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The Learning and Skills Council (LSC) has announced the budgeted funding for the FE sector in the academic year 2005/2006, which was set out by David Russell, Director of Resources.

The biggest winner in the latest round of funding increases was without a doubt the 16 "“ 18 year old sector, with an increase in funding from 2004/05 levels of approximately 10%, or £240 million pounds. This increase serves to accentuate the importance placed upon the provision of education for all up to the age of 18, as has been agreed as a priority between the LSC and the Government in their Skill Strategy. This increase will raise the investment in 16 "“ 18 FE education from £2,342 million to £2,583 million.

A Cut, Above the Rest?

There is also a small increase in funding provision allocated to Additional Learner Support (ALS), which rises by 2.6 %, or £9 million, from £330 million in 2004 / 05 to £339 million in 2005 / 06. However, the provision for post 19 learning in the FE sector has been cut by approximately 3%, from £1,847 million in 2004 / 05 to £1,792 million in 2005 / 06.

Whilst this overall increase of approximately 4.3 %"“ smaller than that enjoyed in recent years, such as the approximately 8.5 % increase between 2003 / 04 and 2004 / 05, or the 14 % increase between 2002 / 03 and 2003 / 04 "“ is above the level enjoyed by other areas of the public sector and is above inflation, the LSC Director of Resources Mr. David Russell does acknowledge that some colleges face some tough decisions regarding the allocation of funds particularly regarding adult education.

Skills for Life, Level 2, and Targets

Mr. Russell points out that the LSC are required to provide funding for education up to the age of 18 as a priority, stressing Skills for Life and first full Level 2 planned provision in order to meet Government targets. He goes on to state: "However, since the budget available needs to be focused on Government priorities, it has been necessary to constrain the volume of other adult provision supported by the LSC in 2005/06."

Mr. Russell also expands a little on the subject of the numbers entering education at the various levels, with an anticipated increase in numbers of 16 "“ 18 year olds of about 3 % and an increase also expected in the numbers taking part in Skills for Life and the first full Level 2 adult. And, whilst these numbers are provisional and the full data is not yet available, it is expected that the overall numbers of adult numbers funded by the LSC will decrease by anything up to 10 %.

AoC Work with LSC on Review

Mr. Russell goes on to point out that the application of these funding protocols of course varies from college to college, and that almost half of the colleges have received increases of almost 5 %. He also identified the need for colleges and FE institutions to anticipate the changing demands of the marketplace in a more timely manner.

To this end the LSC and the Association of Colleges (AoC) are conducting a joint review of the planning round, focusing on issues of timing, consistency and data. It is hoped that the results of this review will be published towards the end of the summer, and will thus be able to be applied towards the planning of the 2006 / 07 budget.

Jethro Marsh

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