Progress towards the transfer of funding for 16-19 education from the Learning and Skills Council to local authorities is patchy and beset by uncertainties and a lack of clarity, according to a report.
With just eight months left until the LSC is wound up and local authorities assume responsibility for commissioning and funding all under-19 education, the report, by the National Foundation for Educational Research for the Local Government Association (LGA), highlighted a number of problems.
A major concern expressed by further education providers was local authorities' apparent lack of knowledge of the complex and diverse FE system. From April 1 next year, local authorities will commission and fund 16-19 education in colleges. Adult education will be handled by a new Skills Funding Agency.
Comments made in the 54 interviews in the study revealed concern that the changes could destabilise FE and increase bureaucracy.
None of the main organisations involved in the changes escaped blame for the present situation, and the study identified an underlying lack of effective communication.
The report said too few colleges were actively engaged in moving the transfer forward. It said many local authorities had too little time and too few staff to engage fully with the sub-regional groups set up by them to liaise with learning providers. It also questioned the commitment of some local authorities to the transfer.
The LSC was finding it hard to support local authorities during the transition period as it continued to carry out its own duties with fewer staff, the report said.
The report recommended that local authorities and sub-regional groups (SRGs) gain a better understanding of the FE sector. It said providers should appoint dedicated staff to help local authorities gain a better picture of FE structures and funding.
It called on the LGA and its Raising Expectations Action Programme (React) to clarify the position regarding the transfer of staff from the LSC to local authorities.
John Freeman, director for React, said: "SRGs are developing well and the React team is working closely with other stakeholders to ensure we have a smooth handover in April 2010.
"Once the transfer of LSC staff is clearer in September, we will issue a `health check' for local authorities to establish any emerging issues around capacity, governance and collaboration."