Colleges seeking funding for learners based outside their usual catchment areas will have to give notice of eight weeks, the government has said.
The Education Funding Agency (EFA) has claimed the guidance simply represents a clarification of existing policy, while the Association of Colleges (AoC) described the move as a “clear signal that the EFA wishes to limit distance sub-contracting”.
The guidance document says: “If the institution believes there is good reason for the EFA to fund sub-contracted provision of a whole programme to be delivered outside their normal recruitment area then the institution must seek EFA’s
agreement in principle in advance of delivery.
“EFA will consider applications made on the distance sub-contracting form available with this document from the website. This must be sent to the EFA territory email address at least eight weeks before the start of any planned delivery.”
An EFA spokesperson said: “We already expected education providers to contact us in advance before sub-contracting out provision of a course outside their normal recruitment area.
“We recently revised the guidelines to clarify our position on this and bring in consistency across the country.”
The move comes as the EFA aims to clamp down on the issue of “double funding” — where a learner is funded twice, through two different lead contractors.
The document said: “Sub-contracted provision (particularly distance provision) has had the highest number of historic ineligible double funding problems and the EFA regards such arrangements as high risk.”
Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive at the AoC, said: “The EFA has introduced a number of new, tighter sub-contracting rules in 2014-15 including a new declaration at the start of the year.
“The school census will include a sub-contracting field in 2015 which will match the data already provided as a matter of routine by colleges via the Individual Learner Record.
“The new eight-week approval timetable should be manageable for colleges but the whole package of controls is a clear signal that the EFA wishes to limit distance sub-contracting.”