Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Concerns about National Commissioning Framework


The ability for colleges and school sixth forms to innovate and make local decisions must not be lost in the move to a National Commissioning Framework, ASCL said in February in its ten-page response to the consultation on the framework from the Learning and Skills Council.

In the response, ASCL said that what was lacking was a clear and concise definition of commissioning in the context of 16-19 learners. ASCL believes that in this context commissioning is not simply the 'purchasing' of various courses and training from providers by the local authority but is based around a collective responsibility of the local authority and providers together to ensure appropriate provision for all young people in the area.

ASCL agreed that the framework as set out gives a clear outline of the process. However, the system as a whole is complex, has too many layers and is likely to lead to an increase in bureaucracy.

Colleges and schools, in varying degrees, have enjoyed the clarity that results from having a high degree of executive authority over that for which they are held accountable. This must not be lost with the introduction of commissioning. Therefore the role of the 14-19 partnerships is critical to the success of education and training post-16.

In terms of funding, ASCL said that it fully supports the principles of funding following the learner and provision being flexible enough to engage learners at different points throughout the year.

However, the framework does not make it clear how the funding can be flexible enough to meet the fluctuating enrolment of a typical college year. The flexibility in start dates is an option that training providers and colleges have utilised well to support learners and they will want reassurance that the funding model will recognise their capacity to innovate and operate flexible learning patterns.

ASCL also said that there is tension between the proposal of a national framework and the statement that "local authorities will develop their own approaches to the delivery and integration of the commissioning of provision."

We would expect there to be a good degree of national consistency across all local authorities in terms of approach and further details on how this will be achieved should be included. Local variations will increase complexity and bureaucracy for providers that work with a number of local authorities.

Finally in the response, ASCL said it could not emphasise enough the importance of accurate and timely data and fully supports the premise that schools and colleges will only need to supply data to one data service. There are concerns that when an issue arises with data, there is currently a lack of detail as to how a provider will have access to the data service to resolve the matter.

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