Adult Funding 

The Adult Skills funding landscape

The adult funding landscape will change significantly from 1st August 2016. The Adult Skills Budget (ASB) primarily funds delivery of qualifications, which the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) believe has created qualifications with limited value and restricted the ability of providers to respond swiftly to local skills needs. To address this issue, the ASB has been split into separate streams to provide funding for:

  • Qualifications taken as part of Legal Entitlement or Local Flexibility
  • Qualifications funded by Advanced Learner Loans
  • Qualifications match funded by the European Social Fund
  • Apprenticeship Frameworks and Standards
  • Traineeships
  • Non-qualification training

  • The SFA has published a document to outline the changes it plans to make to the AEB, which are intended to provide the foundations for a simpler, more responsive adult education system as part of the transition to full skills devolution starting from 2018/19, including:

  • Providers will be given flexibility to respond to the needs of their local area, enabling the funding of locally designed learning activity alongside qualifications, or instead of them. 
  • Where Colleges and Training Providers choose to use qualifications as part of their local offer there will be a broad range from which to select. For these qualifications the eligibility rules will be minimal, although provision must be high quality
  • Currently there are two funding matrices in place for qualifications (including rates) and for non-regulated provision (including banded hours). These will be merged into a Single Activity Matrix (SAM). ​

  • As part of the changes to the AEB, the funding rules have also been overhauled; there are now seven documents available , plus a summary of changes, which cover the AEB, Apprenticeships, Traineeships and English and maths.

    New Funding Rules.jpg

    Legal Entitlement

    Learners aged 19-23 who have not previously attained a full Level 2 or Level 3 qualification have a legal entitlement to be fully funded, and therefore pay no fee, to study one of these full qualifications. The legal entitlement to a first full Level 2 or Level 3 and/or English and maths entitlement (including as part of a Traineeship) will be aligned to the qualifications available to learners aged 16-18. The SFA wants to arrive at a single 16-23 vocational and general qualification offer and a single English and maths qualification offer, but not a single funding approach. 

    Where a learner is not eligible for the legal entitlement due to age, level of qualification or previous attainment they may be eligible for funding under Local Flexibility or for an Advanced Learner Loan. Further information about the Legal Entitlement can be found in the Adult Education Budget: Changing Context and Arrangements for 2016-17 document, and in the latest Funding Rules for 2016/17.  

    Local Flexibility

    By including Community Learning objectives within the AEB, the SFA will fund broader types of learning activities to help disadvantaged and hard-to-reach learners re-engage in learning, build confidence, and enhance their well-being. The inclusion of Community Learning within the AEB shifts the focus of funding towards progression into further learning or employment rather than just achievement of a qualification.


    The increased flexibility of the AEB will allow providers to respond to the needs of their local area, with learning activity (whether in the form of a qualification or not) being funded as part of the Local Flexibility funding stream. As the funding moves towards local devolution, LEPs and Local Authorities will be able to decide the outcomes they want and, over time, commission colleges and other training providers in their area to deliver these. If a qualification is used, it must be from the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) and be eligible for funding as part of local flexibility. The Hub will indicate which qualifications are confirmed as eligible for local delivery. Further information about the Local Flexibility can be found in the Adult Education Budget: Changing Context and Arrangements for 2016-17 document, and in the latest Funding Rules for 2016/17.   

    Advanced Learner Loans

    In November 2015 the Spending Review and Autumn Statement confirmed that Advanced Learner Loans (formerly 24+ Advanced Learning Loans) would be extended to include learners aged 19-23 studying a Level 3 or 4 qualification, and those aged 19 and above studying a Level 5 or 6 qualification. This extension represents an opportunity for learners aged 19-23 who were ineligible for funding due to previous attainment to undertake Level 3 and 4 qualifications, and for learners aged 19+ to undertake Level 5 qualifications that were previously not approved for funding or Loans, such as our Level 5 Diploma in Leadership for Health and Social Care and Children and Young People’s Services (England).


    The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) has published the Advanced Learner Loans prospectus 2015-16 and 2016-17, and the Advanced Learner Loans qualifications catalogue, identifying 27 of our qualifications that have been initially approved for Loans. We are in the process of clarifying whether any more of our qualifications should be eligible for Loans, and will request that the catalogue be updated if so. Further information about Advanced Learner Loans can be found in the Adult Education Budget: Changing Context and Arrangements for 2016-17 document, and in the latest Funding Rules for 2016/17.   


    The Apprenticeship funding landscape has also seen significant changes in light of recent policy announcements, with the introduction of Apprenticeship Standards and the imminent Apprenticeship Levy driving these changes. The Skills Funding Agency has issued 3 guidance documents highlighting the funding eligibility requirements and rules for Apprenticeship Frameworks and Standards in 2016/17:

                  1. Common Apprenticeship funding rules
                  2. Apprenticeship Framework funding rules
                  3. Apprenticeship Standard funding rules

    Whilst there are few changes from current requirements, providers should be aware that:

  • Apprenticeship frameworks require a statement from the provider about employer contributions for state aid (page 4 of doc.2) but not for standards (page 10 of doc.3)
  • The AGE 16-24 grant can only be used for Apprenticeship Frameworks (page 17 of doc.3)
  • Providers delivering Apprenticeship Standards must provide employers with an incentive claim form, and retain this form for audit purposes (page 19 of doc.3)
  • All apprentices, their employers and the provider must hold a copy of a Commitment Statement, setting out how they will support the successful achievement of the Apprenticeship Standard (page 30 of doc.3)

  • The Government has also issued guidance for employers on how the Apprenticeship Levy will work, including details of who the Levy affects, how much employers will have to pay and what those employers can use their Levy payments on. The guidance also highlights issues that have not been resolved yet, such as what will happen to unused Levy payments; the guidance will be updated by June 2016 to further clarify how the Levy will work. The guidance doesn’t currently cover the proposed additional 10% contribution the Government will make to all digital Apprenticeship accounts that Levy payments are made to. Employers who contribute to the Levy from April 2017 will receive an extra 10% on top of what they pay in each month, which they can spend on “apprenticeship training through their digital account”. Whilst there is no further information at this time, the government will set out further details on the operating model in April and draft funding rates will be published in June.


    Further information about Apprenticeship funding can be found in the Adult Education Budget: Changing Context and Arrangements for 2016-17 document, and in the latest Funding Rules for 2016/17.   

    Qualifications confirmed for funding in 2015/16 and 2016/17

    We offer over 100 qualifications in total, ranging from Care, Health and Playwork to Education Support and Assessment. Detailed information, including Key Facts, for all our qualifications can be found on our website at An up-to-date list of our qualifications that are eligible for funding in England in 2015/16 can be found on the funding page of our website, as well as on cachezone .

    A list of the qualifications currently approved for funding in 2016/17 can be found here  The document highlights which qualifications are yet to be approved for funding; the SFA has advised that they will make a decision on the eligibility of these qualifications and, if approved, add them to the list by the end of April 2016. 

    Funding databases

    Further funding information about our qualifications and Apprenticeships can be found on the following databases:

    England = Section 96 (16-18s) Funding Rates Catalogue (19+) and Learning Aims Search (LAS) facility

    Wales = Qualifications in Wales​ (QiW) (Replacing DAQW from 1st April 2016)

    Northern Ireland = Register of Regulated Qualifications (RRQ)