Select Committee on Children, Schools and Families Minutes of Evidence

Letter to the Chairman submitted by David Bell, Permanent Secretary, Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF)


  I wanted to take this opportunity to write to you to confirm the role of DCSF in managing the transfer of funding for 16-19 learning to local authorities.

  As set out in Jim Knight and Bill Rammell's letter to you of 20 March 2008 enclosing a copy of the joint DCSF and DIUS White Paper Raising Expectations: Enabling the System to Deliver, our proposals have two key objectives. First, to give local authorities (LAs) the necessary funding and commissioning powers to deliver the new entitlements and raise the participation age, so that more young people have the necessary qualifications and skills to succeed on entering further or higher education or employment; and second, to streamline the post-19 skills system to better support the policies set out in World-Class Skills, and therefore make faster progress towards our 2020 skills ambitions.

  In line with the split of responsibilities between my Department and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS), the DCSF remains responsible for delivering 16-19 education. Officials in my Department are taking forward the 16-19 transition arrangements set out below. In doing this, they are working closely with colleagues in DIUS who are responsible for the changes to the adult skills landscape.

  From 2010, the Government has proposed that responsibility for ensuring that there is sufficient learning provision for all 16-19 year olds (including full participation up to 17 by 2013 and up to 18 by 2015) will pass from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) to LAs. Each LA will have a duty to ensure that there is sufficient provision for learners in their area within reasonable travelling distance, whether situated within or outside their own local area boundaries. We expect that LAs will fulfil this duty by working together across a local area to commission the best quality provision to meet learner demand and provide access to the new curriculum and qualifications entitlements. In commissioning this provision, LAs will look across a range of providers, including school sixth forms, FE colleges, sixth form colleges, and third sector and work-based learning providers.

  Whilst we expect that LAs will need to work together in sub-regional groupings to agree and plan their provision, it is important that each provider has a clearly defined single lead authority with which they can work. For school sixth forms, sixth form colleges and many third sector organisations, we expect that the home LA (ie that in which the provider is based) will have the lead role in commissioning and performance management. For FE colleges—which typically serve much larger areas—sub-regional groupings of LAs will need to identify a single lead authority or agree a joint governance arrangement to work with colleges across the grouping. This arrangement will ensure that the commissioning process will engage with all providers—including school sixth forms and others—at the right level, enabling the best provision capable of meeting the needs of every young person to be allowed to grow and flourish.

  This process will be supported by a new Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB), the Young People's Learning Agency. Drawing on the expertise, knowledge and resources of the LSC, this new slimline agency will be responsible for securing budgetary control and national coherence for provision.

  The DCSF is working closely with LAs over the coming period to develop their capability and capacity to discharge their new role whilst ensuring that we minimise any additional burdens. We are working with the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Directors of Children's Services (ADCS), who have welcomed the proposals, to develop a support package for LAs to help them with the transition. We are also ensuring that LAs and the LSC are working closely together to plan for the transition and build capability.

  Alongside this, DIUS has proposed a new dedicated single funding agency for adult skills (ie post 19) the Skills Funding Agency—which will build on the successes of the LSC but be better placed to respond quickly and flexibly to national, regional and local skills needs.

  I hope that this clarifies the proposed new arrangements. In taking forward these changes, we are particularly conscious of the need for the Department to work closely with our partners and stakeholders—including, crucially, the LSC—to manage the transition.

  As you will appreciate, it is very important to sustain momentum to deliver our ambitious Level 2 and Level 3 and NEET targets for all young people by age 19.

  I will of course keep the Committee updated on further developments in this area.

July 2008

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