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Contestable Funding one of Key Issues in Continuing Mission for Fair Funding

The issue of fair funding for the Further Education sector has been in the press these last weeks thanks to the publication of the FE Review by Sir Andrew Foster and to the University and College Lecturers” Union (NATFHE) balloted strike by college lecturers over pay deals.

What is occasionally neglected is the existence of funding inequalities within the FE sector, with colleges often more completely funded than training providers. However, in conversation with FE News, Graham Hoyle, the Chief Executive of the Association of Learning Providers (ALP) seemed positive over both the current funding initiatives and over the future for FE.

Looking to 2006

Mr. Hoyle looked to the year ahead and elaborated upon two issues that he feels need to be tackled during this time. One of these was the need to have a fair and equitable system in place for measuring performance across FE, as currently ALP members are judged on full apprenticeships whereas colleges often count part time, one day and short term courses.

The second of these is the issue of contestability in funding, as Mr. Hoyle stated in an article recently. Some members of the ALP are concerned as to the format for funding, fearing that the framework is designed to support colleges at all costs in what he called an “unequivocal protectionist policy”.

He said that he was encouraged by what Sir Andrew Foster had to say on this, and that there had been promising moves in the right direction (eg., regarding apprenticeships). However, he feels that the funding should be uncontestable in all areas, and hopes to see this progress in 2006. Given that, according to Skills Minister Phil Hope’s answer in the House of Commons in July some 69% of Employer Training Pilots are carried through by private providers, it seems this is a much ““ needed adjustment.

Funding and Pay

Further Education, it seems, continues to suffer in funding compared with the HE sector. Mr. Hoyle was unwilling to be drawn on the issue of individual pay deals as he believes this to be a matter best resolved on an institution by institution basis rather than through excessively heavy ““ handed legislative oversight. He does recognize that there remains a certain inequality in funding, but feels that things have been moving in the right direction.

Some in the FE sector have not been fulsome in their praise of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the body responsible for the budget for the FE sector (which will be some £10.4 billion next year). Mr. Hoyle, however, having worked through the era when there were a plethora of funding bodies, is glad to only be dealing with one.

He believes that the LSC are “genuinely intent on creating a fair and even funding situation” and recognizes that the changes will not all happen overnight. The cloud on the horizon, he fears, may be the thorny topic of capital investment. Whether this proves to be a sticking point remains to be seen.

Jethro Marsh

What do you see as the key issues for the ALP in 2006? Tell us in the FE Blog

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