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Colleges fear for cash after snow stops paperwork

Heavy snowfall left dozens of colleges at risk of losing out on Government funding after failing to submit vital paperwork on time.

The deadline for returning the individualised learner records (ILRs) - a key source of data used to calculate colleges' funding allocations for 201112 - was Monday evening.

But FE institutions in parts of England badly affected by snow, including many in the north of the country, were unable to open, preventing them from submitting the information on time.

The Information Authority, which collects the data, refused to put back its national deadline, but said 32 colleges which had "closed for a significant period" had been given special dispensation to submit their forms late.

The move only came after the Association of Colleges (AoC) lobbied the authority for a "degree of flexibility" due to the exceptional weather, but advised its members that the timescales remained "extremely tight".

Kirklees College in Huddersfield, which was closed for three days last week due to treacherous conditions, was so concerned about missing the deadline it drafted in 12 members of staff on Friday, even though it was shut to students.

Janice Stow, the college's student record manager, said: "It was a nightmare. By Friday we were getting desperately close to the deadline, so we got staff from across the college to come and help us.

"It's very important. It's part of our contract that we submit the data on time. The numbers are used to calculate our funding take-up for 201112. If you don't get them in on time, you could lose out on funding. Our reputation is at stake."

A statement published on the Information Authority website on Monday afternoon invited weather-hit colleges to request for their deadlines to be extended.

"This arrangement has been made in recognition of the exceptional weather conditions which some providers have faced," the statement said.

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