More than 150 representatives from colleges, training providers and government agencies came together for Lsect’s winter Data and Funding Conference.

The conference, held at London’s Morley College, had a packed agenda, ensuring delegates left the event armed with hot-off-the-press funding updates and expert advice on the efficient use of data to raise standards in education.

Attendees had the opportunity to network over lunch, and share experiences with staff in other colleges facing similar challenges within their own organisations.

Key speakers at the February 5 event included managing director of Lsect (and FE Week editor) Nick Linford, who was joined by lead auditor at RSM Tenon Karl Bentley and learning and skills consultant Mike Davis, formerly of Ofsted.

Nick kicked off proceedings by commenting on the pace of change for 16 to 19 funding as colleges find themselves faced with the implications of a new per student funding methodology.

Funding will no longer be linked to whether a learner achieves”

“With the raising of the participation age comes a whole new way of funding 16-18 year-old learners,” he said.

“Clearly the most significant reform is the transition from funding per qualification to funding per student, which includes a move away from standard learner number rates on the learning aim reference application.

“Also, funding will no longer be linked to whether a learner achieves the qualification, but simply whether they finish the course.”

Mr Linford also spoke about the government’s policy to introduce study programmes to include English, maths and work experience.

He reiterated the importance from 2013/14 of recording all eligible qualification and non-qualification activities in a student’s learning plan to showing how the institution incurred a recognisable cost in delivering activity.

“When putting together your programme, you need to take into account your learners’ needs as well as which activities fit into the programme and the funding requirements for that,” said Mr Linford.

“The Education Funding Agency is expecting full-time learners to do on average 600 hours per year over the course of two years, although to be counted and funded as a full time learner their study programme must have at least 540 hours.

“My advice is to avoid curriculum planning right on the threshold of 540 hours. It’s much better to plan around 600 hours so you have around 60 hours as a buffer rather than cutting right to the bone for efficiency savings.”

Funding auditor Mr Bentley followed onto the platform with a look at audits past, present and future.

“Although colleges and other providers are now focusing on planning the academic year 2013/14, there are big changes afoot in 2012/13 from an audit point of view,” he said.

“For example, the new single audit approach for this year will audit all elements of adult skills budget, so no separate visits for classroom and workplace provision. Everything will be under scrutiny at one time.

“It’s also predicted that the final individualised learning record return deadline will take place around a month earlier than usual, meaning audits might cut into summer holidays and busy periods of enrolment — I realise this can cause concern both for colleges and auditors.”

In terms of 2013/14, Mr Bentley said he could only speculate on what the future would hold for auditing purposes. However, it was likely that subcontracting will be continue to be a hot topic, along with verifying the minimum 540 hours for full time 16 to 18-year-olds, he said.

It’s imperative that colleges and training providers take note of the new rules”

Mr Davis, fresh from departing Ofsted this month, offered colleges some independent advice on how they should prepare for the new short notice inspections from the point of view of performance data.

He said: “You need to have what the inspectors are looking for at your fingertips — it’s important to plan thoroughly and to have a regularly maintained data pack available including all the key information.”

Mr Davis also warned colleges they needed to be able to prove more than just success rates.

“There are several measures required to be able to judge learners’ outcomes fully – Ofsted want to see the speed at which learners are moving forward into meaningful employment,” he said.

“Data is therefore expected for relevant learners’ progression and destination.”

Mr Linford concluded the conference by giving an insight into the Skills Funding Agency’s new funding methodology for 2013/14.

Delegates were guided through the new qualification and curriculum framework funding rate banding matrix for 2013/14.

Mr Linford also took a closer look at the introduction of 24-plus advanced learning loans, in terms of provider funding from the Student Loans Company, learner eligibility (assessed by the loans company) and supporting students in their application as well as the bursary fund.

The presentation ended with a look at the new Skills Funding Agency funding rules for 2013/14 on subcontracting.

“It’s imperative that colleges and training providers take note of the new rules and ensure they publish correct data on the actual level of funding paid and retained for each subcontractor in 2013/14,” said Mr Linford.

To round off the day, all delegates were invited to the pub for a post-conference drink courtesy of Lsect to wind down with some informal chat.

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