FE Choices website set to close after three-and-a-half years

The FE Choices website is to shut next month after three-and-a-half years, it was revealed by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) this afternoon.

The website, which was previously known as the Framework for Excellence and which allows the public to compare the performance of providers, is set to close at the end of October.

An SFA spokesperson said the move comes as part of the wider programme to move all government websites to GOV.UK.

An FE Week exclusive (see right) six months after the website launched in January 2012 revealed 6,230 people had viewed it.fe choices1

The figures, released under the Freedom of Information Act, further showed that the website had been visited by 1,246 ‘unique’ visitors on average each month.

The request, submitted by FE Week, also revealed that the FE Choices website had cost the taxpayer more than £2.3m up to that point.

The website itself had cost £630,000 to build, with the remaining £1.7m spent on the gathering and production of data.

The figures worked out as a cost to the taxpayer of £375 per visitor and the coverage was picked up by Private Eye, which questioned whether FE Choices “may be one of the most expensively pointless government websites yet“.

However, while the website is closing, the SFA spokesperson said it would “continue to make all FE Choices data available on GOV.UK and DATA.GOV.UK, with performance indicators held on the National Careers Service website.”

“Our last update to the website was on Thursday, September 3, when we published the 2014 to 2015 learner satisfaction data,” they said.

“FE Choices satisfaction surveys will continue to run as normal, with the next survey opening on Monday, November 2.”

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  1. An appalling waste of valuable, rapidly diminishing, taxpayer money!

    This is not the first time that we’ve seen, and experienced Government and their agencies glibly righting off large amounts of ‘spent’ money within their departments.

    In this case an incredible £2.3 million (plus)

    There are times when we will all invest in a ‘good’ idea, aiming to achieve a predetermined goal, and these don’t always work out as we’d like or expect regardless of market testing and the most rigorous of planning, that’s business, but once again we see an almost dismissive attitude, by agency leaders, and their bosses, to a right off that can only be described as significant, and yet losses of this sort experienced by agency contracted delivery providers would be dealt with in the most severe of manners, regardless of reason or economic climate.

    We all too often experience this elitist, contradictory attitude from the agency, clearly demonstrating that we operate in a “do as I say, not as I do” culture.

    Who is responsible for signing off on the F.E. Choices website original commission?

    How can £1.7 million be needed to gather and produce data? And what action has been taken against those responsible for this failed project?

    Tough questions? Yes, but then we, as a sector, are subject to this level of scrutiny, and more!

    To operate a dual system of accountability, of polar opposites, both internal and external of the agencies cannot be justified and if we are to continue with this ‘rule book’ approach to contract management, then it’s time to see transparency, responsibility, accountability and consequence within the agency.

  2. Gillian Miller

    By locating it in Gov.UK site it is also implied that the “choices” on offer – and FE more generally – are provided and funded by the Government. Surely not the right message to be giving out if we want to encourage greater financial contributions from individuals and employers in the shape of loans and fees??