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Withdrawal of funding from pre-existing qualifications - AoC's statement

25 October 2019

The ESFA published guidance on the 2019 to 2020 student transfer process for pre-existing qualifications. This follows the Department for Education’s announcement of the withdrawal of funding from so called ‘pre-existing’ qualifications in July. This is part of the first stage of the Review of Qualifications at Level 3 and was no surprise. AoC welcomes the fact that arrangements have been put in place to ensure the final cohort of students on these qualifications have the same options as previous cohorts without any impact on achievement rates or audit. You can use this process for students who begin a large qualification (eg: an Extended Diploma) which will no longer be fundable for new starts from 1 August 2020, and who want to transfer to a smaller qualification ‘nested’ within the larger qualification (eg: a 90-credit diploma). The guidance also sets out what you will need to do in the individualised learner record (ILR) or Learning Provider portal system from the Student Loans Company (SLC) to complete a transfer, and when you need to do it. What are ‘pre-existing’ qualifications? These are the 163 qualifications that last appeared in the 16 to 18 performance tables for 2016 or 2017 as Tech Levels or Applied General qualifications. The DfE has identified 163 pre-existing qualifications that are currently available alongside newer redeveloped qualifications and these will no longer be funded after August 2020. The list of pre-existing qualifications with removed funding approval was published in July. The funding of all other Tech Levels and Applied General qualifications is not affected. Pearson has published a webpage which shows which of their QCF qualifications will have funding removed in August 2020, and which of their QCF qualifications are unaffected by this change. What are ‘nested’ qualifications? Some pre-existing qualifications are part of a suite of qualifications, where smaller qualifications are ‘nested’ within a larger qualification. This means that a student who achieves the smaller qualification can use it to count towards achieving the larger qualification in the same suite. Students who start and achieve the smaller qualification can normally top-up to a larger qualification in the following year. Why do we need a special transfer process for pre-existing qualifications? AoC raised an important issue with DfE relating to these nested qualifications. Under this model, students can enrol on a smaller qualification first, then ‘top-up’ to a larger qualification within the same suite the following year. Our concern was that with the withdrawal of funding for pre-existing qualifications in 2020, the final cohort of students would not be able to transfer in their second year because funding approval would, by that stage, have been removed from the larger qualification. Rather than ‘topping up’ the small nested qualification with the larger qualification, the ESFA has put in place a process to support those students who need to, to ‘step down’ from the larger qualification to the smaller qualification. This means that colleges who wish to use this facility should enrol all those students who need the option of taking larger qualification over 2 years on the larger qualification from the start of the course but with the reassurance that they can ‘step down’ and achieve the smaller qualification if they wish to. What is the transfer process which has been agreed? Where a student starts a smaller pre-existing qualification in the 2019 to 2020 funding year, they will not be able to progress to the larger pre-existing qualification in 2020 to 2021, and still be funded. In order not to disadvantage these students in the final cohort, the ESFA has put in place a transfer process just for the 2019 to 2020 funding year and students will need to understand that: •If they start on the larger qualification in their first year, there will be the option to transfer to the smaller qualification. •If they start on the smaller qualification they will not be able to step up to the larger qualification in the following year. If a student starts on the larger qualification in the first year and chooses not to progress to the second year, colleges will be able to transfer them to the smaller qualification in the same suite as long as they have met all the assessment requirements for the smaller qualification, and achieved it in the first year. This should be done at the earliest opportunity and by 22 October 2020 at the very latest and will not affect the college’s qualification achievement rates (QAR), or ESFA audit. If you are delivering pre-existing qualifications that are part of a suite of nested qualifications in the 2019 to 2020 funding year, we strongly encourage you to start a student on the larger qualification and make any transfers at the earliest opportunity. You may already have students who have applied to start the smaller qualification in 2019 to 2020, or who have already started the smaller qualification. You should tell these students that they will not be able to progress to the larger qualification in 2020 to 2021 and still be funded. They should be offered the option to transfer to the larger qualification at the start of the 2019 to 2020 funding year. The full instructions for transferring students is in section 5.4.2 of the 2019 to 2020 provider support manual, under the heading ‘Recording learner transfers: a learner transfers to a different learning aim within the same provider’. By following these steps on or before the 22 October 2020, there will be no impact on your QAR or audit and ESFA will monitor enrolments on the pre-existing qualifications in the 2019 to 2020 funding year. Further support and information: Questions about the student transfer process can be directed to the ESFA here: contact form. Questions about pre-existing qualifications can be addressed to DfE at Questions about the process where the student has taken out an advanced learner loan can be directed to the Student Loans Company Provider Services Support Desk. Awarding organisations will also be providing support with this process. The AoC policy team is also able to support member colleges in interpreting these changes, please contact: Eddie Playfair.