How are the priorities for Adult Education Budget and its allocation changing?

The Government and the ESFA have reviewed the Adult Education Budget (AEB) reconciliation for 2020 to 2021 in light of national lockdown restrictions. For this academic year, they have set a 90% threshold in order for education providers to receive their full AEB allocation in 2021 to 2022.

Since March 2020, we have seen a difference in how centres are spending their AEB. This pandemic has and will continue to reshape the priorities within the Adult Education sector, its budget allocation and how it is spent. Below we take a look at what has changed and 6 ways education providers are maximising their AEB.

What have we learnt from the lockdowns?

  • Learners have proven to be resilient, adaptable and savvy, as long as Education Providers have given them key skills and have taken into account how they learn.
  • The importance of having a demand-led adult education provision adaptable to changing economic, social and environmental conditions.
  • The benefits of collaborating with local authorities and organisations, to ensure that education provision bridges any skills gaps in the local area and meets the criteria of employers.
  • The pandemic has brought new learning needs and requirements to the forefront of adult education provision including digital skills, independent living, infection control and mental health & well-being.
  • The importance of using AEB to offer enrichment in curriculums, considering learners’ needs and adapting provision to accommodate. We have seen a demand from Centres wanting to deliver qualifications, as part of AEB, which will support learners’ personal development and help them to prepare for further education and to stand out to employers.
  • The power of technology and the benefits of considering a blended learning approach when putting curriculums together.
  • The importance of understanding adults’ motivations for learning and how they want to learn. Since March 2020, Centres have seen a rise in:
    • demand from furloughed learners with time to upskill and gain new skills for employment
    • digital learning including by adults still in work
    • demand from key workers needing to be upskilled in other areas, such as mental health and infection control. This is now a priority for their underspent AEB.

What could the future look like and what are Education Providers’ plans for their AEB funding?

We are already seeing more flexibility and responsiveness in adult education provision and AEB allocation, and we expect this will continue in the future. AEB provision will continue to be a flow of activity reflective of demands at different periods across the academic year, but Education Providers will now look to have more than one plan so they are better prepared for rapid change. This includes having adaptable qualifications and teaching methods, as well as additional qualifications that can be completed online to keep learners engaged, maintain their achievement rates and promote their personal development remotely.

With the economic outlook changing so quickly, Education Providers will be looking to work more closely with combined and local authorities, and local enterprise partnerships, to ensure their provision is satisfying their priorities in supporting current labour market conditions and also future economic and social developments.

In addition, Education Providers will need to factor in the changing motivations and needs of learners, as well as the ways they want to learn. It’s likely that there will be a rise in learners who want to study online, and we’ve heard from Centres that they are planning to teach digital skills at the start of courses, for example ESOL. With this in mind, there will need to be different engagement strategies in place for different types of learners. This also presents Centres with a new opportunity to reach learners who, due to their location or commitments, are unable to access classroom-based learning.

Now more than ever, adult education provision needs to continue to build resilience in adults with a focus on employability, digital skills, mental health, healthy living and minimising risk.

6 ways to maximise your AEB

During this pandemic Education Providers are using their underspent AEB on the following popular qualifications. Our swift registration process makes it simple for you to start teaching these qualifications and quickly enrol learners to achieve extra certification before the end of the academic year or at the start of the new academic year.

Short Online Qualifications

These online qualifications contain practical applications to daily life, work and study, allowing learners to develop a diverse range of life skills. There are 25 titles to choose from, all of which are mapped to the Ofsted Education Inspection Framework.

Popular SOQs include:

Level 1 Award in Infection Control and Prevention

Level 1 Award in Personal Health & Well-being

Entry 3 Award in Healthy Living for Well-Being and Mental Health

Level 1 Award in Mental Health & Well-being

Entry 3 Award in Internet Safety for IT Users

Level 1 and Level 2 in Healthy Living

Level 1 Award in Social Media and Online Safety

Level 1 Award in Managing Personal Finance

Level 1 Award in Understanding Employment, Business and Enterprise

This suite of qualifications benefit from e-Invigilation, meaning that our SOQs can be completed in the classroom, remotely or as part of a blended learning programme.

Essential Digital Skills

Now available for teaching, we have two brand new Essential Digital Skills Qualifications – Entry 3 and Level 1 Award in Essential Digital Skills for Work & Life. These qualifications are mapped to the National Occupational Standards for Essential Digital Skills and are ideal for adults with little or no digital skills. These are fully funded under the Legal Entitlement Offer for learners aged 19+.

Entry 3 Award in Essential Digital Skills for Work & Life

Level 1 Award in Essential Digital Skills for Work & Life

Want to know about Essential Digital Skills and utilising the new legal entitlement? Read our article on how to how to make the most of funding streams to support adults and other learners to increase their skill base through Essential Digital Skills here.

Digital Skills​

Employability and Progression to Further Learning and Work

These qualifications are designed to help learners develop skills, attributes and values which will enable them to overcome barriers to employment and further study.

The most popular qualifications in our Employability suite are our Work Preparation qualifications available at

Entry 3Level 1 and Level 2.

*Available now is a brand new Level 1 qualification in Managing Uncertainty and Self-Resilience for Employability

Popular qualifications in our Progression to Further Learning and Work suite are:

Entry 1, 2 and 3 Award/ Certificate/ Diploma in Independent Living

Entry 3 and Level 1 Award in The Importance of Resilience and Grit

Entry 3 Award and Level 1 and 2 Award/ Certificate/ Diploma in Progression

Level 1 Award in Induction to a Learning Environment

Level 1 Award in Managing Transitions

Online Enrichment

Level 2 Award in Mental Health & Well-being – this qualification is designed to give learners the knowledge and understanding of different types of conditions, the impacts of mental health and how to support themselves and others. It’s accompanied by free interactive online learning resources and a learner assessment booklet that can be used to build a portfolio of evidence.


Ascentis offers a range of vocational AEB funded qualifications that can be used individually or as part of a wider programme of learning.

Level 2 Award in Infection Prevention and Control – this qualification is designed to give learners a good understanding of the causes of infection and how these can be controlled in relevant settings, such as hospitals and care homes. It is mapped to the National Occupational Standards (NOS), and can be delivered in the workplace, as a classroom-based course or as a blended learning programme.

To find out more about these qualifications contact us or book a virtual curriculum pop-up meeting with one of our qualifications experts who can advise on bespoke qualification packages to support your learners, as well as how to maximise any underspent AEB budget.
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