22nd April 2016 at 00:00
That loving FE-eling

Get a room!

While colleges are being thrown together in awkward embraces as the waves of area reviews roll out across the country, speculation about the great potential romance of the FE sector has reached boiling point.

If everyone else is being forced into loveless mergers, isn’t it about time that the Education Funding Agency and Skills Funding Agency finally consummated their coy – and somewhat protracted – courtship?

Whether you regard the EFA and the SFA as the FE equivalents of Casablanca’s Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund or consider them more akin to Compo and Nora Batty, the will-they, won’t-they saga seems to have dragged on for years. But a letter last week announcing “intervention work” between the two agencies is raising a few eyebrows.

“For some months now,” it begins, “the Education Funding Agency and the Skills Funding Agency have been working increasingly closely together on assessing risk in relation to providers, especially financial risks, and on intervention to help prevent or remedy significant difficulties in individual institutions.”

By this point, FErret was planning his trip to TK Maxx for a new wedding suit.

“From 1 April,” the letter continues, “we have extended our joint working by bringing together EFA and SFA staff under six deputy directors who will have combined responsibilities on risk assessment and intervention across both agencies.”

Yes. Yes. Come on. Spit it out.

“This is not a merger between the agencies. Staff will continue to be employed by either EFA or SFA, and will act on behalf of one of the two secretaries of state for business, innovation and skills and education respectively.”


FErret, for one, has had enough of this. It’s time to speak some home truths to our would-be lovers.

No more playing footsie under statistical first releases. Enough with making doe eyes over the register of training organisations. Stop nibbling seductively on the individualised learner record. Come on agencies, let’s get it on.

Sent from Coventry

It seems to be a case of one step forward, two steps back as far as the pioneering use of technology in the FE sector is concerned.

Last month, you may recall, FErret reported that an SFA webinar on its review of funding for online and blended learning had to be aborted when the unfortunate policy implementation manager due to lead the session, Stephen Nichols, was blocked from accessing it by the SFA’s suspicious IT system.

Thankfully, the webinar reflecting on the impact of the Further Education Learning Technology Action Group (Feltag) report (bit.ly/FeltagReport) finally went ahead last week.

Presumably, the SFA technical gurus finally managed to overcome the gremlins that had thwarted them at the first time of asking. Hurrah for progress.

Except that’s not quite what transpired. FErret can’t help but appreciate the irony in the fact that the webinar ended up having to be hosted by the more forward-thinking Association for Learning Technology – and the unlucky Mr Nichols had to trek all the way to the ALT offices in Oxford, some 60 miles away from SFA HQ in Coventry.

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