Peter Marples and Di McEvoy-Robinson are co-owners of Aspire Achieve Advance

I have a few hours to pass so like a good accountant decide to hone my skills on pivot tables - oh what an exciting life i do lead.

I need some data so what is better than the latest SFA and EFA allocations and the subcontracting declarations. It makes for some fascinating reading and causes me to pick up a glass of red to analyse and pose some questions, many of which are disturbing.

Now, i am not against subcontracting, let's make that clear, indeed, our own business started this way and good subcontracting enables new entrants to the market to develop and build their capacity, and getting the support of a prime who charge a fee for the services.

But they are not doing it as a charity, indeed, only yesterday i was talking to a subcontractor who was being charged 60% management fee by the prime.

Back to my pivot tables and just to pose some questions. There is currently more than £3/4bn subcontracted by primes and if we look at this as a percentage of their total allocation the ranges are from 100% down to zero, with it levelling out at on average of about 30% of total allocation. But there are some massive variances.

One college appears to subcontract over 78% of its total SFA allocation and if we add in EFA funding, still subcontracts over 57% of its total income. So we look at its website and we see it is focused on its local community but most of its subcontracting is not within 100 miles of its 'community'. I am also given to understand it charges an average 30% management fee. Said College has significant debt and any cursory look at its accounts shows it may be reliant on subcontracting for its solvency. Now, i'm not saying it is wrong and it may have a clear strategy but certain questions do arise:

- have the governors really approved such a strategy as part of its long term mission?
- is the margin on sub contracting propping up the institution and what is being done about it?
- can risks really be appropriately managed with such large scale activity?
- do these subcontractors have appropriate Ofsted validation or at least a proportion of them or are they all new entrants to the market?

College bashing again i hear someone say - forgot his name - but the situation is the same with some independent providers. My pivot table shows one major provider subcontracting well in excess of 40% of their total allocation, not extreme you might say but in the context of the total amount they receive, it's mind blowing.

You cannot also fail to notice we are at that time of the year again, the phone never stops ringing with people having spare allocation and the plea 'can you help us spend it' when only a few months previous the subcontracting pot was dry. It reminds me of football, when in January most clubs start to run out of money and are desperate to sell a player to raise vital funds.

So what should be done i hear you ask? We have subcontracting rules coming out of our ears but do they really address the fundamental question - why are we doing it in the first place - and really it is time for all primes to be required to consider and publish their rationale for subcontracting - and in my opinion this should be a key issue for Ofsted when looking at leadership and management.

I remember writing a guide on subcontracting in 1996 when i was with Kpmg that posed exactly these questions. It doesn't seem much has changed.

Secondly, there should be a clear route for subcontractors to become primes, to provide control and value for money and I welcome the recent SFA's announcement which indicates there may be a route opening.

And finally risk, governing bodies and independent boards need to look at risk and i predict there are many institutions and providers who are maintaining solvency on the back of the margins generated by subcontracting - is that a sustainable strategy? I suspect not.

And finally, i read with interest the new CEO of the SFA letter to the sector recently, following the announcement of further spending reductions to the asb budget and his commitment to fund all high quality apprenticeships. Did you catch his message which i interpreted as 'if you aren't delivering what we want to buy then your cuts are going to be larger?' - well this has massive implications for subcontracting and the strategies of primes, with a large percentage of all ASB being sub contracted

So as i empty my glass, i humbly suggest that, just may be, the SFA and Ofsted might want to look at this a little more closely, auditors ask some searching questions on financial health of primes and look to regulate a little more closely before we in footballing terms hit relegation from the premier league and the financial perils of that. There are no balloon payments in this sector.

Oh and did you know, my pivot table tells me that the top three Ofsted rated independents don't do any subcontracting? Is their strategy to 'stick to the knitting' right or have they got it wrong and should they subcontract?

Peter Marples and Di McEvoy-Robinson are co-owners of Aspire Achieve Advance, a grade 1 OFSTED provider

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Video Advert

Newsroom Activity

Ahlan Safety commented on 5 ways to keep your Company safe yesterday

Workplace health and safety is very important part for every business. I read these 5 steps, So I...

Ahlan Safety commented on 5 ways to keep your Company safe yesterday

Workplace health and safety is very important part for every business. I read these 5 steps, So I...

I really enjoy to read this article. I want to...

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.

Podcasts

We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.

Events

FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page