Association of Colleges calls for action on funding software

The Association of Colleges’ boss has written to the Skills Funding Agency expressing concerns over software funding delays and outlining the problems providers are facing. Click here to read the letter.

The Association’s chief executive, Martin Doel, called for “concerted action” from the agency to rectify problems caused by a delay in releasing software to calculate and track colleges’ funding, in an open letter sent to its chief executive Kim Thorneywork yesterday.

In the letter, Mr Doel said: “Colleges need a clear, non-technical statement to be issued which explains to all those interested in [agency] funded activity what the situation is, plus concerted action to ensure the current implementation timetable is met.”

Mr Doel added communication from the agency’s Data Service to colleges and stakeholders had been “insufficient and late”.

The release of the Funding Information System (FIS), the software system for checking data errors and calculating funding, has been delayed by almost two months.

Currently, only a test version of the programme, FIS Beta, is available, which does not calculate funding.

The updated version was due to have been published yesterday, but instead, the beta version will be taken offline and re-uploaded with some updates on October 28, leaving providers just eight working days to check tens of thousands of Individualised Learner Records, rather than the usual two weeks.

Mr Doel listed problems faced by providers as a result of the delay in his letter.

These included being unable to monitor enrolment performance or use of agency funds, a lack of management information for governing body meetings, and a lack of information to help colleges pay partners or subcontractors.

He also said it had put “unacceptable pressure on college staff in a month when the final 2013-14 ILR data was also brought forward.”

Mr Doel concluded by urging the agency to reflect on the issue, once the problems had been solved, perhaps through a report to its Audit and Risk Committee.

The funding software delay has been met with anger from the sector.

FE Week is still making enquiries with the SFA about when the Learning Aims Reference System (LARS), which is also in the process of being updated, will be available.