Unintended consequences

image_gallery[1]LBO Feb 2017

There are some things in life where we can think, “I just don’t need to know this.” The Apprenticeship Levy may fall into that category and at this very moment have you reaching to turn the page.  Well, if you’ve made it to this next sentence that’s good because we all should know something about this new tax and understand why so many school leaders are up in arms about it.

Education and training are important. How could I say otherwise?  But in any case it is true.  Soon the funding of apprenticeships is changing and from April 2017 will be paid for from the Apprenticeship Levy.  This is a tax of 0.5% on all employers with a pay bill of over £3million.

Funding high quality training is vital for the individual learner and for the economy and something I have written about in this column before. The snag in this scheme is that schools, with few exceptions, are included.  In Leighton Buzzard we have almost 30 schools and 90% will be forced to pay.

There are two reasons why schools should be exempt. First, there are on the face of it few opportunities for apprenticeships in schools.  Teaching is a graduate profession and on the support staff side the most likely applicants for an apprenticeship are young and often unlikely to fit a staffing model engaged in working with similarly aged young people.

The idea of recruiting a young apprentice to work alongside experienced colleagues is an attractive one that could benefit the young person and add capacity to the school’s workforce. But this is out of the question for most schools at a time when reducing payroll is the pre-occupation.

Second, schools are facing a tough time with reducing funding and growing costs. This adds yet another cost and with little return.

So here we have a scheme that is no doubt fired by good intentions but that ironically may reduce opportunities for the very people the levy hopes to help. Because in a recent nationwide survey of schools’ responses to the funding crisis, it turns out that it is the very activities such as craft and vocational courses and careers guidance that are being lost in schools.  The law of unintended consequences rears its head again!

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