Justine Greening, Secretary State for Education, announced today that The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and The Education Funding Agency (EFA) are to merge to become one body from April to be called the Education and Skills Funding Agency. The new Education and Skills Funding Agency is going remain under the Department for Education. Peter Lauener, who is Current chief executive of both agencies, has announced that he intends to retire following the merger and plans to recruit a successor are under way. Mr Lauener will carry on as chief executive of the Education and Skills Funding Agency until a permanent replacement has been recruited and is in place.
So what does the sector think about the news?
David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said: “Merging the Education Funding Agency and Skills Funding Agency provides the perfect opportunity to simplify the system and make it more efficient and cost-effective.
“The reality is though that the two agencies have been operating as a shared service for two years so we don't expect colleges to see much difference.
“We are keen to work with DfE and the newly-merged organisation to address some of the overlaps, inconsistencies and differences between regulations, rules and policies which have grown up across the old EFA - SFA divide. Streamlining some of the rules will help students, some will save money.”
Commenting on the retirement of Peter Lauener, Chief Executive of EFA and SFA, David Hughes said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Peter Lauener for his work at EFA and SFA. He has always been a true champion for further education and has worked hard to put students and apprentices at the heart of Government policy and funding. He will be a hard act to follow."
Mark Dawe, Chief Executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) comments:
"The merger makes a great deal of sense particularly for providers delivering apprenticeships and traineeships for both 16 to 18 year olds and adults. Hopefully it will make the contracting and growth funding processes much simpler. It is also timely as we move towards the implementation of the Sainsbury reforms. All of us have to make sure however that FE and skills are not overwhelmed by the combined agency dealing with the challenges faced by the school sector.
"Our sector is indebted to Peter Lauener for many years of uninterrupted service and dedication to working with providers and colleges to transform the working lives of thousands of people across England though education and training. Getting the Institute for Apprenticeships off to an effective start presents a final major challenge for Peter and we look forward to working with him to ensure that it is a success."
Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute said:
“Merging the two funding agencies makes sense, and I hope the transition to a single organisation will be seamless for providers and learners.
“We hope this is the first step in a much needed simplification of the learning and skills system – we look forward to clarification of next steps and clear delineation between the responsibilities of different bodies so providers, employers and individuals know who is responsible for what."
Janet Clark, ATL Education Policy Adviser said: "ATL believes that the merger between EFA and SFA is sensible, particularly given that both the school and skills sectors are now within one government department. We hope that this merger indicated a government commitment to lifelong learning."
What do you think about the announcement?