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Councils' 16-19 role to be cut back

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Councils are to lose new funding responsibilities for post-16 education just weeks after they formally took effect, the coalition government revealed today. 

Schools minister Nick Gibb announced that from next month local authorities would no-longer be responsible for paying further education colleges and sixth form colleges, and that the requirement to form sub-regional and regional planning groups to support the commissioning of 16-19 education would also be dropped.

Mr Gibb said the moves – which represent an about-turn on responsibilities that only took effect from 1 April this year – would remove a tier of bureaucracy and free up councils to focus on strategic work with 16-19 year olds.

The Local Government Association said the shift from the previous administration’s arrangements would cause “disappointment” and failed to  remove “middlemen” from the education system.

Mr Gibb said that from next financial year the government expected to further simplify arrangements for 16-19 provision with colleges’ annual funding being based on the previous years’ numbers, removing “the need for drawn-out planning involving lengthy local negotiations”.

“Today’s announcement will cut red tape and allow local authorities to focus on their strategic role as champions of young people, taking action where they identify significant issues in terms of gaps in supply or quality, particularly in ensuring access amongst the most vulnerable groups,” he said.

“These moves further underline our principle of freeing up schools and colleges to focus on providing an excellent education to their students.”

Shireen Ritchie (Con), chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People’s Board, said colleges would still have to deal with two quangos – the Skills Funding Agency and the Young People’s Learning Agency – to get their funding.

“There will be disappointment that this reorganisation of post-16 education follows so swiftly from a previous one, and the latest leaves just as many funding streams and middlemen in place,” she said.

“Making changes to who distributes the money to colleges will make no difference if the process isn’t simplified.

“Colleges and councils should not pick up the extra burden of having to deal with money coming from two different government departments.

“It’s good that councils today have again been promised a strong, strategic role in overseeing the education and training offered in their local area.

“Accountability to local politicians is vital, because local authorities know best the social and economic needs of their areas.”

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