What is the National Skills Fund?

The National Skills Fund is a new funding option within the Adult Education Budget, which offers learners aged 19+ the opportunity to claim full funding for their first full level 3 qualification. Unlike the Level 3 Legal Entitlement, there is no upper age limit.

Only a targeted selection of qualifications fall into the NSF, these are aims that the ESFA believes will ‘…help adults to train and gain the valuable skills they need to improve their job prospects. It will support the immediate economic recovery and future skills needs by boosting the supply of skills that employers require’ (

Qualifications within the NSF will generate an uplift to help support training providers, there are two uplift rates:

How can you check qualifications?

There are three places you can look.

Find a Learning Aim

You can use Find a Learning Aim to check the categories which apply to a qualification, and what the valid dates are.

In addition to confirming that the categories are valid, you will also need to make sure that the last date for new starts (LDNS) has not expired. There is no dedicated listing for National Skills Fund funding, but you can use either the Adult Skills LDNS or the Advanced Learner Loan LDNS (as confirmed by the ESFA via email).

National Skills Fund List

The ESFA publish a list of qualifications that appear in the NSF offer, which can be found here:

ESFA List of Qualifications approved for funding

The ESFA publish a full list of fundable qualifications across all funding types - you can check any qualification here and it should carry the most recent data (although this service tends to lag about a month behind Find a Learning Aim).

Who is eligible?

Anyone who is aged 19+ on 31 August in the year they start, and 19+ on the day they start.

If the learner is aged 19-23 and the qualification appears in both the Legal Entitlement list and the National Skills Fund list, providers should claim funding via the Legal Entitlement (see paragraph 115.1 in the AEB funding rules for 21/22).

How is funding paid?

The ESFA will pay for anyone aged 23 or younger when they start out of your normal AEB contract, this would include the qualification weighted value, plus the NSF uplift (and any other modifications).

For anyone aged 24 or older, the funding will come out of your dedicated National Skill Fund contract.

See paragraphs 67 and 68 in the AEB rates for 21/22.

How to record in the ILR

You can record fully funded enrolments via the NSF using Funding Model 35 and LDM Code 378.

How Does Apprenticeship Funding Work?

Oh boy, apprenticeship funding is confusing.

Here’s the basic idea, which I stole from the technical funding guide that the ESFA published.

The scenario

Let’s imagine we have a 12 month apprenticeship with a funding cap of £12,000. That cap is there because the ESFA don’t think it should cost any more than that to deliver the apprenticeship.

The training provider agrees a TNP (Total Negotiated Price) of £15,000 with the employer because… well sometimes that’s the way things go.

The funding cap

The first thing that the ESFA will do is slice off anything above the funding cap - they’re not interested in that at all.

In this case, that’s £3,000, and the employer will have to pay it themselves - they can’t use their levy funds even if they have some spare. Cash or card thank you.

So that leaves us with £12,000 to pay to the training provider. Let’s call this the capped TNP (this capping wouldn’t need to happen if the TNP was less than the funding cap, in that case we’d just take the TNP as it is).

The completion payment

The next thing that the ESFA will do is chop 20% off the capped TNP and put it to one side - this is the completion payment.

The ESFA will only release this money if the apprentice completes all their learning and enters End Point Assessment. They don’t have to achieve, but they do need to complete.

In our example, the completion payment is £2,400.

On programme payments

Next, the ESFA will take the remaining 80% of the capped TNP (80% of £12,000 is £9,600) and divide it over the number of planned study months.

Our example apprenticeship runs for 12 months, so we’ll do £9,600 divided by 12, which gives us a monthly on programme payment of £800.

Who pays?

The last question is: who pays?

There are two different payment mechanisms that can be used - levy payments and co-investment.

Levy payments

For businesses that have a levy account, they can use the money in their account to pay the monthly on programme costs to the training provider.


For businesses that either don’t have enough in their account, or just don’t use the levy system at all, the ESFA will cover most of the cost each month. They still expect the employer to pay something, and for recent apprenticeships this is 5% of the total (older apprenticeships required a 10% payment from the employer).

Worked example

The tables below demonstrate how this plays out for three different employers.

Employer AThe employer has sufficient funds in their levy account to pay the monthly contributions.

Employer BThe employer has no funds in their levy account (or they are a non-levy-paying organisation).

Employer CThe employer has some funds in their levy account, but not enough to pay the full monthly amounts.

Latest News (July 2021)

Welp, it’s been a while.

Life has been a tad busy, so I’ve not been able to keep on top of this as much as I would have liked to.

I’ve redesigned the appearance a little, hopefully it’s easy on the eyes. I’ve also adjusted the main page so that it provides quick links to the main funding areas - I might keep working on this depending on how well it works.

All the best


Latest News (March 2021)

Hello again!

The new site has been running for a few weeks now, and feedback has been good about the core concept and functionality.

Some users rightly pointed out that the design was too close to that used for official government services, and despite the disclaimers dotted around the site, was liable to cause confusion and mislead people.

This was certainly not my intention - rather I wanted to provide a seamless experience when navigating between different resources - but I can see that it was a little too close for comfort.

I’ve therefore stripped back some of the styling to keep things simple while also remaining distinct from the GOV.UK brand. At some point I might do a more comprehensive redesign, but for now I’m focusing on the content and functionality.

Speaking of which, the new funding assessment tool is developing well. I’ve now mapped out the majority of funding scenarios for ESFA and WECA - although the essential digital skills and new national skills fund are still missing.

I’ve also introduced a guidance section where I plan to offer simple and straightforward answers to common questions. If you’d like to contribute an article, please get in touch! I’m only one person, and a site like this will benefit if more people are involved.

I think that’s all the news that’s fit to report - hope you have a great day :)


How to Find Qualifications

There are a few different online services that you can use to search for qualifications, find out whether they are eligible for ESFA funding, and connect with awarding bodies.

One quick way to search for these from the front page of EducationFunding.UK is to type fqs - this is a shortcode for ‘find qualification services’.

Find a Learning Aim

This is a new government service which you can use to search for qualifications via their name or aim reference - in addition you can also filter results by level and awarding body.

The information provided for each learning aim is essential when determining whether funding is available.

Ofqual Register of Regulated Qualifications

This is an online service provided by Ofqual, which offers similar search functions to ‘Find a Learning Aim’ but gives you more information about the delivery of the qualification. You can filter your search results by a far wider range of options - including subject area, awarding body, level, and number of credits.

Each qualification listing will also provide details about the GLH and TQT, and usually includes a link to the specification on the awarding body’s website. It does not provide funding information.

ESFA List of Qualifications approved for funding

This is a more restricted list, which only contains qualifications currently approved for funding. It offers similar search and filtering options to both ‘Find a Learning Aim’ and Ofqual’s ‘Register of Regulated Qualifications’.

It does not provide the level of detail found in either of the other services, but can be helpful when searching for valid qualifications.

Awarding bodies

You can find a list of commonly used awarding bodies here.

Which service to use?

Depending on your goal, you could start with any of these services - but they will all offer useful information about a qualification, and should be used together where possible.


Hello, this is a quick post to say hello!

After working in the field of education funding for several years, I have amassed a prodigious list of bookmarks - and every year the list grows as more resources are published, new organisations emerge, and new web services are developed.

It was becoming tricky to keep track of all these links, and trickier still to make them available to colleagues in a simple and straightforward way.

This website is something I’ve put together in my own time as a way to help solve that problem.

I’ve also been working on a funding assessment tool, which will ask a series of questions in order to determine whether a learner is eligible for funding. At the moment I’m mapping out the various AEB funding options for ESFA, but the plan is to gradually expand to cover devolved regions, and possibly loans funding, 16-18, and 14-16 funding pathways too. We’ll see how it goes. You can view the version in development here:

All the best,


This is an example post page