Making the most of adult learning funding in England

You may already know that Level 2 functional skills or GCSEs in English and maths can be funded – but adult learners in England can also be funded to Level 3. 

As part of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee all adults in England who do not yet have A levels or equivalent can take their first Level 3 qualification for free, funded through the National Skills Fund (NSF). The fully-funded courses are offered in a range of sectors from engineering to healthcare and conservation. 

Also, adults aged 24 or over who are low-wage earners or unemployed can have access to Level 3 qualifications to develop new skills and improve employability prospects. This free courses for jobs offer can also include a short qualification without exhausting their funding eligibility. See the flow-charts on the government website to see the way funding can be spent in different age groups. 

Low-paid workers whose annual salary is less than £20,319 gross salary (in 2023 and can be higher depending on the area) can benefit from courses at level 1 and 2, including ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) courses. The scheme covers vocational courses at level 1 and 2 and academic qualifications up to GCSE level. 

The Government’s list of qualifications offers more information on which qualifications have been approved for funding.  

In 2025 the government is rolling out the lifelong loan entitlement (LLE). The LLE provides a loan entitlement with the equivalent of four years of post-18 education to use over learner’s lifetime. Funding will be available to study at levels 4 to 6, for both modular and full-time study at colleges, universities as well as other providers. 

The funding for the Adult Education Budget (AEB) can be accessed via local learning providers. UNISON regional teams can help explore the funding options in England. Contact the teams in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland to find out more about the learning opportunities in the nations with their own funding arrangements. 

If you want to find out more about how you can help learners in your branch take advantage of Government skills policy and funding, take a look at section 7 of the updated Branch Guide to Lifelong Learning.