Sixth-form college funding agreements for 2015 to 2016: early intervention and prevention
- Education Funding Agency
- Part of:
- Further education and sixth-form college governors
- First published:
- 13 July 2015
Information on early intervention and prevention in sixth-form colleges for academic year 2015 to 2016.
Education Funding Agency (EFA) has sent all sixth-form colleges (SFCs) a 2015 to 2016 academic year funding agreement. The agreement runs from 1 August 2015 until 31 July 2016, and sets out the responsibilities of SFCs that continue to receive EFA funding during 2015 to 2016. This guidance shares the significant change to the 2015 to 2016 funding agreement.
The difference between the 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016 funding agreement
The majority of the clauses in the model agreement are unchanged from the previous year’s funding agreement. Some clauses have been updated where there have been regulatory or legislative changes, for example, student health, safety and safeguarding and the new Prevent duty.
The significant change in EFA’s approach is the insertion of new clauses on early intervention and prevention at part 2, clause 5.
Rationale for the new clauses
The new clauses have been introduced to reflect the need to take action early when it is evident that a SFC is close to activating formal intervention. Peter Mucklow, EFA Director for Young People and the SFC Commissioner, trailed these new clauses at the recent Sixth Form Colleges’ Association summer conference.
The formal intervention triggers have been in use for several years and provide a framework to manage a formal intervention process. EFA’s approach aims to encourage early action in an effort to avoid moving into formal intervention, where the costs to both students and public funds can be considerable.
Thresholds for EFA involvement
EFA has a great deal of data available to it, provided through data returns and financial returns from SFCs. Analysis and/or modelling of this data can provide early indicators of risk. Where such risks are identified, EFA will share these with relevant SFCs, and work with each SFC to agree proposed actions to address these risks.
Whilst each SFC’s position will be considered on a case by case basis, there are some clear thresholds where EFA would expect to take early intervention and preventative action. These includes instances where:
- there is a sequential decline in the financial health score (as per annual July financial plan submission) over a 3 year period, resulting in the SFC’s current rating being satisfactory (eg outstanding - good - satisfactory over 3 years)
- there is a significant decline in one year from outstanding to satisfactory
- the financial health score (as per annual July financial plan submission) is weak satisfactory (equal to or less than 120 points and/or current and performance ratios are less than or equal to 80 points)
- EFA’s forecasting work demonstrates that the SFC would likely move into inadequate within the next 2 years, unless significant preventative action is taken. This forecasting could include trend data and demographic/student number data such as national demographic statistical forecasting, ILR returns etc (any forecasting work undertaken by EFA will be shared with the SFC to explain the basis for our proposed action/s)
- there have been 2 sequential Requires Improvement (RI) grades by Ofsted – a third RI could be moderated down to Inadequate by Ofsted and therefore the SFC could be at risk of breaching the formal intervention threshold; in addition, poor Ofsted outcomes tend to impact on student recruitment therefore this threshold would be looked at in conjunction with the SFC’s financial health
EFA may also take account of other data, such as trends in student numbers, and other intelligence such as complaints or whistleblowers.
SFC early intervention and prevention actions
EFA will contact relevant SFCs to discuss identified risks and issues. These discussions will cover operational, financial and strategic issues. EFA will discuss and agree with each SFC what actions to take to address these risks and issues.
Early intervention and prevention actions can include, but are not limited to the following:
- asking the SFC to undertake a cost-reduction exercise to identify how costs can be significantly reduced and/or bought within sector norms; this could be undertaken either by the SFC in-house or with the support of an external advisor
- requesting additional financial information which might include monthly accounts/management accounting information, as required, to monitor cost reductions
- asking the SFC to review its position in the market – to include consideration of merger/closer collaboration with other partners
- asking the SFC to participate in an area-based review – and to take account of its findings
- arranging more frequent case meetings with EFA requiring attendance of Finance Director/Chair of Audit committee and/or Principal/Chair of Governors
- proposing consideration of increased financial or quality expertise on the SFC Board of Governors (either new members or co-opted short term support)
- arranging peer support arrangements with a high performing SFC
Once a set of actions are agreed with the SFC, they will be confirmed in writing by EFA and will become additional conditions of funding. These letters will not be published.
Consequences of not agreeing to take early intervention and prevention actions, and then breaching formal intervention triggers
Where formal intervention thresholds are breached, this will result in an assessment, by the SFC Commissioner, of the capacity and capability of the leadership and governance of a SFC to address the identified weakness. The SFC’s response to early intervention and prevention approaches by EFA will, necessarily, form part of that assessment.
Skills Funding Agency
Skills Funding Agency is taking a parallel approach with general further education colleges. Even where SFCs are in receipt of funding from Skills Funding Agency, any early intervention activity will be led by EFA.
Further support and/or advice
The Sixth-Form Colleges’ Association and the Association of Colleges have had sight of the new clauses and are aware of the approach we are taking. Additional queries requiring EFA guidance can be submitted using an online enquiry form:
Contact form https://form.education...
For all enquiries for the Education Funding Agency
Published: 13 July 2015