‘Crazy’ early deadline for ILR returns

College data staff have reacted angrily to a consultation that will consider if 2012/13 Individual Learner Records (ILR) should be returned seven weeks earlier than planned.

The Information Authority (IA) said there was a “very strong case” for all 2012/13 ILR data, used to ensure public money is spent in line with government targets, to be submitted by September 27.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) needed “timely full year data” for the previous teaching year in October to make its case for funding, the authority said.

93 per cent of 100 respondents said they did not agree with the proposed date change.”

But college staff have labelled the move as “outrageous”, “madness” and “crazy” with one saying: “they [BIS] don’t have a clue what goes on in colleges”.

College data specialists conducted an online survey on behalf of FE Week with 93 per cent of 100 respondents saying they did not agree with the proposed date change.

One said: “We have had significant problems with certain awarding bodies this year (not all of them) and do so every year. If they can supply achievement data in a timely manner, that’s fine, but I doubt they will do so, given bitter experience.”

Another said that colleges were at their “busiest time” with enrolments and anyone completing ILR data needed to be properly trained or the data would be “shonky”.

“Have the people making this proposal ever been to a college?” he said.

September was when whole college activity “should be focused on ensuring new students received a positive induction”, said another, while one respondent  suggested a “staggered approach” for ILR returns.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) reacted cautiously, saying that there was a “risk” that a contracted return time could “lead to more instances of inaccurate data”.

Assistant chief executive Julian Gravatt said: “The ILR contains as many as 300 million pieces of data and is invaluable, yet extremely complicated. It is essential that it is as accurate as possible.

“AoC will attend the board meeting of the Information Authority in December and will make sure these issues are raised.”

But he added that the consultation lent a “good chance to work out whether colleges can efficiently make earlier returns.

“Colleges often need to take on extra staff in September to cover the workload. It has also been suggested that awarding bodies and government agencies would need to respond more quickly than they already do.”

The IA said: “The data will help the department demonstrate the effectiveness of the sector and its value to the economy. Currently, the funding negotiations take place before the final ILR dataset is available.

“We believe it is something that the sector should support, because it will help to secure funding for the sector.

“We want to gather views from the sector on what the main barriers are and what can be done to help enable an earlier collection date.”

IA’s consultation closes on Monday December 3, and responses can be made here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/R15

A decision is expected to be made at the IA board meeting on December 12.