The year of 2006 is only three days old, and already the Further Education sector is launching a vigorous campaign in Wales to cut bureaucracy and save public funds.
The move will be headed by fforwm, the national organisation that represents all twenty five FE colleges and institutions in Wales. fforwm will be running a working group aimed at tackling the perceived issues within overspending on administrative processes, which will be entitled the “Bureaucracy Working Group”.
New Year, New Slimming?
2006 seems likely to feature more discussion and indeed action regarding the slimming down of administrative procedures across Britain. In England, the long awaited Foster Review on Further Education was published in November. In his review, Sir Andrew Foster said: “We have been struck by the amount of data that is collected in FE colleges but find that it is poorly used.
“We need much more clarity around what data is collected and for what monitoring and other purposes it is used,” he continued (paragraph 233). “The data used by colleges to manage their business should be the same data that funding, planning, regulatory and other bodies use.” The government has set up a Bureaucracy Reduction Group for Further Education and Training in England and Scotland, at the cutting edge of an active approach to the problem.
In Wales, it is the FE sector itself that is taking pole position in change. The National Assembly government has made it plain that all public service providers should improve their efficiency year by year, and this move recognises that the area most in need of change is the amount of regulation and red tape public services in general and FE in particular face. This echoes a report compiled with the leadership of the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) from the Bureaucracy Review Group for Further Education and Training in 2004.
Review Group of Governors
The Bureaucracy Working Group set up by fforwm will seek to undertake the following tasks. They will attempt to explore the extent and number of regulations facing colleges, and identify the number of separate funding streams. It is expected that this will determine those instances when separate funding mechanism raise the cost and administrative burden for the sector. Following this, they will determine those requirements that can be dispensed with, reducing the administrative burden on colleges.
ELWa will also be assessed. The review group will seek to carry out a review of ELWa’s current processes of audit, funding, monitoring and data collection and the relationship between them. This it is hoped will determine areas for further cuts. The gathering of data and assessment of data will also be addressed, in an effort to avoid duplication of work and responsibilities. The final task of the Working Group will be to make certain recommendations on the best way to balance the requirement for colleges to be accountable for the efficient and effective use of public money with the need to enable colleges to deliver high quality education and lifelong learning.
Red Tape Chairman Calls for Accountability
The Chairman of the Red Tape Working Group, Jan Knight, looks forward to the task ahead. Jan said: “FE colleges and institutions are public bodies and use public funds. Accountability is therefore fundamentally important. But we need to make sure that the information we provide the public is useful and that it is requested and supplied in an efficient way.”
Jan continued: “After all, it costs a lot of time and money to carry out the required calculations and collect the required data. If these do not serve a real purpose, then this money is not providing better services for our students but is simply being wasted.”
Will a working group work? Tell us in the FE Blog
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