Mark Blois looks at how changes to the machinery of government are affecting the delivery of education for 16 to 19 year olds

In June 2007 changes were announced to the machinery of government. These were designed, in the words of Gordon Brown, to sharpen the focus of government on the ‘new and very different challenges that Britain will face in the years ahead’.

What has changed?

One of the major changes introduced in the 2007 machinery of government reforms was the formation of the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). A main purpose of the new department was to bring together key aspects of policies affecting children and young people and provide integrated support for children and their families. The department has taken over pre-19 education policy, including responsibility for reforms to the 14 to 19 curriculum, and a unified approach to 14 to 19 education is being established. Collaboration between schools and colleges, which has been going on for years in many areas, is being encouraged as a wider range of educational pathways for young people become available.

Who is now going to fund 16 to 19 education?

As part of the machinery of government changes, the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) is to be abolished, and 16 to 19 funding is to be delivered through local authorities from 2010/2011. It is not intended that this change in funding will in any way affect the existing institutional autonomy that further education colleges have to determine their activities and curriculum. It is the government’s hope that this new funding arrangement which will see local authorities become responsible for 0 to 19 education will promote a joined-up approach to commissioning and help to address the gap between funding for schools and for colleges. Local authorities will be supported in carrying out these new duties by the Young Peoples’ Learning Agency (YPLA).

What will the YPLA do?

The YPLA’s primary purpose will be to support and enable local authorities to carry out their new responsibilities. In order to do this it will provide national frameworks to support planning and commissioning; ensure coherence of plans; manage the national funding formula; and provide strategic data and analysis. The YPLA will have powers to intervene where there is a significant risk that local authorities will not be able to develop robust commissioning plans within the time constraints of the commissioning cycle. It will also perform a number of functions on behalf of the secretary of state in relation to academies that are already open.

Who will control FE colleges?

The performance management of FE colleges will be the responsibility of the Skills Funding Agency. If a local authority is concerned about the quality of an institution’s 14 to 19 provision, then this concern will be passed to the Skills Funding Agency. The Skills Funding Agency will also fund skills development for adults. However, it will also be responsible for ensuring the responsiveness of 16 to 19 provisions to the strategic skills needs of employers and of learners.

Will local authorities be under any additional obligations?

From 2010 local authorities will have a statutory duty to provide learning places for pre-19-year-olds subject to legislation. The Education and Skills Act 2008 places a duty on young people to participate in education or training until the age of 18 and places corresponding duties on local authorities and employers to enable and support participation. By 2013 local authorities will have a statutory duty to deliver full participation for all 17-year-olds in education and training, and in 2015 this will rise to 18-year-olds.

Will schools and colleges need to create new places?

It is not envisaged that any single institution will be able to provide all the learning opportunities that 16- to 19-year-olds need. Therefore, local partnerships will be created between autonomous institutions. Providers will need to ensure that every learner on their roll has access to a tailored learning programme. Not all education providers will need to expand their 16 to 19 provision. In some areas the demographic decline will offset the raising of the participation age.

Where does this leave apprenticeships?

Apprenticeships will be key to raising the range of participation in education and training. The DCSF has published a draft Apprenticeship, Skills, Children and Learning Bill. Inter alia, the bill sets out the relationship between different parts of the apprenticeship system and will ensure the quality of apprenticeships. The National Apprenticeships Service will lead the development and delivery of the new apprenticeships programme, increase employer engagement, manage the apprenticeships vacancy matching service and increase trainee participation. This is implemented April 2009.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in March 2009

About the author: Mark Blois is a partner at Browne Jacobson solicitors.