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LGA calls for small school exemption from apprenticeship levy

Smaller council-maintained schools will face an unfair burden because of the apprenticeship levy, and should be exempt in the same way that small academies and faith schools will be, the LGA has stated.

As it stands, the levy will apply to council schools with a wage bill of under £3m, but not academies or religious schools.

The levy requires all businesses, including schools, whose wages are over £3m to contribute 0.5% of the total to funding new apprenticeships. However, smaller council-run schools will still have to pay the levy because their staff are technically employees of the council.

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the LGA’s children and young people board, said: “It is discriminatory for small council-maintained schools not to be exempted from the apprenticeship levy in the same way that small academies and faith schools will be.”

He added that schools will be forced to find additional money to pay the levy, whilst an academy or faith school with an identical wage bill can invest that money in making sure their pupils get an excellent education.

“It is no secret that many schools are struggling with their funding, yet once again, council-maintained schools are being dealt a poor hand compared to academies,” stated Cllr Watts.

“The government therefore needs to urgently revise the apprenticeship levy to make sure that all schools are on an equal footing.”

The LGA has previously criticised disparities in council and academy school funding, including the fact that councils are left with schools’ debts when they convert to academies. Last year, pressure from councils contributed to the government backing down from plans to force more schools to convert into academies.

Previously, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development has called for the levy itself to be abandoned, saying it is “irresponsible” to continue as planned in light of the uncertainty generated by Brexit.

In response to today’s news, Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, stated that it was not fair for some pupils to suffer purely because of the structure of their school and the way it receives its funding.

“We further call for the government to recognise new training and apprenticeship schemes that schools can access, using the dedicated apprenticeship funding gathered by the levy,” he said.

“Currently small schools are faced with paying into a fund they may not be able to benefit from.”

But Robert Halfon, the apprenticeship and skills minister, claimed that in the majority of cases, local authorities will be responsible for paying the levy in the community schools they maintain, rather than the schools themselves. 

“We expect these schools to have full access to funding for apprenticeship training and will support all employers, including schools and local authorities, in using levy funds to invest in quality apprenticeships,” he added.

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