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Leicester College News

The Adult Education Budget (AEB) clawback will impact further education profoundly


From Verity Hancock, Principal and CEO of Leicester College

Sign the official petition as set-up by our Student Union here.

Funding for adult education is at a critical stage. Leicester College is about to face demands for £4 million of its grant funding from Government to be repaid, because fewer adult students have been able or willing to study during the pandemic.

Last week the Department for Education and Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) confirmed that there would be a lower reconciliation threshold for ESFA-funded providers, whose grant funding is paid on profile throughout the academic year, to 90% for the 2020 to 2021 academic year. This means that the ESFA will reclaim any under delivery below 90%. For Leicester College this means that we will have to pay back around £4 million in funding.

This will apply to ESFA grant funded colleges and local authorities with an allocation for adult education budget (AEB) for adult skills, 19 to 24 traineeships, and advanced learner loans bursaries (ALLB).

This decision will impact many UK colleges profoundly and Leicester College is certainly no exception.

We have estimated that we may have to hand back the equivalent of up to 37 per cent under these new ESFA adult education budget plans as we are unlikely to be able to make up the remaining allocation in the final term of the year.

The rationale for setting the threshold at 90% appears to be that colleges should have been able to plan to deliver education and training online.  In 2019/20, there was a recognition of the challenges faced by colleges and threshold was set much lower at 68%; however, 2020/21 has been an infinitely more difficult year because of the multiple lockdowns and restrictions and yet the Government has decided that colleges like Leicester College should not be supported.

Whilst it is not clear what the full implications of this will be, it is clear that there will be serious consequences for cashflow, for our capital programmes and future plans for 2021/22. Furthermore, while this impacts funding for adult education, the impacts will be felt by all students and the community of Leicester.

The effect of Leicester’s lockdown

The under-delivery against the College’s allocation can largely be attributed to the various national lockdowns as a result of the pandemic, compounded by the local Leicester lockdown.  Leicester College has been in continuous lockdown with the rest of the city since March 2020.

City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby has said: “There are few cities in the UK where the impact of the virus has been felt as keenly as it has been in Leicester. We have been under some sort of restriction since last March, often out of step with the rest of the country.”

Leicester is also among the top 20 per cent most deprived areas of the country and the extended lockdown has only exacerbated this problem, particularly within the city’s black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, who were specifically advised that there were at higher risk from Covid-19 and to stay at home, as well as lower-income households.

We had no choice but to close the College to help keep students and the wider community safe. Indeed, this was something that we were ordered to do by the government. However, as a consequence, we are being punished for not being able to recruit and train adult students during these closures.

This situation has had a hugely detrimental effect on adult learners signing up to take courses at the College. People have re-focused on home schooling, working from home and have prioritised employment over training in many cases. Many adult learners are telling us that they are also less willing to sign-up until the vaccine programme has completed.

These economic pressures have created an unprecedented challenge for education providers, with Leicester College undoubtedly suffering more than most.

Calling for support

The Association of Colleges in still in discussions with the Department for Education over the ESFA decision but this challenge and the impacts are immediate. Leicester College is calling for the Government to review its decision over the threshold for the adult education budget, to properly take into account the extraordinary circumstances that we, and other colleges, have had to cope with this past year.

People in Leicester and Leicestershire can help to support this work by writing to or emailing their MP, sharing our posts on social media, and raising the profile of this very important issue.

You can download a template letter and some social media graphics to share here.

Sign the official petition as set-up by our Student Union here.


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