As part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee, a targeted level 3 adult offer has been developed to support adults without an existing full level 3 qualification. Launching in April 2021, this is a great opportunity for the sector! However, meaningful, and purposeful provision needs to be considered to get the curriculum intent, quality and content right.
There is a powerful temptation to start wading through the qualification aims database and each awarding body in a rush to put on new level 3 provision. This new source of funding is overdue and warmly welcomed; however, it must be thought out and a planned to provide a meaningful offer, with stepped progression, that considers what these new learners will be arriving with and without.
The important factors that which should inform the process are as follows:
Timing - The temptation to put on immediate L3 provision is strong. However, these will often be large substainal qualifications and programmes. Starting any new courses in the summer term is troublesome. Starting substantial Level 3 qualification straight away in April is not the most sensible idea!
Cohort - Although the L3 offer will be open to all learners without a full level 3 or above. Most learners would have been out of education for some time and will not have the skills needed to achieve a level 3 qualification. A more sensible approach should be adopted, by using AEB funding for small intense skills building for a Sept start.
Capacity - Do organisations have the resources, staff and expertise to start courses two thirds of the way through an academic year? Staff are already stretched and are working incredible hard to delivery remotely as it is. Will more new provision be added to timetables, adding too workloads, increasing stress, impacting well-being and mental health. What is the alternative? delivering new extra provision via hourly paid staff? not a quality based decision or a sustainable option!
Curriculum intent - This is a fantastic opportunity to introduce a new modern curriculum, based on green technology, sustainability, construction, engineering and all the new skills that we need to recovery from COVID-19 and Brexit. However, the Awarding Bodies are playing catch up, not enough of these new programmes are available yet. We need to prepare properly by supporting staff to upgrade their skills and sources new teaching and learning resources.
Problem solving - Some ideas and solutions!
- English and maths, up to and including level 2 (for those without a GCSE grade 4 (C)) and Essential Digital Skills Qualifications (Entry 3 and level 1) are fundable for all learners, regardless of their employment status. Let us use this to prepare learners for level 3.
- Learning to progress to level 2 or a first full level 2 (as part of the legal entitlement) is available to all unemployed adults 24+ or those with a gross salary lower than £17,004.00 / or £21,157.50 in London (to replace co-funding). Again, let us use this to prepare our learners!
- There is funding available via the AEB to deliver a 'local flexibility' provision tailored for adults which can include, whole quals, parts of and non-regulated learning up to level 2. This is an ideal source to fund and upskill adult learners in preparation!
- Accessing the funds for the L3 offer is via the Adult Education Budget (AEB). There is a new tendering process going on for Independent training providers (ITP’s), which opened in Feb and closes in March. ITP’s have been told they have a four-month window to deliver a substantial level 3 qualifications (due to the tendering process), which does not sound like a good idea. Colleges are better placed; however, they should not rush into adding new provision at pace.
- This is a great opportunity to address other priorities through a flexible offer that includes small qualifications to address COVID-19 safe practices (Disease & Control prevention), mental health & well-being and BLM (equality & diversity)
I am genuinely excited, motivated, and keen to get this correct! The FES sector has finally got the elusive glass slipper and with the promise of “the future is further education” things are starting to move in the correct direction, let us use this opportunity to get it right!