Funding software delay ‘getting serious,’ 157 group tells SFA

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) has been hit with further criticism over “serious difficulties” faced by colleges because of delays in the release of critical new software.

Lynne Sedgmore, 157 Group executive director, has written to the SFA today to add her voice to growing sector concerns about the wait for new programmes that generate the value of provision delivered.

Her letter follows another from Association of Colleges chief executive Martin Doel, who wrote to the SFA last week to express his concerns about the software update.

Mrs Sedgmore said:  “The problems with immediate implementation are causing serious difficulties for my members and it is imperative that they be resolved without further delay.”

Colleges and training providers have been expecting the Data Collections and Funding Transformation programme in which the Funding Information System (Fis) replaces Learner Information Suite (Lis).

Meanwhile, the Learning Aim Reference Service (Lars) is to replaces Learning Aim Reference Application (Lara).

But while an updated version of Fis was released today, allowing providers to test whether their data entries were correct, there is still no Lars, which complements the new system with funding values.

The delay in supplying providers with the full software system means providers now have just eight working days to check tens of thousands of Individualised Learner Records, rather than the usual fortnight.

“My members are extremely concerned about the ongoing problems with the Fis software and its effect on the 2013/14 academic year,” it said in Mrs Sedgmore letter, seen by FE Week.

These problems, said Mrs Sedgmore, included being unable to accurately calculate income generated from adult enrolments, enter into sub-contracts or calculate the ‘rollover’ value of students.

“These are all very real and serious problems for the sector and I hope we can work together to an immediate resolution,” she added.

Mr Doel called for “concerted action” from the SFA to rectify the situation in an open letter sent to its chief executive Kim Thorneywork.

“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,” he wrote.

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

And his concerns about communication were echoed by Mrs Sedgmore, who further wrote: “In general, communication has been poor. My members would like short, clear, concise information about how the problems will be resolved and request a new timeline and clear indication of when the software will be released.”

Nobody from the SFA was available for comment as to what was causing the new system delay.

More information on this story will be found in next week’s edition of FE Week.