Steve Hewitt is FE Associates' Lead MIS and Funding Consultant

It may not be the sexiest topic, but getting your assurance processes right from the beginning will save you a lot of heartache in the long run, says Steve Hewitt, Lead MIS and Funding Consultant at FEA.

If you’re one of the large number of new providers entering the market as a prime contractor for the first time, either as part of the Levy Apprenticeship funding or the Adult Education Budget (AEB) funding procurement round, there are a lot of things to think about as you engage your first directly-funded learners.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve spoken to quite a few providers keen to make sure they’re doing everything right, which is heartening to hear. Some of them have previously been sub-contractors and some are moving into training for the first time, but they’re all facing similar issues, so here are four top tips to make sure you’re not going to trip up.

  1. Read the Funding Rules

Whilst this might sound like the most obvious thing to say, I was recently contacted by someone who asked “So, if our Apprentices are doing their induction in mid-September, I can put their start date as 1 September, right?” Hopefully I won’t need to spell out to most of you why this is wrong as you’ll be all too aware that start date is the first day of LEARNING and that induction is NOT LEARNING, in and of itself. This may be an extreme example, but you really really need someone in your organisation who has a good understanding of how the funding rules work or you will end up in serious trouble. An ESFA auditor will not accept ignorance of the rules as an excuse, they’ll just take the money back from you.

  1. Make sure your processes are fit for purpose

I’ve discovered that providers who are also sub-contractors are often required by their primes to collect far more evidence than I’d consider necessary or even sensible. It’s a long-term bugbear of mine, but no provider should be taking photocopies of UK passports to prove eligibility of learners. Apart from anything else, there’s a real issue of identity fraud if you’ve got a pile of photocopies in a filing cabinet! Provided you clearly ask the learner on your enrolment form if they have been resident in the UK or EU for the last three years (and what their status is if they haven’t), that’s all you need to record as evidence for funding. In terms of AEB funding, all claims for unemployed learners can be done via self-declaration, there is no requirement to photocopy or even see proof of benefit. According to colleagues at ESFA, this was actually a request by DWP/Job Centre Plus as they do not have the resource to produce evidence for all of their clients who want to do a course. If I could fix one thing about the current system, it would be to stop every provider in the country from asking for this “proof” from learners.

Having said all that, we still need an amount of paperwork (even if it’s electronic “paper”!) to make sure that we can effectively claim funding for the learners we’re working with. Again, the funding rules are your friend here, they concisely and clearly set out what you need to provide.

  1. Help your board to understand their role

If this is your first foray into direct delivery, you need to ensure that your board understands their obligations and need to scrutinise what you are delivering. Ofsted report after Ofsted report shows that this is an area of concern for inspectors. To do this, you need effective, timely management information that shows key metrics for your areas of work. This doesn’t need to be a whizzy, graphics-filled (expensive) dashboard, it just needs to be accurate and clear. If your board doesn’t have much experience in training, you will need to help them understand what is important and what questions they should be asking. From my point of view, governors need frequent assurance that the funding being claimed is being claimed correctly, long before an ESFA auditor walks through your door. Whether this assurance is carried out internally or externally will depend on the size of your team and the volume of provision you offer, but it’s something you neglect at your peril.

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

The various streams of funding, the vagaries of data collection and complexity of the work we are doing means that NO ONE KNOWS EVERYTHING. I’ve been doing this for fifteen years and still have to check with colleagues on some dark corners of the business. If you’re a new provider it’s ABSOLUTELY FINE to ask questions.

Obviously, if you want a truly definitive answer to your question, the ESFA Service Desk is the only place to get it. This implies, however, that you have a fortnight to wait for your answer. Luckily, there are other places where you’ll be able to connect with other providers who may well be in the same position as you.

If you are using a proprietary student record system, find out if your supplier has a user group or even an email list for users, sign up and join in. Although they may be focused on the specific software, I’ve never found one where you can’t also ask questions about best practice, funding and eligibility.

Training sessions organised by experts are also usually a good investment, not just for their opinions, but also because you’ll be in a room full of people facing the same issues you are. I usually end up getting as much from the chats over coffee and lunch as from some of the other sessions.

Finally, there is FEConnect which, although set up by ESFA, features little direct input from them these days. However, there is a lively community of practitioners who will happily answer questions and share your problems and frustrations.

Steve Hewitt is FE Associates' Lead MIS and Funding Consultant and is available to support colleges and providers in interim leadership roles, consultancy projects and with all funding and assurance queries

You may also be interested in these articles:

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Video Advert

Newsroom Activity

Sharon Walpole shared a video in channel. 1 hour 5 minutes ago

CareermapLive: Find out how to support adult...

In the midst of a second lockdown and with challenges around employment likely to continue into 2021 and beyond, NCFE is determined to support adult...

Sharon Walpole shared a video in channel. 1 hour 47 minutes ago

National Graduate Week: NHS Careers

During National Graduate Week 2020, the NHS explored all the different career avenues available and busted myths along the way. It's a common...

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