Simplify the funding formula? Heard that before!

Both the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA) and the Skills Funding Agency are beavering away, independent of each other, on two brand new ‘simpler’ funding formulae for the 2012/13 academic year.

The YPLA (soon to be Education Funding Agency) will attempt funding rates based on 16-18 year-old learner programmes (as opposed to individual enrolments) and the Skills Funding Agency will try to rationalise Qualification and Credit Framework funding rates whilst also introducing non-qualification outcome payments (such as the learner getting a sustainable job).

Let’s start with a simple fact. The FE funding formula has been through two major overhalls in the last ten years, the last time was for 2008/09. Each time ‘simplification’ was the prize, and it alluded the then Learning and Skills Council on both occasions.

The immediate obstacle now, beyond the winners and losers requiring complex transitional arrangements (which on past form would last longer than the new methodology), is that there will be two very different approaches, one for 16-18 and another for 19+.

Each time ‘simplification’ was the prize, and it alluded the then Learning and Skills Council on both occasions.”

So perhaps in isolation the 16-18 formula may become simpler, but, with the exception of a few sixth form colleges the rest of the college sector will now also have to operate a completely different 19+ formula (along with the data related processes).

So, let’s start by pointing out the obvious. Until the sector returns to one education department operating a single method of paying colleges, the way post-16 funding is earned by colleges will only become more, not less, complex.

Then there is the question: who is calling for simplification? Do they know enough about the current system, and previous ones, to be a voice worth listening too? Sure funding is complicated, but that is because it needs to cope with FE, the one bit of the education sector which innovates and operates such a wonderful variety of delivery models to a wide rage of learner need.

Let’s keep things simple and stop changing it.