Education Bill

MEMORANDUM SUBMITTED BY THE DEPARTMENT FOR BUSINESS, INNOVATION AND SKILLS TO THE PUBLIC BILL COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT AMENDMENTS TO CLAUSE 48, SCHEDULE 11 (E 96)

Reference: EBCC/2011/Note 14

1. To aid the Committee’s consideration of the Education Bill, this note provides further information on the Government amendments to Schedule 11, which provide for the powers of intervention into the affairs of further education colleges to be transferred from the Chief Executive of Skills Funding ("the CE") to the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.

2. Paragraph 19 of Schedule 11 provides for the transfer of the intervention powers in relation to sixth form colleges from local authorities to the Secretary of State. Paragraph 22 similarly removes powers to intervene in sixth form colleges from the Young People’s Learning Agency. The existing intervention powers reflect earlier arrangements which saw local authorities having a detailed role for planning, commissioning and funding 16-19 education. They are also bureaucratic and heavy handed, with several bodies having powers of intervention, and subject sixth form colleges to a different, more interventionist, regime than Academies.

3. On reflection, we have decided that we should go further in aligning intervention approaches across the sixth form and FE college sectors, by also transferring the powers of intervention into the affairs of further education colleges from the CE to the Secretary of State, thus mirroring the position regarding sixth form colleges. This will further deliver on our commitment to free further education colleges from unnecessary interference in their day to day management by intermediary bodies, whilst ensuring that there remain appropriate statutory safeguards across the whole college sector to protect learners from unacceptable standards of education or training.

Policy Background

4. Prior to 2008, the Secretary of State had held the powers to intervene in the affairs of an FE corporation (under section 57 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992), following the incorporation of the sector in 1993. These powers were transferred to the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) in 2008 (through the Further Education and Training Act 2007). This change was intended to place the powers of intervention closer to the point of delivery, in support of the LSC’s role as a strategic planning body as well as its function as a funding body. These powers were subsequently transferred to the CE by the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009, upon the dissolution of the LSC.

5. The current powers provide the Chief Executive with the ability to intervene in the affairs of a further education college corporation where he is satisfied that certain prescribed circumstances have been met, including that the institution’s affairs have been or are being mismanaged, and that the governing body is failing to discharge its duties or is acting unreasonably in the exercise of its powers. He can also intervene if he considers that the institution is performing significantly less well than might reasonably be expected or is failing, or likely to fail, to give an acceptable standard of education or training. These powers also enable the Chief Executive to remove any or all of the members of the governing body of a further education institution, appoint new members to vacancies, and give directions to the governing body on the exercise of its powers and duties.

6. However, our commitment to rationalise and streamline public sector bodies, reduce bureaucracy and free up the further education sector means that the role of the CE will change. The CE does not have a planning function and his core role is to allocate funding to colleges and training providers, with individual further education colleges themselves determining the appropriate learning offer and taking responsibility for performance improvements. This, added to our commitment to free colleges from central control, means that it is no longer appropriate for the Chief Executive to retain the power to intervene in FE colleges. However, it is necessary to ensure that, in the last resort, there remain appropriate statutory safeguards to protect learners in the case of unacceptable standards of education or training.

7. It is therefore our intention to mirror the Department for Education’s proposed intervention changes by transferring the powers to intervene in the affairs of further education corporations from the Chief Executive to the Secretary of State so that he has power to intervene firmly, as a last resort, in prescribed circumstances.

March 2011