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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting:  3 June 2013

Report of Cabinet Member for Adult Services

Adult and Community Learning Course Fees

Purpose of the Report

1. To review the fee levels of the Adult and Community Learning course fees. 

Recommendations

1. The proposal would be with effect from September 2013 to:

  • Increase the Full Fee by 5%, an increase from £57 to £60 for a 10 week course.
  • Move the 2/3 fee level closer to the Full Fee over the next 3 years. For 2013-14 this would mean an increase of 18% from £38 to £45 for 10 week courses, equivalent to 75% of the full fee.
  • The 1/3 fee level should remain the same £19 for a 10 week course equivalent to 31% of the full fee.
  • Use DfES funding to support an increase in targeted courses in local communities for disadvantaged learners.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1. The review of course fees is recommended in order to:

  • deliver more flexible learning opportunities in community venues for disadvantaged groups, especially those not engaged in education, employment or training;
  • provide a broader range of learning opportunities in order to attract individuals who are unable, or unwilling to engage with a more traditional curriculum; and
  • meet the additional costs incurred by targeting resources at those greatest in need, including those who are unable to fund their own learning

Background

2. The delivery of ACL programmes is always dependent on viable class sizes. Therefore it is important to continue to access fee income from those who fall outside the priority groups and can afford to pay for their learning.

3. Adult and Community Learning provision is a Council Service and its core funding comes from DfES. The "Delivering Community Learning for Wales" document sets out the Welsh Assembly Government's adult and community learning policy, describes the strategic aims and defines the key action for providers. The vision is to:

  • Increase participation for those who have benefited least from education in the past or who are most at risk of not benefiting in the future.
  • Improve quality in the learning experience including increased progression to other learning opportunities or work.
  • Progress towards the accreditation of all ACL provision.

4. The policy document also outlines the need for a balance between provision funded by DfES, by the Learner, employers and others. This is in line with the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Community Strategy Priority 6 - "people of all ages to access learning opportunities and skills to reach potential, remove barriers to employment".

5. The level of fees charged is aimed at ensuring that learning opportunities are as affordable as possible and that cost barriers to participation are minimised whilst recognising that learners should make an appropriate contribution to the overall cost of learning.

Relevant Issues and Options

6. Basic Skills, Family Learning and English for Speakers of Other Languages (EU Citizens, refugees and asylum seekers) are provided free of charge. Free courses are available for individuals seeking employment on the 'Get Back on Track' programme of one day accredited courses in Microsoft Office skills. In addition there are free work clubs around the Vale (Barry, Penarth, St Athan, Llantwit Major) to support CV writing and job searching using the Internet. There are no proposals to change this agreement.

7. Charges for other courses are based on £2.85 per hour for full fee payers. Although courses are advertised for 25 or 30 weeks learners take advantage of instalment facilities to pay for their courses in 20-week blocks and10-week blocks, which equates to £114 (20 weeks) and £57 (10 weeks).

8. Concessions are currently available for people on benefits with students on means-tested benefits pay one third of the full fee and those on benefits which are not means tested paying two thirds of the full fee.

9. Those who are on the following non means tested benefits pay 2/3 fees, i.e. £38 per 10 week block.

  • Over 60 not employed
  • Jobseekers Allowance (contributions based)
  • Carers Allowance
  • Disability Living Allowance
  • Incapacity Benefit or Employment and Support Allowance [E.S.A] (contributions based)

10. Those who are on means tested benefits pay 1/3 fees, i.e. £19 per 10 week block.

  • Income Support
  • Working Tax Credit
  • Jobseekers Allowance (income based)
  • Student in full time education
  • Pension Credit or Savings Credits
  • Housing Benefits
  • Council Tax Benefits

11. In 2011/12, 50% of enrolments were Full Fee, 38% of enrolments qualified for a 2/3 concessionary fee and 11% of enrolments qualified for a 1/3 concessionary fee.

12. A class operates for several weeks in order to fully assess whether the numbers of enrolments received are enough to make a viable course. 

13. To achieve a balance between our 2 aims, there is a need to:-

  • provide targeted opportunities to attract those considered to be in greatest need; and
  • continue to provide a programme that appeals to as wide an audience as possible including those learners who currently access the programme and are not considered to fall into one of the priority groups.

    14. In order to continue to deliver the richness and diversity of the ACL programme many courses will need to become fully cost recovery and indeed income generating to support the ACL provision that will target those in greatest need. However 38% of current learners are paying a 2/3 fee which is not means tested. Clearly if a large number of learners receive concessions, then cost recovery courses will need to have greater numbers in order to run.

    15. To ensure the continuation of a broad range of courses and ensure funding is used for priority groups there needs to be an increase in the Full Fee and a move of the 2/3 fee level closer to the Full Fee level. The 1/3 fee level should remain as low and affordable as possible in order to be accessible to those in greatest need.

    Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

    16. In light of the current financial climate, there maybe a decrease in the number of learners paying full fees.

    17. If the same number of learners enrol then the income will increase, however, this will be used to offset any future reduction in the grant and support the provision to target disadvantaged groups to meet the Welsh Government priorities.

    Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

    18. There are no sustainability or climate change implications arising from this report.

    Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

    19. There are no legal implications arising from this report.

    Crime and Disorder Implications

    20. There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this report.

    Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

    21. The proposals are intended to increase participation of those who have benefited least from education in the past or who are most at risk of not benefitting in the future. Basic sills, family learning, ESOL, Get Back on Track and work clubs will continue to be free to students. Fees for students on means tested benefits will also continue to be free. Fees for students on non-means tested benefits will increase by £7 a term and those on full fee by £3 a term.

    Corporate/Service Objectives

    22. Community Strategy Priority 6 - "people of all ages to access learning opportunities and skills to reach potential, remove barriers to employment".

    Policy Framework and Budget

    23. This is a matter for Executive decision.

    Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

    24. Not applicable.

    Relevant Scrutiny Committee

    25. Lifelong Learning.

    Background Papers

    None.

    Contact Officer

    Sally Perini, Area Development Officer, Cowbridge Community College

    Officers Consulted

    Heather Todd-Bennett, Penarth Adult Community Learning

    Debbie Lewis, Barry Adult Community Learning

    Coralie Morgan, Basic Skills Manager

    Responsible Officer:

    Jennifer Hill, Chief Learning and Skills Office

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