Learners impacted by decision...

The outcome of a recent government tendering process has left the education of almost 300 Somerset adults due to start studying with us hanging in the balance, after a decision by the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA).

Here at SS&L we’re a not-for-profit, independent training provider and community interest company who were previously part of Somerset County Council. We’ve been dealt a funding blow after the outcome of the ESFA’s Adult Education Budget (AEB) procurement process. An ESFA policy change saw a significant reduction in the number of independent training providers across England receiving funding this year, with us being one of those providers affected by the cuts.

This funding enables adult learners across Somerset to complete accredited qualifications for free. We planned to continue offering these qualifications in accessible community venues, across key subject areas including maths, English, digital skills (from Entry Level upwards) and many others, such as mental health.   

We supported approximately 800 learners, in the above areas, across Somerset last year and this decision means the accessibility and choice of adult education in Somerset has now been greatly reduced and in some cases eliminated.

SS&L’s Chief Executive, Kathryn Baker, says,

“This decision is a bitter blow to our community, local employers and our staff.  At a time when we’re being told by the government that adult skills are a priority, our funding has been cut. We have approximately 300 learners due to start their course with us at the beginning of August. To be given this news just days before is totally unacceptable. We have a great reputation in our community and pride ourselves in the way we have delivery centres across the county, small classes and offer a real alternative to the traditional college setting.”

Kathryn continues,

“SS&L is unique because we support learners who would find attending college a barrier. We have small classes and are unique with five centres across Somerset, resourced with a highly talented and experienced group of tutors. We pride ourselves in being able to offer qualifications at entry level and above. This funding will leave a huge gap in the provision of adult education in Somerset, especially at the entry and lower levels of qualifications. This outcome has also put 18 dedicated SS&L staff at risk of redundancy.”

We’d like to make it clear that this current funding decision will not impact our community learning offer and will not affect our ability to continue to support apprenticeships and traineeships. We’re also extremely hopeful that we’ll be able to offer maths & English qualifications as planned, after recent negotiations with a partner organisation to secure funding.

Tess Norrell, a mother of two from Highbridge and past learner at SS&L said,

“I‘ve achieved GCSEs in English and maths with SS&L, as well as a Level 2 course. I’m devastated to hear that people like me in Somerset will no longer be able to complete some of these qualifications with SS&L. The learning has improved my life, most recently being able to use these skills in lockdown when home schooling my children. There will be others like me who will be anxious about having to attend a college and I urge the decision makers to think again.”

We’ve started to lobby decision makers to review the decision. Our learners impacted are being kept up to date as we seek to have the decision overturned or secure alternative funding. Those affected are urged to show their support by contacting their local MP.

Should you have any concerns or queries please get in touch by calling our Customer Advice Team on 0330 332 7997, emailing enquiries@sslcourses.co.uk or use live chat below.