A version of this post was published as an article in FE Week on 18/06/2012
Picture the scene. You are an outstanding Training Provider who has been delivering standalone Skills for Life (SFL) English and Maths programmes in the workplace. For each successful outcome, you receive funding from the government of approximately £500. But from the end of August the government is no longer funding SFL qualifications as they are replacing them with Functional Skills, a more challenging programme but one which we all hope will begin to address the skills crisis which we face in the UK.
Since Functional Skills will take longer to deliver than SFL and will almost certainly require more contact time between learner and tutor, it seems only fair that the funding for the new qualification is at the very least on par with that offered for SFL.
It has therefore come as a very unpleasant shock to providers operating in this field to learn that the government intends to reduce the level of funding for this qualification by 40% – to just over £300 per outcome. The implications of this news are potentially disastrous. We now know from the government’s own figures that over 5.1 million adults are functionally illiterate and that a staggering 16.1 million adults (nearly half the adult working population) lack functional numeracy skills. Moreover, a survey just published by the CBI showed that 42% companies in the UK are now having to provide remedial training in English and Maths to recruits who are college and school leavers.
Quite clearly, there is a desperate need to encourage high quality workplace support for these learners. Yet the government’s response is to slash the funding for Maths and English to levels, which will prove to be financially unworkable for many providers in this field (most of whom rely on this funding as their main source of income). We all have to tighten our belts in these difficult economic times, but no organisation can sustain a drop of 40% in revenue and remain economically viable without huge cuts in their level of service. As a consequence, it seems almost certain that many highly successful and reputable training providers will move out of an area which is absolutely vital to the future success of the UK economy.
Of course, the use of technology can provide savings and efficiencies and at MindLeaders we have developed a full distance-learning solution for Functional Skills which we are delivering successfully to many organisations across the UK. Notwithstanding, I believe that the government needs to urgently review this funding decision. There are still a couple of months remaining before the introduction of Functional Skills. This is a U-turn which I believe is essential if we are going to tackle the skills crisis in the UK.