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NATECLA statement regarding SFA Funding Rules 2013-14

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05 February 2013

NATECLA statement regarding SFA Funding Rules 2013-14  

NATECLA agrees with the statement in the funding rules that English language skills are essential in the community and for success in the job market.   However, the rules go on to state that Learners who do not use English as their first language are expected to undertake ESOL learning which improves their prospects of getting a job and enables them to progress to Functional Skills in English and GCSE in English language. There is much to debate in this statement, but NATECLA is concentrating on the changes to the way ESOL is funded in this initial response.  

What are these changes?
ESOL will no longer be calculated on Guided Learning Hours (GLH) Instead, ESOL will be listed on the Qualification Credit Framework (QCF).   Currently, providers are paid for delivery up to 450 hours, 1 Standard Learner Number (SLN) so if a student completes a course of study in 100 hours, the provider is paid for 100 hours;  if she does 420 hours, the provider is paid for 420 hours.

It isn't quite a simple as that, but that's the gist of it.   This is how colleges have managed to offer flexible programmes of study which reflect the different needs of different learners, spiky profiles and diverse educational backgrounds. In many colleges, programmes vary from small numbers of hours, termly courses to full time, year-long courses, with ESOL as the main, or only, component. This does not reflect a low level of expectation, but a recognition that it takes a long time to learn a language and that it takes some learners much longer than others.  

There is currently no difference between funding rates for Speaking and Listening or an all modes qualification. Learners can do Speaking and Listening and then go on to all modes and funding is calculated according to the number of hours on the programme (up to one SLN).  

From next academic year, however, ESOL qualifications will be ‘listed’ on the QCF. This means that providers will get a flat rate for a qualification, no matter how many or few hours are offered. Each credit on the QCF represents a notional ten hours of study.   Speaking and Listening has been rated as an Award (5-12 credits on the QCF), and it is assumed it can be delivered in 37-100 hours (providers will get £336 for each fully funded student - and half that amount if they are co-funded, i.e. not on benefits and not unemployed).  

All modes
qualifications have been rated as a Certificate (13-24 credits on the QCF), will attract £724 per learner at the fully funded rate and it is assumed they would be delivered in 101-196 hours.   So if a student takes Speaking and Listening and then moves onto an all modes qualification, the hours they have already been funded for (or £336) would be deducted from the claim for the all modes qualification.    

Funding Band (Credits) Programme Weighting (PW)
    A – Base (unweighted rate) B – Low   C – Medium D – High E – Lower Specialist or G* – Higher Specialist
Award (1-4) £148 £166 £193 £237 £255
Award (5-12) £336 £376 £437 £537 £578
Certificate (13-24) £724 £811 £941 £1,159 £1,246
Certificate (25-36) £1,265 £1,417 £1,645 £2,025 £2,176
Qualification Funding Band Funding
GCSE Certificate (13-24) £724
Adult Certificates in ESOL Certificate (13-24) £724
Adult Certificates in ESOL (Speaking and listening) Award (5-12) £336
Functional Skills in English and maths Certificate (13-24) £724
Functional Skills in IT Award (5-12) £336
New Free Standing English Awards + Maths at Level 1 and 2 Award (1-4) £148
New Free Standing Maths Awards at Entry Level Award (1-4) £166
 What are the implications of these changes?   The tariff is set quite low and, in reality, to get the same level of funding a college currently receives for a fully funded learner doing all modes, it would only be able to offer 100 hours. Clearly it would be tempting to enrol learners for examinations in a conservative manner.  However the funding rules preclude this:  Learners must be enrolled on a level of learning that is beyond that to which they are assessed. For example, if a learner is assessed as being at entry level 3 they must be enrolled on at least a level-1 qualification. Learners must not simply be accredited for knowledge they already have. (para 56).  

It is not clear how units of qualifications (ZUNAs) and college certificates (CBSE) will be funded, although the rules do talk about units of adult basic skills NQF Certificate in ESOL and Non-regulated ESOL learning aims pre-entry level, entry level, level 1 and level 2, which may be college certificates (para 47).  

As it is very difficult for most learners to achieve a whole level of qualification in 100 hours (imagine going from GCSE German to A level in such little time), providers will have to put on complex courses including Personal Social Development, Employability, ICT and Maths. Although these are all bona fide qualifications and may be useful for some learners, most are not designed with ESOL learners in mind and may bewilder and confuse low level learners as well as adding a huge administrative burden onto teachers.  

Finally, there is still much uncertainty about the whole future of ESOL Qualifications and there is a degree of hedging in the document pending the publication of the results of the Ofqual ESOL Consultation which closed in December 2012. The rules state that the SFA will fund adult basic skills NQF Certificate in ESOL (Skills for life) (only if the operational end date is extended)  entry level, level 1 and level 2 (level 1 and 2 only if new assessments for a reading unit are put in place  and accredited by Ofqual) (Para47).  

NATECLA believes that the new “simplified” system is unrealistic in terms of the number of hours on offer and that ESOL providers will have to exclude the most needy learners (who are those who need ESOL the most in order to access the jobs market).
  NATECLA asks for clarity about the future of ESOL qualifications and demands that funding for these remains at a level that allows providers to offer appropriate, flexible and high quality courses for all learners.  

Links: SFA Funding Rules 2013/14 http://readingroom.skillsfundingagency.bis.gov.uk/sfa/funding_rules_2013_14_jan_2013.pdf  

SFA 2013/14 Simplified Funding Rates can be downloaded from http://skillsfundingagency.bis.gov.uk/providers/FundingSimplification/  

On Thursday 21 Feb, FE week reported that 'Providers are to be protected from potentially huge drops in funding when a new payments regime is introduced from August.' 


'The Skills Funding Agency exclusively told FE Week that “transitional protection” would be in place for the new adult funding system after research showed the value of many qualification would fall by more than 20 per cent.'

NATECLA welcomes this announcement from the SFA but notes that many ESOL providers are reporting that under the new system the value of ESOL qualifications would drop by as much as 75%.

NATECLA believes that it is impossible for any but the most skilled and experienced language learner to progress up the levels of the Adult Literacy Core Curriculum in as few as 100 hours and that, without modification in the future, the proposed changes will devastate ESOL provision in England.

NATECLA will therefore carry on lobbying for proper levels of funding for ESOL qualifications into 14-15 and beyond.

Members are encouraged to email FundingSystemsTeam@skillsfundingagency.bis.gov.uk to give the agency feedback on its new funding system proposals by Friday, March 15.

NATECLA's feedback will be posted here in the next few days.

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