Skills reform

Simplifying FE funding and accountability consultation launched by DfE

The government has launched a consultation on proposals to simplify funding and accountability systems in further education.

As promised in the ‘Skills for Jobs White Paper’, the reforms aim to give colleges and providers more autonomy by relaxing ringfences, introducing a multi-year funding regime, and holding them to account for the outcomes they deliver.

You can read the 68-page consultation document here. It will be open until October 7.

The reforms to funding will only apply to adult streams and not 16 to 19 or apprenticeships.

Plans for simplifying the funding system that the government is seeking views on, in the words of the Department for Education, include:

  • Establishing a new Skills Fund to bring together all direct funding for adult skills.
  • Ensuring the system can support both qualification-based provision and non-qualification provision so adults can retrain and upskill in the most effective way.
  • How a needs-based approach could be introduced to distribute funding across the country.
  • How funding can be most effectively distributed between colleges in non-devolved areas, in particular:
    O What a simpler formula might look like if a system based on funding learners is retained
    O Moving to a lagged funding system
    O Delivering a multi-year funding regime
  • What entitlements and eligibility rules should apply in a new system.
  • How funding for Independent Training Providers and other non-grant funded providers would work in a reformed system.


The accountability reforms will focus on “outcomes and will take a strategic approach to support and intervention”. Views, in the words of the DfE, are being sought on the following areas:

  • Specifying the outcomes we expect colleges to deliver through a new Performance Dashboard.
  • Introducing a new skills measure that will capture how well a college is delivering local and national skills needs.
  • Introducing a new Accountability Agreement that will reinforce colleges autonomy while providing a clear sense of mission.
  • Exploring an enhanced role for Ofsted to inspect how well a college is delivering local and national skills needs.
  • Enabling the FE Commissioner to enhance its existing leadership role, with a renewed focus on driving improvement and championing excellence.
  • Improving data quality and reducing the requirements we place on providers through student data collection and financial reporting.
  • Retaining the necessary regulation and oversight to ensure the effective operation of the market, including providing assurance on the use of public funds.

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