FEFC staff face up to uncertain future

May 7, 1999

The abolition of the Further Education Funding Council is increasingly seen by its staff as an inevitable part of the government's fundamental review of post-16 education.

Staff at the FEFC are resigning themselves to an uncertain future, as speculation mounts that ministers will announce the establishment of a new single post-16 funding body to fund all provision outside universities. Although plans will not be announced until later in the summer, it is thought a new national body would be based in Sheffield, closely linked to the headquarters of the University for Industry.

Stakeholders also believe that ministers are likely to separate funding and inspection regimes, which in the college sector are currently the responsibility of the FEFC.

Although the FEFC has been lobbying to retain the two functions under a single body, the government quietly confirmed last week that a separation was on the agenda as part of its announced plans to clamp down on college sleaze.

Confirmation that the review will not include the mass closure of school sixth-forms, a move widely expected as part of plans to iron out post-16 funding discrepancies with a common funding framework, came from lifelong learning minister George Mudie last week.

During education questions in Parliament, Mr Mudie was asked if he could guarantee that no sixth-forms would be closed against the wishes of local stakeholders such as parents, teachers and local education authorities. "Yes," he replied.

His answer has increased speculation that the post-16 review is largely led by the prime minister's office, as some education ministers have indicated support for such a system.

Stakeholders are also concerned that the review is largely a foregone conclusion, with barely a month for consultation and just three or four months between the announcement of the review and a white paper planned for the summer.

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