Information Authority board scrapped by BIS

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has scrapped the Information Authority (IA) board.

It was announced on November 11 that decision making on what FE and skills data should be collected would shift to senior figures at BIS and the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), rendering the IA board redundant.

But sector leaders have told of their concerns that they were not consulted about the move.

Stewart Segal, chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “It would have been helpful to have consulted the sector before this decision was made, but simplification to the decision-making structure is welcome.

“It is vital that all the stakeholders in the sector have a significant input to the decision-making process, so we can be reasonably confident the sector as a whole will benefit.”

A BIS statement on the IA website said Mike Keoghan, director of vocational education at BIS, and Kim Thorneywork, interim chief executive of the SFA, would instead decide on sector data collection.

Support is to be provided by a new Technical Group of government statisticians.

“To further the general simplification in vocational education policy, it has been decided that data collection decisions should be brought within the department and the IA board should be abolished,” read the statement.

The new governance structure aims to ensure that decision-making continues to be informed by the sector.”

Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive for the Association of Colleges (AoC), praised the IA for helping to ensure there is “robust, comprehensive and accurate” data on English colleges.

He said: “Our priority now is to ensure colleges have a strong voice in the data they are required to collect about their students, the work of the new Technical Group is carried out fairly and openly and that we focus now on how to improve our good data collection arrangements to make them outstanding.”

Ian Pryce, principal of Bedford College a board member since 2007 said he was “sad” the Information Authority board had been abolished, as it was one of the most impressive groups of people he had ever worked with and careful management of college data was needed “more than ever”.

He added: “I’m disappointed. I understand it in terms of the landscape of simplification, but there is a potential that we are going to lose something with really strong expertise that was able to take things at a strategic level and make sure it was done properly and practically.”

During its final meeting on September 13, the IA board considered 24 requests for changes to data collections in 2014/15 — and rejected four.

The rejected requests came from the Education Funding Agency, as well as a software supplier, the Information Authorities own Secretariat and the SFA.