From April 2010, the responsibility for commissioning 16-19 education will pass to local authorities. Rebecca Taylor-Onion looks at the policy driving the changes, and the impact which the new National Commissioning Framework will have on the market in further education provision

Why are local authorities being given responsibility for further education?
The government decided to give local authorities (LAs) responsibility for education up to the age of 19 as part of the machinery of government changes published in 2007. The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 has tasked LAs with planning, funding and commissioning 0-to-19 education. Previously, the Learning and Skills Council was responsible for post-16 education. By putting LAs in the driving seat, the government hopes to secure more integrated opportunities for young people.

What is the National Commissioning Framework?
The National Commissioning Framework (NCF) governs how LAs will commission 16-to-19 education with the approval of a number of other agencies. The government published a draft NCF last year and recently consulted on it. The final form of the NCF will be published on 1 April.

How will LAs plan further education?
LAs and Children’s Trusts will identify the strategic priorities for further education in the Children and Young People’s Plan (CYPP). This will involve a dialogue with local 14-to-19 partnerships, which include further education colleges and other providers, such as Academies. From 12 January 2010, further education providers became statutory members of Children’s Trusts, and LAs now have a duty to work with them to create the CYPP. LAs will then use the CYPP to draw up local commissioning statements, and agree a coherent commissioning plan across their sub-region.

Who approves planned further education provision?
The commissioning plan will have to be scrutinised and approved by a regional planning group made up of the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA), the Skills Funding Agency (SFA), regional development agencies and LAs. Once the plan has received approval from this group, it must be signed off by the YPLA before it can be implemented.

Who will procure and fund further education?
The YPLA will provide the funding for further education to LAs. However, LAs will themselves procure the provision through a tender process with providers. It is anticipated that LAs will be able to confirm which providers have made successful bids by May 2011, and the contracts will start to run from September 2011.

Where do Academies and apprenticeships fit in?
LAs will have to consider how many Academy places and apprenticeships are required in their local area when drawing up the commissioning plan. However, the YPLA will commission and fund places at existing Academies. If LAs and Academies cannot agree on the required provision, the YPLA will make the final decision.

Apprenticeships will also have to be considered by LAs, who will work with the National Apprenticeships Service (NAS) to decide on demand for apprenticeships as part of the commissioning plan. The YPLA will provide the funding for apprenticeships, but the SFA will procure the provision on behalf of the NAS and contracts will commence in September 2010.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in March 2010

About the author: Rebecca Taylor-Onion is a lawyer at Browne Jacobson. To find out more about the legal services Browne Jacobson provides in the education sector and to visit their website, please follow this link