FE loans top summer data conference agenda

More than 180 representatives from colleges, training providers, universities and government agencies packed Morley College’s main hall during the one warm summer’s day we had late last month for the Lsect Summer Term Data Conference.

The termly conference, which is organised by Lsect, the publisher of FE Week, had a full agenda that treated delegates to a plethora of policy updates and developments in the sector.

Speakers included Karl Bentley, lead auditor at RSM Tenon, Alan Billingham, production and quality director at the Data Service, Mark Emerson, director of MIS at Chelmsford College, Peter Ashton, standards and quality manager at the Information Authority, and Andrew King, lead for 24+ advanced learning loans at BIS.

There is a strong importance on ensuring that communication of loans is clear for learners.

Andrew King gave the conference an update on the implementation of FE loans for 2013/14. He told delegates that it was important to remember the context in which the loans were being introduced.

“Loans need to be seen in the context of lower public expenditure and greater shared responsibility for investment in training. Without loans there would be a significant reduction in learner numbers; with them we can support thousands more.”

King also clarified eligibility for FE loans, saying that they would be available for learners over 24 at the start of their course, studying at level 3 or above. This includes QCF certificates and Diploma, Access to HE, A-levels and Advanced and Higher Apprenticeships.

“Our market research has indicated that about 75 per cent of learners would still consider learning following the introduction of loans; however, those over the age 40 are less likely to consider learning funded through a loan.

“The research also identified that there is a strong importance on ensuring that communication of loans is clear for learners. We are continuing to research the potential barriers and are looking at options for providing additional support to those groups.”

Peter Ashton spoke about the emerging data arrangements for the 24-plus advanced learning loans. The ILR data would be submitted for learners in receipt of a loan and colleges would utilise the existing, but adapted, HE loans system.

During the afternoon session Karl Bentley said that the upcoming round of funding audits was in its final stages of preparation and notifications of audit would be issued soon. He reminded the conference that the audits would no longer cover distance learning and unitisation.

If you have any problems speak to the auditor as soon as possible.

“The best advice I can provide is to prepare for the audit. Taking steps such as providing a clean ILR at least three weeks in advance to audit and provide a sample 10 days before, with your DSAT samples and comments. Remember if you have any problems speak to the auditor as soon as possible.”

Nick Linford , the managing director of Lsect and managing editor of FE Week, also provided several workshop-style sessions throughout the day focusing on topics such as funding rules for 2012/13, developments with streamlined funding and remarks around where next for quality and demands.

Exhibitors at the event included Capita, Corero, Drake Lane Associates and Perspective.

Delegates networked, discussed the presentations, spoke to exhibitors about their products and services and enjoyed the all-you-can-eat ice cream from the Lsect Ice Cream Tricycle!