Further Education Funding Crisis

Further Education is suffering!

What does that really mean? Yes funding has been cut and FE Colleges are struggling because of the way they have managed their funds over the years.

Are the Independent Sector sector in the smae crisis? Yes however for a very different reason. The potential income they generate is subject to real competitive process and very stringent monitoring.

Rogues In the System

In 1991 the aim focused on occupying time and ensuring that everyone in the system was “doing something useful”.

The move to vocational qualifications had begun and the independent sector really came into its own. Providing specialist and technical training that cost the colleges too much to invest in. Or FE Colleges used to tell us at meetings and events that it wasn’t real education.

From that point something really daft happened, the sector grew without the control required. Funding focused on numbers, so there were courses where learners turned up once and left got £10 and never completed anything but the funding flowed.

This simple fraud was replaced by some staff being forced to sign documents on behalf of their learners or organisations claiming to fictional learners at bogus addresses.

The majority played by the rules, however, that minority created longterm sector problems. The sector began to attract bad publicity and it hasn’t disappeared.

Apprenticeships

Oh what a sad event the move to purposeless training for 16 to 24 year olds. Some great learning opportunities but sadly a system that would failed the qualified young person.

Some great project managed into nonexistence by the Skills Funding Agency when they took projects over from other departments.

The systemic issues begin with the Apprenticeship programme. FE Providers aren’t the right people to provide an apprenticeship, the guilds of professional bodies are. FE Colleges should provide some education within the package but they should never be responsible for the whole package.

The employer is challenged to provide some funding or support. In a system that states it is free why should an employer invest?

A Simple Adjustment

There are too many bodies, departments, colleges, agencies and monitoring bodies involved in the system. In this time of increased technology there isn’t the administrative need in most of these establishments.

Learning tracking can be done daily using well designed apps and software, money released to approved training organisations based on the tracking tools.

OfSted and OFQUAL plus the ESFA and the Department for Education, the repetition in this system is wasteful. Then add into the mix the all the awarding bodies. The system of qualifications accreditation can be simplified and one qualification custodian created for the integrity of learning. Cutting millions from the administrative capacity of the system.

All learners use the unique reference numbers they already have for tracking NI or Tax but don’t over complicate a simple process.

Or just scrap the whole funding process and encourage the FE sector to compete. Most Colleges will fold in months and something new, dynamic and lean will rise from the ashes. The sector needs to embrace the change and quit moaning.

The 21st Century learning is repeating the failures of of the previous 30 years.

Conclusion

Having worked in and outside the sector for over 30 years it is clear that the system is broken. Learners and tutors suffer, there is sufficient money in the system and excess capacity.

So let the competition streamline the sector. Force the FE Colleges to compete for every £, no ring fencing and remove the failed Charters.

Education has become a pool for stagnation, HE is all about the money and schools are being squeezed by the funding structure.

It is probably time to think again. We don’t need massive buildings to teach subjects that induviduals don’t want to learn. Close the FE buildings and open up high street learning shops. Put the financial value in the hands of the learner.

Subsidise qualifications if necessary but only as the learner walks through the door.

Technology has the capacity to achieve all of this.

FE Colleges are dinosaurs in a modern learning environment.

Debates and questions in the house present politicians with an opportunity to say the sector needs more money but really it needs to change.

Further Education – Funding

UK Further Education funding is a strange culture.

The provider needs to understand they are a business, therefore, avoiding unnecessary risks by management teams. 

Retail in contrast

At the local takeaway , I noticed that cameras were directed at the customers and the staff. The owner sent a clear message “this business is monitored!”

An overt and sensible approach. We expect that level of scruntiny in that type of workplace. 

Further Education

However Further Education providers appear to accept much activity on trust. 

The average learner has a cash value.  

The provider asks staff and subcontractors to complete the learning package. Self assessment and form filling is a primary tool. 

The rest is taken on trust. This is unsustainable.

This is a recipe systemic abuse. The results speak loudly. Providers fail audits because the core evidence is missing.

Time to change

Prevention is the First Step

Prevention of systemic abuse by providers is the goal. However, a recent monitoring visit highlighted:

  1.  The failure to use technology
  2. Poor monitoring of staff
  3. Poor internal auditing systems
  4. Lack of fraud prevention tools

This demonstrated that the Directors failed to understand the importance prevention. The process of their product enables staff to take short cuts. 

As both and Assessor and Tutor it has always been clear to me that time was the enemy. They are pressured to get the learners through quickly. This creates issues.  

So the first duty of the FE provider is to prevent systemic abuse.

Funding Body Pressure

The College or small provider is also pressured by the funding body.  The funding system is skewed. It fails to treat the providers as businesses.

To eat the takeaway we must first pay for it.

To engage a training provider the funder uses instalments. In arrears. Payments include an outcome component paid much later.

This model lends itself to exploitation and corruption. 

The immediate answer alternative payment models. Use technology, direct learner linked transfers.

Offer a simple pay you learn system. 

Consequently it is the Funding body payment arrangements that create the systemic pressure. Use a prevention model to remedy the issue. 

The Conclusion

30 years in Adult education and things don’t change. Therefore, create at least two alternative strands of unrestricted income. 

FE providers are businesses. Therefore, the product demands protection. Additionally,directors must build the safety measures into day to day activities. 

Staff and the learners know the value of the product, consequently they expect you to protect it. 

Make learning count, therefore, appreciate quality of teaching. Remember that further education is a business.  

Services and Support

Therefore, we provide:

  • education funding services;
  • business support;
  • education compliance support; 
  • quality system development;
  • prevention tools;
  • Robust audit systems;
  • Create strong income streams; and 
  • Advice 

Contact the team for more information and of course bid writing support.