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Our Services - it's all about you

Our services are specifically aimed towards the Further Education Sector.

As experienced advisers we know that the challenges faced by each and every client are unique.  Many have similar themes, however, we understand that it is about finding solutions to your specific issues that are important in a sector that is constantly evolving.

All of our services are tailored to meet the needs of our clients.  We are confident that the services we provide offer you real solutions to your individual issues.  We do this through our detailed understanding of the sector and how changes in the funding and regulatory regime impact on delivery.  This ensures the highest quality of professional service individually tailored to meet the needs of all clients.

There may be some advice that you think you might need, you may be unsure what factors are impacting on your ability to successfully deliver, or you may want a mixture of elements from a number of our services.  We can create bespoke packages to meet your needs and would assess your requirements in order to fully scope out issues and work with you to resolve and implement identified solutions.

Further details of our service offering are included below:

 

Structure and Prospects Appraisal

On 1 December 2011 the Department for Business Innovation and Skills published a document entitled “New Challenges, New Chances – Further Education and Skills System Reform Plan: Building a World Class Skills System”.

Key to these new arrangements is the requirement for colleges considering developing or changing their arrangements to undertake a Structure and Prospects Appraisal.

The current Government emphasis on the modernisation agenda, value for money in the FE sector, and the commissioning agenda within the HE sector provides a need for colleges to work smarter. 

The significant cuts faced by the FE sector forces the need to look at innovative solutions to the challenge of cutting costs/ increasing income from other sources.

Any review should look to break down the barriers between school and the post-16 sector, so that it is seen as an agent of change in the need to raise aspirations amongst learners and their parents. It should also look at how through closer collaboration, the partners can enable more informed strategic planning across the area and respond to the changing funding circumstances in which the College finds itself.

The review should look at the opportunities which exist across the skills range from Entry Level to Level 4, through to Higher Education in order to ascertain the most appropriate balance, mix and location of provision and to advise the College as to whether the current pattern of provision provides the opportunity for learners to mix in different environments and ensure that the transition at 16 is seen as the next natural step in their lifelong learning.

We have already worked with a number of organisations to provide innovative solutions to the development of Further and Higher Education in a number of geographical areas.

We can support you to carry out a Structure and Prospects Appraisal. This will include a comprehensive review of the College's existing Strategic Plan and analysis of potential options within the framework set by "New Challenges, New Chances".

If you are considering your options at present we are here to help.  Our services can be tailored to meet your needs and priorities.  Please contact us on 0844 800 9870 or ets@icca-ets.com.

Inspection Support

Inspection can be a fraught process and whilst many colleges invest a significant amount of time in preparing for it, recent inspection grades have led many of you to question whether you are doing the right things.

We have recently supported a large General Further Education College through the process and found the volume of data requests were significantly increased from what has been asked for in the past - the requests were also far more complex than the standard reports we are all used to producing.  Additionally there was an expectation that the relevant curriculum heads fully understood the data.

If you are expecting an inspection or simply want to test whether you are able to deliver what is needed, we are here to help.  Our services can be tailored from a simple health check through to providing an experienced MIS team to work with you through inspection. Please contact us on 0844 800 9870 or ets@icca-ets.com.

Strategic Advice and Guidance

At Icca Education Training and Skills, we pride ourselves in offering our clients Strategic Advice and Guidance to inform decision making, enabling them to move their organisations forward at this time of uncertainty and change. 

We are experienced in presenting college specific and sector generic information to Governing Bodies and our services can be tailored to suit your needs.

If you are looking for strategic advice and guidance please contact us on 0844 800 9870 or ets@icca-ets.com.

 

New Funding Methodology

We have presented at a series of free events to share information on the proposed changes to the Funding Methodology.

To date only a limited amount of information has been released. However we are anticipating a whole raft of announcements and technical releases over the summer from both the Education Funding Agency and Skills Funding Agency - something that will keep us all busy!

Having been through a number of changes to the Funding Methodology over the last 15 years, what is clear is that colleges who prepare for the change are affected less than those that do not - it is all in the planning!

If you would like to understand more about how we can help you benefit from the proposed changes please contact us on 0844 800 9870 or ets@icca-ets.com.

Curriculum Planning

Building on our expertise in providing innovative curriculum review and planning support, developed over many years working both with and within the Sector, Icca Education Training and Skills can work with you to ensure that your curriculum plan addresses the challenges faced by the FE Sector.  Specifically we can provide the following:

Curriculum Planning Support

End to end assistance in supporting the College curriculum planning process from review of the current offer through to identification of resource required to deliver the curriculum.  Supported by experienced practitioners and undertaken in the light of current priorities, we offer advice and guidance on curriculum set-up, requirements for increased efficiency, innovative delivery methodologies, the need to refresh the curriculum, best practice in the sector and proposed changed to the funding methodology.

Common Unit Analysis and Review of Delivery Methodologies

An in depth look at commonality which exists within the LR and ER curriculum delivered by the College with detailed discussion and action planning at Teaching Department level to adopt different delivery methodologies and take advantage of these.

Fit for the Future Review of Curriculum

A review of the College's curriculum or curriculum plan as required identifying areas for improvement in the light of the drive for increased efficiency, current priorities, guidance on curriculum set-up and proposed changes to the funding methodology.

Detailed Teacher Department Review

A detailed hands-on, in-depth review of the College’s Teaching Departments, reporting by Department.  This involves detailed discussion with Department Heads, identifies the efficiency and effectiveness of the curriculum at the granular level and comes up with proposals to improve performance.

Our services can be tailored to meet any need. Please contact us on 0844 800 9870 or ets@icca-ets.com.

 

Funding Audit and Assurance

The time of year has arrived yet again when colleges and training providers are being selected for a funding audit and in response to this we have designed a review that will allow you to establish whether you comply with the funding requirements and provide you with a detailed action plan to address any weaknesses identified before the Skills Funding Agency Auditors arrive. 

We will look to upskill College staff so that they understand what the auditors are looking for and support them to understand how you are able to resolve many common errors that have given rise to an ILR adjustment in previous years before they occur.  Many audit failures have come as a result of poor preparation and not poor record keeping!

As part of the review we will:

  • Share with the College the audit programmes developed by the Skills Funding Agency ("SFA");
  • Review, on a sample basis and in partnership with the College, the data contained on the ILR return to the underlying paperwork and compliance with SFA published guidance;
  • Review, on a sample basis, the underlying paperwork to the data contained on the ILR return and compliance with SFA published guidance;
  • Review the robustness of the data by reference to the DSAT’s and support the College in understanding what needs to be done to clear any errors noted; and,
  • Develop an action plan to address any points of concern as a result of the pre-audit health check.

We will work and support you in understanding what needs to be done to clear any errors noted and develop an action plan to address any points of concern as a result of the pre-audit health check. 

If you are expecting an audit or simply want to test whether you are able to deliver what is needed, we are here to help. Please contact us on 0844 800 9870 or ets@icca-ets.com.

 

Resolving Audit Issues

The Funding Audit process, in respect of both Learner Responsive and Employer Responsive funding claims, may result in colleges or training providers being required to pay back significant amounts of funding as a result of the extrapolation methodology adopted by the auditors.

We have experienced success with working with a number of providers in assisting to produce a response to the Skills Funding Agency in order to attempt to reduce the amount of funding repayable.

If you have a large claw back and would like to discuss how we may be able to help, please contact us on 0844 800 9870 or ets@icca-ets.com.

Additional Learner Support Reviews

Additional Learner Support ("ALS") has become far more complicated over the last few years, particularly if you want to increase the activity you deliver in this area.  

We are currently working with a number of colleges reviewing their ALS and have recently run a successful programme of ALS seminars and workshops.  

We have seen many colleges struggling to manage their ALS allocations particularly with regard to high cost 16-18 and 19-24 ALS - in most instances the spend in these categories did not accord with the allocations received and as a result many colleges experienced a reduction in these categories for 2011/12 - a pattern we fear may re-occur for 2012/13.

Most colleges have yet to align their ALS Strategy to Government/ Education Funding Agency/ Skills Funding Agency priorities and are not effectively demonstrating the impact of ALS.

This is one of the few areas where there is an opportunity to grow but you need to put forward a strong case for an increase in funding.

We can also assist in assessing the validity of the ALS claim through a programme of detailed testing.  We would carry out a comprehensive review of college funding, recording and delivery of ALS to assess whether the College is claiming for all the ALS activity it is undertaking and also consider what else the College could be providing to learners under the ALS Guidance.

Please contact us on 0844 800 9870  or ets@icca-ets.com.

 

Management Information Services (MIS)

Managed Service – Colleges

Although colleges will have a team in place to manage their Management Information Services ("MIS"), there are times when support is needed, for example, to cover a gap in recruitment or period of absence and that is where our team can help.  We can deploy a member of our experienced MIS team into your management structure to bridge that gap.  We would normally expect this to be at Director or Manager level, but we can also provide operational support and are always happy to discuss any potential support you may require.

Managed Service – Private Training Providers   

For private training providers, the complex and demanding nature of funding and data is a very time consuming but vital inconvenience.  Icca Education Training and Skills can remove or alleviate that burden in a variety of ways. This could be from a valuing and profiling service, where we plan your recruitment profile for the year and then analyse and adjust the plan on a monthly basis freeing you up to focus on developing the business, to a full blown managed service in which we manage the full data and batch upload process. 

MIS Support

This is a ‘solutions’ service designed specifically to cater for your immediate needs.   Our team has a wide range of experience in all aspects of MIS and has supported many organisations in a number of different ways.  Some examples are Business process reviews including: Staffing, System and Data Process reviews, DSATs review and ILR production and error clearing support.   Explain your issues to us and we will design a bespoke service for you.

Systems Selection

Choosing a replacement MI System is a complex and time demanding process.  If you are thinking of changing your MI system give us a call to talk you through the process.  We always suggest that someone is appointed to lead the procurement process.  Asking someone to do this as part of their ‘day job’ is always a risk.

Please contact us on 0844 800 9870 or ets@icca-ets.com.

 

Benchmarking

We have reached the time of year when budgets are being finalised.  We all accept that colleges have a need to do more with less and are constantly looking for ways to make things go further – quite often this is done with limited information and little comparative data upon which to base some significant decisions.

Benchmarking can help provide you with information you need to make these decisions and, as the largest provider of benchmarking services to the FE sector, we have the most comprehensive benchmarking database. 

Our services are modular – you can pick and mix from the options available so that you only get what you want and no more.  The modules available are:

  • Staff Utilisation;
  • Curriculum Efficiency;
  • Support Costs;
  • Employer Responsive Provision; and,
  • Impact of the New Funding Methodology.

We believe in providing named comparators wherever possible – not just those who sit around the median, but the highest performing colleges in the sector – after all how are you expected to interpret the information and make decisions on it if you do not understand where it has come from?

Specifically we can:

  • Help you to identify the support departments that are over spending, by identifying the number of staff FTEs you have, the average salaries you pay and the non-pay costs you have, compared to similar colleges; and,
  • Help you pinpoint the inefficiencies in your lecturer utilisation when compared to the sector.

If you would like to understand how our benchmarking services can help you, please contact us on 0844 800 9870  or ets@icca-ets.com.

 

Buying/Selling a Private Training Provider

Buying a Private Training Provider

Many colleges consider the acquisition of a Private Training Provider ("PTP") an effective way of increasing learner numbers and widening or consolidating their offer.

Our PTP search service provides an overview of all providers in respect of apprenticeship funding within the criteria provided by the client college.

Once the providers with the most potential have been identified and contacted anonymously, the final report considers a whole range of criteria important to you making a decision to acquire a PTP. 

Having assisted a number of institutions in their successful acquisition and integration of PTPs, our substantial experience gives you the help needed to navigate through the process. 

Selling a Private Training Provider

Successful disposal of your training business requires the services of a multi-functional team with significant experience, to give you the commercial advice you need to deliver your objectives.  From the initial marketing for sale through vendor due diligence, in partnership with our leading legal and corporate finance partners, negotiating and concluding the transaction, we can provide the complete package of support, pre and post-disposal.

Please contact us on 0844 800 9870 or ets@icca-ets.com.

 

Due Diligence Exercises

As an institution that is thinking about strategic partnerships, or even a full merger, our substantial experience gives you the help needed to navigate through the process.  You can rely on us for feasibility studies, curriculum planning, estates strategies, risk analysis and financial modelling.  We deliver comprehensive support to you when you are preparing formal merger proposals for submission to the relevant funding and planning bodies.

Post-merger, we are able to support you in the development, implementation and monitoring of an effective "harmonisation" plan for bringing the merged institutions together.

In partnership with our leading legal partners we also offer a full due diligence service.  Please contact us on 0844 800 9870 or ets@icca-ets.com.

 

Recruiting International Learners

International learner recruitment is one of the areas of potential additional income for colleges, however it is a high risk area of activity for the following reasons:

  • The UK Border Agency ("UKBA") has implemented a significant number of changes over the last six months regarding the recruitment of Tier 4 students.  The most significant change is the requirement for colleges to apply for and achieve ‘Highly Trusted Status’ ("HTS") after 12 months of holding a sponsor licence.  Failure to meet the HTS requirements will result in your licence being revoked;
  • Colleges must ensure that, as well as having a thorough and robust recruitment policy, they must also have systems and policies in place to monitor students’ performance and attendance whilst studying in the UK; and,
  • In addition, the UKBA has implemented stringent measures which colleges must comply with in order to maintain their HTS status.  This requires colleges to maintain detailed records on:

                  - Visa refusals;

                  - Enrolment rates; and,

                  - Course completion rates. 

Failure to comply with any of these requirements can give rise to your licence being suspended or revoked – without this licence you cannot recruit learners from outside the EEA, thus closing off this income stream.

If you are a College looking to grow in this area it is important that you have systems and processes in place to monitor and track international learners from when you first issue a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies ("CAS") through to course completion. 

We have a small team of experienced international advisers/auditors all of whom have worked in international learner recruitment and compliance.

They can provide advice and support in reviewing:

  • International learner entry and eligibility criteria;
  • Appropriateness of Fees policy;
  • Learner files to ensure that the evidence on file supports the issue of the CAS;
  • Data management including, but without exception, refusal, enrolment and course completion rates;
  • Academic monitoring in line with UKBA requirements; and,
  • Attendance monitoring in line with UKBA requirements.

Please contact us on 0844 800 9870 or ets@icca-ets.com.

 

Optimisation

Maintaining accurate data which reflects the principles of the funding methodology and Education Funding Agency ("EFA") Skills Funding Agency ("SFA") guidance is a complex business. 

For many of you, the vast majority of learning aims are on the ILR and where you are anticipating falling short of target, preparations are continuing to work with partners/ deliver additional provision to close this gap.

In the last 12 months we have identified more than £2.8m of under claims in areas where the guidance has either been misinterpreted or has been applied in such a way that funding is being under claimed and success rates incorrectly stated.

In response to these problems we have developed a suite of reports that allow us to interrogate and report on the credibility of your ILR data including identifying any funding under claims and data issues that could adversely affect data credibility and success rates.

Where we identify funding errors we will report on these and tell you what you need to do to fix them and as added value we will also make recommendations on any other issues we identify and let you know if we believe that adjustments to the way the data is recorded may lead to further improvements in efficiency, cashflow or success rates.

You can choose the parameters of the review.

The review has no downside as the report is free in circumstances where our testing finds no funding errors - this service can be delivered on a ‘no find no fee’ basis.  Please contact us on0844 800 9870 or ets@icca-ets.com.

Cost Cutting/Achieving Efficiency and Effectiveness

Dealing with the efficiency and effectiveness agenda is high on the priority list of most colleges, particularly against the backdrop of the substantial reductions in funding faced by the FE sector and the drive by the funding agencies to ensure colleges do ‘more for less’.

Senior Management Teams are seeking to establish a complete programme of actions to deliver the necessary performance improvement across all areas and deliver the strategic objectives agreed with the Corporation. 

The scope of our services will include the preparation of robust financial forecasts for the next three-year period that will indicate the likely range of performance improvement required to build sustainable finances for the medium term, and provide key indicators linked with the improvement required in the efficiency and effectiveness of the College’s operations that will in turn deliver improvements in its finance and the amounts derived from funding.

At the highest level this will include:

  • The production of benchmarking reports to identify the key areas to benefit from improved efficiency and effectiveness;
  • Supporting and project managing the delivery of the recommendations in these reports;
  • Working with you and your Senior Management Team to effect the planned change; and,
  • Producing ongoing benchmarking data to enable you to measure the effectiveness of the changes.

Our services are offered on a contingent fee basis – if we cannot help you make significant savings, then there is nothing for you to pay.

Please contact us on 0844 800 9870 or ets@icca-ets.com.

Maximising Success Rates

Success Rates are one of the key performance indicators by which you are measured as a College – if not THE key performance indicator. 

Over the last 12 months we have identified a number of colleges who have set their curricula up in such a way that they have suppressed their success rates and also reduced the associated funding.  Problems with coding and data management can have a similar impact.
 
We have designed a series of queries that interrogate your data returns in order to identify such issues.  We can then work with you to correct these issues and support you to ensure they do not happen again.

If you would like to understand how you may be able to benefit from this service please contact us on 0844 800 9870 or ets@icca-ets.com.

Internal audit

Icca Education Training and Skills believe in providing high quality solutions to our clients' problems and have designed an internal audit approach that aligns to this philosophy. 

Our internal audit approach focuses on adding value to your College wherever we can - it provides you with the assurances you need alongside the advisory elements you want.  All elements are delivered by specialists who solely work within the Education Sector.

The key characteristics of our Internal Audit approach are: 

  • Director led service supported by a sector experienced management and delivery team;
  • Reviews undertaken by experts in the appropriate areas;
  • A mix of compliance and added value reviews within the internal audit plan; and,
  • An optional annual organisational assessment of your risks, gaps in assurance and performance.

We believe all colleges require the following from their internal audit service in order to maximise the value from the contract:

  • An independent team that combines educational and commercial experience and is able to focus on the real risks and opportunities associated with the development of the college and the sector given the challenges and changes ahead;
  • A team that provides challenge, robust assurance, constructive advice and feedback;
  • A range of specialists who can provide assurance to the Board (Audit Committee) that the College has robust systems and controls in place to ensure it is capable of continuing to provide high quality education in both the short and longer term and to identify areas of possible weakness which may need to be addressed by management; and,
  • A service that surpasses your expectations.

If you would like to discuss our internal audit service in more detail, please contact Scott Winter at ets@icca-ets.com.  If you are due or are proposing to tender your Internal Audit contract, please add us to the list of firms you invite to tender.