27th November 2009 at 00:00
Brick of ages and billion blooper

Brick of ages

The realisation that the Skills Funding Agency is set to be the poor relation in the new family of funding bodies next year is beginning to set in.

Not least with the interim chief executive, David Cragg, who made a humble plea at the Association of Colleges conference for some schools capital money to be given to general FE colleges.

He has a point: sixth-form colleges will be able to bid for schools cash, even though they also have adult learners. Will we have an army of bouncers to ensure that only teenagers use the new facilities?

The issue may be whether there's any cash left in the schools budget. "There aren't 16 to 19 bricks and post-19 bricks," Mr Cragg argued. Indeed: in many cases, there aren't any bricks at all.

Billion blooper

Iain Wright - the minister for apprenticeships and 14-19 reform rather than the similarly named former England footballer - was a last-minute substitution for his boss Ed Balls at the AoC conference, and was suitably self-deprecating.

Some might say too self-deprecating. He told a story of his first few days as an education minister, speaking on the radio in Liverpool about the September guarantee. Asked what kind of investment this meant for Merseyside, he was stumped.

So he just made something up. "Er, pound;1 billion," he blustered. The radio presenters looked sceptical, and no wonder: that would be about a seventh of the entire 16-19 budget. There's nothing like knowing that the guys at the top know what they're doing, and this was nothing like it.

At least he learned his lesson. When he was asked afterwards why one college was being asked to pay back pound;10,000 for under-recruiting adult learners when it had over-recruited teenagers to the tune of pound;900,000, he said he wasn't familiar with the situation and let his press officer decide that time was up. That's statesmanship!

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