Year-end ILR data deadline shifts

The deadline for Individual Learner Records (ILR) returns could be brought forward by three weeks in 2013 to the third week of October, the Information Authority (IA) has announced.

The authority board met after a consultation that considered the merits of bringing forward the final 2012/13 ILR deadline by seven weeks, to September 27. ILR data is used to make sure that public money is spent in line with government targets.

The IA said the survey, with 612 responses, attracted the “most ever” for an ILR change.”

The board was presented with the results of an online survey it commissioned. Analysis of the responses found 28% of providers input 90% or more of their outcome data by the end of September but just 12 providers (as little as 2 per cent) supported the idea of bringing the deadline forward. This follows similar findings in a FE Week survey that found just 4 per cent supported the proposal.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has called for “timely full-year data” to make its case for funding, the
authority said.

The IA said the survey, with 612 responses, attracted the “most ever” for an ILR change.

Of these 106 providers added comments pointing out that bringing the date forward  “clashed with the main enrolment period in colleges”.

The proposal paper submitted to the IA board also highlighted that 56 respondents, made up of colleges, local authority providers and independent providers, said a September deadline would “put extra pressure on staff”.

A further  49 respondents left a comment pointing out that the final return would be “less rigorous . . .  leading to less robust data”.

The IA said that Geoff Hall, its chair, would now develop a proposal to bring the final return to the end of the third week of October, similar to the schools census deadline.

A spokesperson for the authority said: “It was recognised that there was a strong case from BIS that earlier data would help the FE and Skills sector in public spending negotiations, but an equally strong counter argument that an earlier return would result in less accurate data — particularly if the change is done hastily.

“An earlier close allows the Skills Funding Agency  to redistribute funds earlier in the academic year from under-performing providers to those providers demonstrating demand in line with published priorities.

It also allows the agency to produce reconciliation statements earlier to colleges to assist in them in submitting their accounts.”

The date for ILR returns has been creeping forward for a number of years. Until 2006/07 providers were asked to send data by the last Monday in March in the following funding year. Even after this date a provider could
send revised data if some was inaccurate
or incomplete.

In years since the date has been in the third or fourth week of November — and  no returns are accepted after this date.

The Association of Colleges’ assistant chief executive, Julian Gravatt, said: “While earlier return dates will help colleges collectively, such a change after the year has already begun may create undue pressures and incur extra costs. A phased introduction toward 2015 was the better option.”

Any proposals agreed with BIS will now go back out to the sector in the New Year for further consultation, the IA said. The final decision for will be made by the end of January.