Intensive negotiations are taking place within the government to determine to what extent universities can again receive funding for courses that did not take place due to the pandemic.
In a typical year, colleges are allowed to keep 100 percent of the national budget for adult education if they meet a threshold of 97 percent or more of their allocation.
Last year, that threshold was lowered from 97 percent to 68 percent due to the effects of Covid-19, and if the national lockdown persists, it could be even lower this year.
FE Week believes the Department of Education is trying to convince the Treasury Department to allow a significant underdelivery, which could include a different threshold between March and July when the lockdown is expected to end.
Association of Colleges executive director David Hughes told FE Week that it was “imperative that colleges figure out how their AEB budgets are being used” soon.
ESFA said it is reviewing “its year-end reconciliation position for grant-funded adult education budgets for 2020/21” and any changes to published agreements will be communicated “in due course”.
Mayors combined agencies with distributed budgets for adult education also need to consider what allowances, if any, should be given to their universities and training providers.
For example, the Greater London Authority planned to introduce a 90 percent threshold. That is likely to change as the mayor signed the GLA staff proposal last November before the final lockdown.
Concern about colleges’ ability to recruit against their AEB assignments has increased during the third national lockdown, which forced educational institutions to move closer to most students since the turn of the year. The government is currently planning to reopen the colleges on March 8 at the earliest.
For example, Leicester College is in a city that has been permanently closed since March 2020.
The college told FE Week that it will likely deliver less than 74 percent of its £ 11 million allocation this year.
That is after last year it was no longer on track to deliver 108 percent, but actually 87.6 percent after they “lost” the summer semester.
Ninety percent of their AEB offerings come from ESOL, Skills for Life and Reintegration, where “the majority of students are unable to study online” when they are at a lower level and when outreach centers are closed.
Additionally, the college told FE Week that it was unable to hire employees during the spring semester. If all online enrollments are postponed, access will be “more difficult” for adult students.
If the threshold is not lowered, many universities will have to layoffs very soon
Hughes said that 100 percent provision to colleges in 2020/21 is “extremely unlikely, despite efforts,” as many students are unable to participate in distance learning, especially lower-level courses, ESOL and hands-on courses, and because jobs are learners would have shut down.
This “had to be accepted and the universities given consolation” by lowering the delivery threshold, otherwise many universities would have to lay off staff “very soon” for employees who “will be needed next year, when skills for jobs and for recreation will be even more important “.
FE Week has contacted all of the combined mayors’ offices with AEB decentralized funding, and while some have put in expanded tolerances for underdelivery, others are holding fires.
The Greater London Authority has set a threshold of 90 percent for its grant-funded adult education providers (usually universities). When asked if that might change, a spokesman said Mayor Sadiq Khan’s team would “look into the impact of an extended lockdown on funding for adult education later this month.”
The Liverpool metropolitan area has declared for 2020/21 that it has “loosened tolerance levels” in order to enable providers to “re-profile potential under-deliveries”.
The West Midlands Combined Authority said it would “finalize our 2020/21 approach” in the next few weeks, and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough said they were “currently modeling our 2020-21 reconciliation approach”.
Tees Valley has not made any changes to the tolerance values yet, but is monitoring the situation. and Greater Manchester meets with its vendors to understand where they are with 2020/21 delivery before devising a plan to deal with reconciliation.
The North of Tyne Combined Authority said it was “currently in discussion with its provider base to update its approach and ensure people in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland continue to have access to the courses they need to progress on.” Learning and achieving in employment “.
For 2019/20 and after a series of U-turns, the ESFA allowed a performance threshold of 68 percent for providers with grant financing. But 33 colleges still haven’t achieved this goal. 27 faced reclaims of funds while six business cases were filed to try to reduce or avoid reclaiming.
The DfE announced that it would publish further details on the actual delivery in March last year.
FE Week expects that independent training providers will continue to be paid only for their actual delivery per month unless the cabinet-approved Covid supplier relief program is applied.