expenditure on such things enrolment, induction, initial assessment and initial diagnostic testing). As a result, this month IfATE launched its third consultation on apprenticeship funding rates whilst at the same time urging the ESFA to conduct a review of its current rules on what costs are eligible and what costs are ineligible in respect of the delivery of apprenticeship training. The ESFA has now agreed to do this and in response, IfATE has said that it will delay implementing the outcome of its latest consultation until the ESFA’s review has been completed (although no date has as yet been given for this). Further details of the ESFA review of eligibility of costs can be found in section 14 of the ESFA update published on 9 December, which can be found at:

And further details of the third IfATE consultation on funding rates can be found at:


IfATE has announced that the chair, Antony Jenkins will stand down next summer after 5 years in the post. He was originally expected to remain in the job until March 2022. Mr Jenkins, a former Barclays Group Chief Executive said that he has decided leave early to allow his replacement oversee the next evolution of board membership. The post carries an annual salary of £29500.


The UK has left the EU and the transition period is scheduled to end on 31 December. Irish nationals have, since 1923, had the right to live, work and study in the UK, along with passport free travel to the UK. These rights are not, and never have been, linked to the UK’s membership of the EU. However there will be changes to the rights of all other EU nationals and to the nationals of Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, which are not EU members, but who have also had the right to live, work and study in the UK by virtue of their membership of the EU single market. The impact of the changes on the UK FE sector are likely to include the following:

  • Freedom of movement: Freedom of movement to the UK for EU nationals will end on 31 December. EU nationals wanting to come to the UK to study at a UK college after then will need a visa, and colleges will need a licence to sponsor their study. An estimated 40% of UK colleges are licenced student sponsors. Not all EU nationals will need a visa – provision has been made to protect the rights of EU nationals already living in the UK via an application for ‘settled status’, which will confer an indefinite right to continue to live, work and study in the UK. Home Office data shows that in the period to the end of October 2020, there were applications from more than 4.2 million EU nationals living in the EU for settled status (more than the government actually thought were in the country). Of these, 3.9 million applications have thus far been granted. Applications to the scheme can continue to be made until 30 June 2021 and colleges have been advised to not to make changes to the right to study or fees until after the scheme closes at the end of June. Although Irish nationals living in the UK (around 380,000) do not need to apply for settled status, they have the right make an application.
  • Fees and funding: For the remainder of 2020/21 and until the end of their course there will be no changes to the eligibility of students who are EU nationals and who started their course this academic year (or earlier) in respect of tuition fees and access to funding in the UK country they are studying in (e.g. they will continue to receive free tuition in Scotland and will continue to have the right to apply for tuition fee and maintenance loans in England). However, other than for those who have successfully applied for settled status, all EU nationals commencing a course next year will no longer be treated as home students and will need to pay overseas tuition fee rates.
  • Erasmus+: More than 100 colleges have, between them, received €77 million in EU funding from the Erasmus+ programme, which has enabled UK students and staff to study and gain work experience

in other EU countries. Concerns have been expressed that this will be lost when the transition period ends. However, since the UK’s total contributions to the EU central budget have consistently been around twice that of EU grants and other income received from the EU central budget, it should theoretically be more than possible for the UK government to allocate a similar level of resources either to enable the development of an alternative scheme, or to buy into the Erasmus+ programme, as around 20 other non-EU countries do (e.g. Russia, Egypt and Israel).

  • European Social Fund (ESF): UK colleges and universities have been able to make applications to the EU under its various ‘directives’ relating to funding for skills development programmes for adults and young people, and measures to combat unemployment. Any EU funding granted has usually required matched funding to be provided by the applicant institution (or co-financing body such as the ESFA). This has typically been around 50% of the total cost, but sometimes more. To replace any ESF income that will no longer be available from 1 January, the government has promised that part of the £9 billion a year from savings from the UK’s net contributions to the EU central budget will be used to create a ‘shared prosperity fund’ that will enable existing and similar projects to continue to be delivered against national skills priorities.

The AoC has prepared resources to help colleges with the changes. These can be found at:


A new report from the Office for Students (OfS) says that, despite earlier fears about the negative impact of the pandemic, finances at England’s universities and other HE providers remain largely sound (which, of course, is more than can be said of FE and sixth form college finances). The report is based on data returned to the OfS in October and covers performance in the 2019/20 and 2020/21 financial years and compares this to 2018/19 (which was prior to the onset of the pandemic). The report says that:

  • The sector is expecting to report broadly similar levels of income of £35 billion across all three years.
  • In 2019/20 total course fees were reported at £18.5 billion compared with £17.2 billion in 2018/19, an increase of 7.2%. HE providers have forecast that fee income will fall by 1.7% in 2020/21, although this will still be higher than 2018/19 levels.
  • Total overseas (non-EU) tuition fee income was reported at £6 billion in 2019/20 compared with £5.2 billion in 2018/19, an increase of 16.4%. HE providers think that this will fall to £5.4 billion in 2020/21
  • At the end of 2019/20, aggregate HE sector borrowing (e.g. to fund such things as new buildings and student residences) was £13.7 billion, a rise of £0.7 billion compared to 2018/19. The sector is projecting aggregate borrowing to rise to £14.2 billion by the end of 2020/21.

A copy of the report can be found at:


The University of Surrey and the University of Birmingham have confirmed that they will reduce their entry requirements by one grade for students applying for most undergraduate courses in 2021 in order to ‘…relieve the anxiety for students, who have had their learning disrupted by the pandemic’. More universities are understood to be considering a similar course of action.


A British civil engineering company won a £ multi-billion contract to build giant sea walls on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the country of Panama. The aim was to reclaim land from the sea in order to vastly increase the land area of the tiny central American country. To help with the project, the firm began recruiting a number of talented young people as post-graduate civil engineering apprentices. As part of the interview, each candidate was asked to describe what his or her vision for the ‘Panama project’ (as it had become known) was. The response from one of the candidates was, ‘I’m dreaming of a wide Isthmus’

From of all of us at Click, have a very merry Christmas and a happy Covid-free New Year.

Alan Birks – December 2020

As usual, the views and opinions expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those held by Click.
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