Adult skills funding: what happened in the last Parliament?

22 March 2016
What was claimed

Adult education has been cut by 35% during David Cameron’s time as Prime Minister.

Our verdict

Analysis by membership body the Association of Colleges has shown that spending on core adult skills for those aged 19 and over fell by 35% between 2009/10 and 2015/16. The cut was about 41% once inflation is accounted for.

“Could I kindly bring him back to the question I asked from Callum, and point out to him that… adult education has been cut by 35% during his time as Prime Minister?”

Jeremy Corbyn, 9 March 2016

Spending on core adult skills—including classroom and workplace based learning and adult apprenticeships for people aged 19 and over—is down. It fell by about 35% between 2009/10 and 2015/16 according to membership body the Association of Colleges. That doesn’t account for inflation—the fall is about 41% accounting for it.

Jeremy Corbyn and the Prime Minister also clashed over funding for 16 to 19 year olds in this exchange, which happened at Prime Minister’s Questions. We’re looking into this separately and will be publishing a factcheck on it shortly.

Funding for adult skills fell by about 40%

The way in which adult skills have been funded has changed over the past five or so years.  

Previously funding was split into classroom-based provision—known as the ‘adult learner responsive’ budget—and employer-based provision—known as the ‘employer responsive’ budget. These were brought together into a single Adult Skills Budget from 2011/12.

Combining the classroom-based funding with the employer-based funding, and including apprenticeships for people aged 19 and over, spending was about £3.1 billion in 2009/10. That fell to around £2 billion in the Adult Skills Budget provision for 2015/16, or around £1.8 billion in 2009/10 prices. 

The 41% fall includes a 14% decline in 2015/16. Funding for adult skills outside of apprenticeships was hit particularly hard in that year.

Some programmes were cut from the budget over this period. For example, the government announced in 2010 that it was abolishing the Train to Gain programme in order to “significantly lower the overall cost of the further education system”.

The programme supported employers to improve the skills of their employees. Some of the budget for this programme was diverted to adult apprenticeships in 2010/11. 

Overall funding on adult skills is expected to increase over this Parliament

The Adult Skills Budget has now become the ‘Adult Education Budget’, which incorporates the Adult Skills Budget along with other post-18 skills budgets, but doesn’t pay for apprenticeships.

That Adult Education Budget is being protected in cash terms over the current Parliament. That won’t protect it from inflation.

Other funding will increase. The adult apprenticeships budget is expected to see an above inflation increase, rising from around £770 million in 2015/16 to £1.5 billion in 2019/20.  

The government is also extending the loans system for students in further education.  

The government says that in combination, its plans mean an above-inflation increase in funding for adult skills over this Parliament.

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