Both the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA) and the Skills Funding Agency are beavering away, independent of each other, on two brand new ‘simpler’ funding formulae for the 2012/13 academic year.

The YPLA (soon to be Education Funding Agency) will attempt funding rates based on 16-18 year-old learner programmes (as opposed to individual enrolments) and the Skills Funding Agency will try to rationalise Qualification and Credit Framework funding rates whilst also introducing non-qualification outcome payments (such as the learner getting a sustainable job).

Let’s start with a simple fact. The FE funding formula has been through two major overhalls in the last ten years, the last time was for 2008/09. Each time ‘simplification’ was the prize, and it alluded the then Learning and Skills Council on both occasions.

The immediate obstacle now, beyond the winners and losers requiring complex transitional arrangements (which on past form would last longer than the new methodology), is that there will be two very different approaches, one for 16-18 and another for 19+.

Each time ‘simplification’ was the prize, and it alluded the then Learning and Skills Council on both occasions.”

So perhaps in isolation the 16-18 formula may become simpler, but, with the exception of a few sixth form colleges the rest of the college sector will now also have to operate a completely different 19+ formula (along with the data related processes).

So, let’s start by pointing out the obvious. Until the sector returns to one education department operating a single method of paying colleges, the way post-16 funding is earned by colleges will only become more, not less, complex.

Then there is the question: who is calling for simplification? Do they know enough about the current system, and previous ones, to be a voice worth listening too? Sure funding is complicated, but that is because it needs to cope with FE, the one bit of the education sector which innovates and operates such a wonderful variety of delivery models to a wide rage of learner need.

Let’s keep things simple and stop changing it.

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  1. Robert Filmer

    Surely ‘eluded’ not ‘alluded’? Other than that – very well put, but I fear until the EFA and and SFA are merged (ha ha) and there is real ministerial/departmental alignment then it’ll remain part of the perpetual chamge machine.

    • David Fisk

      Not sure I agree.
      Simplifying the mechanism should lead to fewer constraints and more innovation in delivery. What we currently have is 2 agencies bogged down in (self imposed) complexity trying to promote innovation by yet more layers of complexity. I say we should give them another chance to improve things. I hope that the current political climate of cost cutting and simplification might just produce a different result this time.

      • Robert Filmer

        I don’t see anything here to suggest that innovation is at all likely to be the result. Although of course when government (at any length) says ‘innovation’ they really mean ‘change’ (or if you’re ungenerous then ‘tweaking’).

        I think I’m developing a nervous tick whenever I hear the word ‘innovation’ being used. I certainly can’t read any press releases whilst holding a cup of coffee any more.

  2. Sheila Hart

    Not only has the simplification of the funding formula failed, the simplification for fee remission has also failed. Try putting together guidelines for a 19+ learner to enrol and pay online. ‘Active benefits’, sounds simple until you try to give guidelines about who is eligible. For example ESA:-
    ‘If a learner has a letter that does not have either the WRAG or Support Group indicated, please ask them to contact their benefits office or produce the required evidence as stated above. The learner may be awaiting assessment (which can take 12 – 14 weeks and will assign them to either WRAG or Support Group), if this is the case, we can accept this in the first instance, however, they must be made aware that they will be required to pay the full fee should they be assigned into the support group and they must sign the attached proforma agreeing to this’ Simple??
    I haven’t yet put together the online guidance for First Full L2, Level 3 jumper etc. The alternative would be to allow only those paying full fee to enrol online. Thus discriminating against those eligible for fee remission.