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Waiting for the bean to drop

The National Audit Office started looking at learndirect last month and will report its findings in April.

Some of the more disgruntled training outfits running the online courses would like things to move faster, but at least they won't have to wait for the chance to tell NAO bean counters what they think of the programme and its masters at the University for Industry.

I hear the NAO has started making contact with the firms and colleges which run learndirect courses around the country, inviting their views about how well they think it uses public money.

The timing couldn't be better for one firm which this week told me of the latest confusion resulting from the Learning and Skills Council's bold promise to recover the pound;4 million it says it is owed in "clawback" from the bits of learndirect around the country which have failed to do the business.

Learndirect is funded through a network of hubs - run by companies or colleges - which funnel the cash through to the training outfits on the ground.

The LSC is confident of getting all the money back from the hubs or their parent companies.

But anyone who thinks it will be that simple is living in "fantasyland" according to one businesswoman who runs learndirect courses.

She and her colleagues fear that the "clawback" will be achieved by reducing further funding for courses, with the "clean" training firms losing out as much as those which didn't cut the mustard.

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