Today’s post comes courtesy of Roger Francis, services and HR director at MindLeaders
An important statement was released on the Skills Funding Agency website last Thursday. It confirmed what many of us had believed since the Government released its “New Challenges, New Chances” strategy document last November, that Functional Skills would be funded as standalone literacy and numeracy qualifications from 1 September, replacing the Adult Basic Skills (or Skills for Life) funding stream.
This statement has huge significance for everyone involved in the adult literacy and numeracy field. Until this point, we knew that Functional Skills would replace Key Skills within the Apprenticeship framework from 1 October 2012, but no commitment had been made to replace the Skills for Life programme which was ending at the same time.
We now have that commitment and the growing number of employers who recognise the benefits of upskilling their staff in literacy and numeracy can now put their people on funded Functional Skills programmes.
However (and when dealing with government funding initiatives, there always seems to be a “however”), there are still several unanswered questions which need urgent clarification. Until now, workplace literacy and numeracy has been funded through two totally different programmes – Key Skills within the Apprenticeship Framework, and Skills for Life (SFL) as a standalone qualification. Whilst purporting to achieve the same uplift in skill levels, these programmes were funded at different rates (c£175 for Key Skills and c£500-600 for Skills for Life). Now we have a single qualification but no information whatsoever has been released about the funding levels available when the programme kicks in on 1 September.
One can only assume that as a far more robust and complex programme than either Key Skills or SFL, Functional Skills will be funded in the £500-600 region. But will the same rate apply to Functional Skills within the Apprenticeship framework?
I find it very frustrating that once again the government has released a major statement about the funding of adult literacy and numeracy programmes without providing the necessary detail which will allow employers and training providers to plan out programmes which must now start in less than 6 months time. Training providers are already grappling with the complexities of delivering Functional Skills and it is imperative that they receive the financial information which will enable them to deliver cost-effective solutions.
At MindLeaders, we have been delighted by the response to our Functional Skills solution and are now talking to many different organisations about delivering Functional Skills programmes. However, like everyone else, those discussions are being hampered by the lack of clear funding guidelines and we need that information now – not in 6 months time.