Guardian: UK Wasting Money on Badly-Managed Colleges

MPs say many poor institutions are being protected because value for money is too hard to judge.

The UK government is wasting money by funding poorly-managed colleges, a powerful committee of MPs has warned, writes Jessica Shepherd at the Guardian.

The public accounts committee said there were inconsistencies in the way colleges for 16- to 18-year-olds submitted information about finances and results.

This prevents the government from judging whether sixth-form and further education colleges are providing value for money, the MPs said. It also stops students from knowing whether the courses that colleges offer are useful to them.

The cost of educating and training England’s 16- to 18-year-olds topped £6bn in 2009, the committee’s report found.

Margaret Hodge, chairwoman of the committee, said that if the market was to work effectively, there: “must be relevant and robust information so that students can make informed choices about courses and the Department for Education (DfE) can assess value for money”.

“There must also be clear criteria for intervention when providers are underperforming. Neither is fully in place at the moment,” she said.

A spokesman from the DfE said the government had made clear that any under-performing school sixth-form would be “subject to improvement action”.

“This could result in the provider no longer receiving funding. We are reviewing the standards that should be applied to all 16-19 providers, including school sixth forms, and expect comparable floor standards to be in place by 2013,” he said.

This comes at the same time the Scottish government is being urged to allow poorly performing colleges to merge, change their leadership or drop some of their services.

A major report indicated that the provision of good courses in colleges and apprenticeships was at present “disaggregated and tentative”.

The assessment came in the Review of Post-16 Education and Vocational Training in Scotland.

Skills Minister Alasdair Allan said the government welcomed the report.

He added that the review, which was carried out by Willy Roe, would be considered in conjunction with the Christie Commission which is looking into how public services are delivered in Scotland.

Tuesday

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