Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

SFA Boss: Everyone Should Be a Winner

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

SFA Boss: Everyone Should Be a Winner

Article excerpt

Peter Lauener vows to create 'simple' national funding formula

The head of the Skills Funding Agency has pledged to overhaul FE's funding system after admitting it is too complicated and leads to a "postcode lottery" of resources.

Peter Lauener, who leads the SFA and the Education Funding Agency (EFA), said that one of his top priorities was to introduce a national funding formula to simplify the sector's finances - a total of about £7 billion a year in government funding.

In 2011 the National Audit Office estimated that up to £300 million a year was being wasted on red tape and called for substantial savings to be made. But last December the audit office's follow-up report calculated that changes since then had saved only about £4 million a year (bit.ly/SimplificationPlan).

The report calls on the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education to do more to streamline funding arrangements, which it says are "complex" and a "struggle" for many providers to navigate.

Speaking at the Skills Summit in London last week, Mr Lauener said that "simplification" was high on his agenda. "The current funding system is too complex," he argued. "A simple national funding system should be part of the overall system we are creating.

"There's always the temptation to add 'twiddles' to a funding system, and believing that by doing that we are going to impact on behaviour. I want to make sure the skills budget is as simple and streamlined as possible. It's quite complicated at the moment. There's too much of a postcode lottery."

Mr Lauener also told delegates there was "scope to make savings" in the SFA and EFA, which he described as "two pieces of the same jigsaw". Efficiencies were possible in both bodies, he said, but there were no plans to merge them.

Speaking to TES after the event, he added: "Every area of government has to make savings, and there are lots of areas where we can work together more effectively and efficiently."

However, although he said it "made a lot of sense" to have one person in charge of both bodies, Mr Lauener denied there were plans to unite the two. "I did not take the job with the expectation or understanding of a merger," he insisted.

The range of funding routes and the complexities involved in accessing them can lead to a "postcode lottery" where learners using different providers and living in different geographical locations have varying amounts of money spent on their education and training.

Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, welcomed Mr Lauener's comments. "Many people have tried to simplify the skills funding system before," he said. …

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