Long-awaited area review guidance and updates have finally been published by the Department for Education – three months after they were first expected.
The implementation guidance, due diligence framework and guidance for local authorities and local enterprise partnerships were all due to have been published in July.
But they were finally released this morning, alongside updated guidance and application forms for the restructuring facility and for sixth form colleges to convert to academy status, and full details of the areas and colleges involved in waves four and five of the reviews.
A letter from FE Commissioner Sir David Collins about the progress of the area reviews to date, originally sent to college chairs and principals in August, also accompanied the newly-published documents.
Today’s publication comes after Bobbie McClelland, deputy director of the DfE’s reforming FE provision unit, told FE Week’s area review summit on July 6 that the documents were to be published before the parliamentary summer recess, which began on July 21.
But they were understood to have been held up by the widespread FE-related changes to government caused by the EU referendum in June.
Despite this, as previously reported by FE Week, a draft version of the implementation guidance had been unofficially circulating among colleges since July – sparking a row over a lack of transparency in the area review process.
And DfE officials, including Ms McClelland, apparently side-stepped ministerial sign-off on the documents earlier this month, by giving presentations on the then-unpublished documents at an Education and Training Foundation area review conference.
There is still no sign of the reports into the first wave of reviews to have completed, which are understood to include full details of each review’s recommendations.
These were also expected in July, but have yet to be published.
A DfE spokesperson denied that the guidance had been delayed.