The latest information on core aims to assist funded institutions in planning study programmes across individual funding years.
16 to 19 Funding: core aims in study programmes
This note gives the latest information on core aims to assist funded institutions in planning study programmes across individual funding years. The contractual requirements for core aims are included in the funding guidance each year. The advice given is consistent with the contractual advice issued for each individual year.
All 16 to 19 year old students are funded for an individual study programme. All vocational and many mixed academic/vocational study programmes must have a core aim. The core aim of a study programme should be a substantial qualification or work experience.
The study programme must be tailored to each individual student, have clear study and/or employment goals reflecting the student’s prior attainment, aspirations and abilities and include
- substantial qualifications
- maths and English for students who have not achieved grade A*-C GCSE in these subjects by age 16
- high-quality work experience
- added value non-qualification activity
The purpose of core aims
The core aim has 2 functions
For the study programme: the core aim focusses on the student’s aspirations and their goals for the future. It defines the main purpose of the student’s study programme. It reflects the student’s career and progression aspirations, their abilities and their aptitude. It should be the key element of the study programme that propels the student into employment, an apprenticeship, or further education.
For funding purposes: the core aim has a significant impact on funding allocations for institutions as set out below. The core aim is vital for calculating retention and to determine the programme cost weighting applied to the study programme.
How to identify the core aim
The core aim must be agreed between the student and the institution, usually at the start of the study programme.
Identifying the core aim is a serious consideration and it should not simply be the first aim recorded. Rather, the core aim should be the principal, core activity in a study programme. It is the most important element which will usually be the one the student spends the most time on, and with the largest number of planned hours.
Vocational study programmes must always have a core aim. A vocational study programme can be a mix of academic and vocational learning aims. The core aim is a mandatory data item in the ILR for ESFA funded students.
Further information on work experience is available on GOV.UK.
Schools and academies using the school census are not required to record a core aim for academic programmes. However a core aim must be recorded if the study programme is vocational or is a mixed vocational/academic programme where the core element of the programme is vocational.
For some individual students, rather than identify the qualification or activity with the most planned hours as the core aim, an institution might choose a smaller, alternative core aim as that may be more important or more appropriate. An alternative activity in the study programme can be the core aim if the institution decides that it is a better reflection of the student’s aspirations, abilities or aptitude, and that it supports the student’s progression in learning. However this would be by exception and should only apply to individual students, not to groups of students.
For those using the school census
For purely academic study programmes the individual qualifications are treated as having equal value to the student and so it is not necessary to identify a core aim. However all vocational and mixed academic/vocational programmes with a vocational core must identify a core aim. Failure to do this is likely to result in negative impacts on retention and programme cost weighting factors and, therefore, funding.
For those using the ILR
Institutions must record a core aim for every ESFA funded student in the ILR. In the majority of cases, the core aim must be identified and recorded in the ILR within the funding qualifying period.
The qualifying period varies by the length of study programme as follows
|Study programme planned hours and planned length in-year||Qualifying period|
|450 hours or more||6 weeks (42 days)|
|Fewer than 450 hours||> = 24 weeks||6 weeks (42 days)|
|Fewer than 450 hours||2 to 24 weeks||2 weeks (14 days)|
In the vast majority of cases we would expect the core aim to be identified within 12 weeks of the start of the study programme. In some limited circumstances it may not be in the best interests of a student to finalise a core aim by 12 weeks. If so the institution must have a clear explanation for this, along with a record of why the core aim was not finalised within 12 weeks. The core aim should be added as soon as a suitable one is identified. An initial core aim must be identified and this can then be replaced with a more appropriate core aim. This should happen only in exceptional circumstances.
Where a student is concentrating on personal and social development or employability in the early stages of their study programme, a generic class code may be recorded as the core aim until a more substantial aim can be agreed. This can only apply to individual students and cannot be applied to groups of students.
Where the core aim is unknown by the end of the funding qualifying period, an aim in the student’s programme must be designated as the core aim until the substantive core aim is decided on and recorded. The aim type/core aim flag should then be re-assigned.
Why core aims are important for funding
Accurately identifying and recording core aims is crucial in ensuring accurate funding allocations. Core aim information is used for 3 purposes.
Identifying whether the study programme is academic or vocational. This is important for our calculations and in particular calculating programme cost weighting and retention factors.
Determining whether a student is retained on the programme or not. Future funding allocations are reduced if students are not retained for the planned duration of their study programme. Recording the core aim is a key aspect of determining retention.
Calculating programme cost weighting. This weighting applies to some vocational study programmes to cover the higher cost of delivering them, such as some engineering courses and land-based training. Accurately recording the core aim enables the weighting to be applied correctly and impacts directly on funding allocations.
Examples of core aims
|Study programme activity||Planned hours||Core aim?|
|Study programme activity||Planned hours||Core aim?|
Academic and vocational qualification types and core aims
Study programmes can be either academic, vocational or mixed academic and vocational. Academic study programmes do not attract a programme cost weighting.
Academic study programmes
Where a student is studying purely academic subjects they have an academic core aim in the ILR and no core aim in the school census.
Vocational study programmes
Where the student is studying a vocational qualification, or is mainly on work experience plus a qualification such as English, or is on a Traineeship, they should have a vocational core aim.
Mixed academic and vocational study programmes
Where the student is studying both academic and vocational qualifications, their core aim is determined by the core purpose of the study programme, and this will normally reflect the majority of the planned hours. If the majority of planned hours are for the vocational qualification, then the core aim is vocational. If the majority of planned hours are academic in the mixed programme, then the core aim is academic.
An example of a mixed programme would be a student at a studio school or UTC, where the focus is on a substantial vocational qualification in Engineering who is also studying an academic maths qualification alongside the vocational qualification. In this case the core aim as it carries the larger amount of planned hours and reflects the aspirations of the student in terms of career progression.
If a student’s core aim is not identified and recorded, their study programme will be classed as academic and funded as an academic programme.
Academic study programmes
A study programme is academic if there is no core aim or the core aim is one of the qualification types below.
|3||GCSEs: AS, A2, A with AS levels; (General Studies and Critical Thinking are excluded); IB Diploma; IB Certificates; Cambridge Pre-U Diploma, Access to HE Diploma|
|2||GCSEs – including vocational; GCSE short courses; Free standing maths qualifications (FSMQs)|
Subjects that cannot be core aims
Academic study programmes must have a substantial academic qualification. We do not consider A level General Studies or A level Critical Thinking to be substantial and so these cannot be core aims.
Traineeships and core aims
The core aim for a traineeship must be the work experience placement and provided the placement was started, the trainee can progress to an apprenticeship without fulfilling the planned hours for this aim. In this case the traineeship should be recorded on the ILR as achieved and the relevant destination details completed. Other aims such as maths and English can remain open and be completed after the traineeship has been completed. If a learner does not complete the maths and English elements of the traineeship within 6 months then these will continue to be funded until they are completed. Detail on how this is handled on the ILR can be found on GOV.UK.
See the traineeships factsheet for more details.
Students with more than one core aim in a year
In the vast majority of cases it is expected that a student will have only one core aim for their study programme. However there are a few limited circumstances where it is in the best interests of the student to have more than one core aim within the funding year (1 August to 31 July). Multiple core aims can be recorded for a student in one funding year, however they cannot be concurrent.
The ESFA will monitor changes to core aims and where this happens more than might be expected, this will be queried with institutions. More information is available on the review of core aims in 2013 to 2014 and on the next review in 2014 to 2015.
Changes are acceptable in the following circumstances:
When a student changes their study programme and so withdraws from their core aim, and then starts a new study programme in its place
- a replacement core aim must only be recorded when the core aim is a substantial and core component of the new study programme. If an alternative aim that meets these criteria cannot be identified, the withdrawn aim must remain as the core aim
When a student has more than one study programme in a year
- for example a student progressing from a 6 month Traineeship to another study programme. The second study programme must have a new core aim
When a student returns to learning after completing a study programme, that is after completing all the activities on their original learning agreement or plan, and starts a second study programme:
- the second study programme must have a new core aim based on the principles set out above, that is, that meets the student’s aspirations, abilities and aptitude
Retention and core aims
A student on a vocational study programme who does not complete their core aim is not retained. This can result in funding in future years being reduced by 50%. It is important that the core aim is correctly recorded so the retention rate can be accurately calculated.
For academic programmes: a student must stay on or complete at least one of the academic aims in their programme in the funding year to count as retained.
Retention for traineeships is slightly different and further details may be found on GOV.UK.
Defining achievement where the core aim is work experience
There is no precise definition for achieving work experience, unlike with qualifications which are examined, or assessed through a portfolio. It is for institutions to determine whether or not the work experience aim has been achieved. Of primary importance is whether the objectives of the work experience placement have been met.
If the student attends for fewer than their planned hours of work experience, or leaves early, as long as they move into a positive destination which is defined as sustainable paid employment, FE/HE or an apprenticeship they have achieved the work experience core aim.
For information on recording work experience please refer to the ILR provider support manual.
Queries on core aims
Contact form https://form.education...
For all enquiries for the Education and Skills Funding Agency
ESFA funding guidance documents
The documents listed below outline the main features of the ESFA funding arrangements and are an integral part of the ESFA’s funding agreements for young people aged 16 to 19 and those aged 19 to 24 funded by the ESFA. All these documents should be read in this context, unless specifically stated otherwise. The definitive ESFA guidance for each year is published on these pages with the most recent year at the top of the webpage.
Funding 16 to 19 detailed guidance overview page
Further information on 16 to 19 funding guidance.
Further information on post 16 funding regulations.
Funding rates and formula
Further information on funding rates and formula.
Funding guidance presentations
These presentations are for institutions to use internally to those who are required to understand the funding procedures and guidance. The following topics are covered
- 16 to 19 funding regulations
- post 16 funding rates and formula
- post 16 student eligibility guidance
- ILR funding returns
This is the online network for people working with funding and learner data in the Further Education and Skills sector. The online forum is where you can talk to colleagues about funding and data issues, and help each other to resolve queries.
For ILR users: information and guidance
Narrated power point presentations on the ILR are available from the SFA.
AoC Study Programme Central
The AoC website has a range of useful information on study programmes.
Further information on apprenticeships.
Further information on traineeships.
Further information on work experience.
Content first published June 2015. Updated October 2016.
Published: 22 June 2015
Updated: 6 October 2016
- Updated October 2016 with additional text to clarify recording core aims and the link between core aims and institutions’ funding allocation. This is to assist institutions provide accurate data.
- Updated August 2015
- First published.