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

The Government and the ESFA are currently reviewing the Adult Education Budget (AEB) reconciliation for 2020 to 2021 in light of new national lockdown restrictions. We understand that that many of you will be waiting for this announcement to inform your AEB allocation and spending review. As a result, once an announcement is made we will update this page.

So far in this academic year, we have a noticed 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.

What have we learnt since March 2020?

  • 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 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;
  •  ultimately showing the importance of considering learners’ needs and adapting provision to accommodate.
  • 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; and a rise in 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.

Popular AEB Funded Qualifications

During this pandemic Education Providers are using their underspent AEB on the following popular qualifications:

Digital Skills​

The below qualifications are mapped to the National Occupational Standards:

Entry 3 Award in Developing Online Digital Skills

Entry 3 and Level 1 Award in Skills for Digital Transactions

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.

Digital Skills​


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.


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; build self-esteem and a positive attitude to work and study, helping them to take steps into further study and employment.

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

Entry 3Level 1 and Level 2.

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

Essential Digital Skills

Ready for teaching from Monday 1st February, 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 new Essential Digital Skills Framework and are ideal for adults with little or no digital skills. These will also be fully funded under the Legal Entitlement Offer for learners aged 19+.

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