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Changing times: The YPLA


April 1st sees the launch of the latest government initiative: The Young People's Learning Agency. Its chair, Les Walton, tells TrainingZone what's on the horizon for young people's training.

We are on the cusp of major changes in the funding and provision of post-16 education and training. A key part of this is the setting up of the new Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA), which I will have the privilege to chair from its inception this April.
The YPLA will champion young people by providing financial support to young learners, by funding academies for all their provision and by supporting local authorities’ commissioning of suitable education and training opportunities for all 16-19 year olds.
The context for the setting up of the YPLA is the country’s historic commitment to raise the participation age in education and training to 18 by 2015. This requires a stronger focus on what is best for young people’s learning and the YPLA will be the first statutory organisation to focus solely on this issue.
The YPLA will also build on the academy vision of transforming education in our most deprived areas where there has been an overwhelming desire to maximise achievement and improve children’s life chances. We will provide the stable platform that the expansion of the academies programme needs to reach its full potential.
So there is a big job to do. A key part of our mission will be to partner local authorities as they take on lead responsibility for 16-19 year olds in their area from this April. With them, we will pay particular attention to the needs of learners with learning difficulties and disabilities and other vulnerable groups.  We will provide a clear national framework, including a transparent funding framework, to support local flexibility and high quality providers. 
We will operate from national offices in Coventry, Sheffield, London and Darlington as well as from regional offices around England. In summary we will:
  • Support the funding of 1.6 million 16-19 learners with a budget of some £7 billion being transferred to the local authorities for this task.
  • Be directly responsible for funding local academies which will grow to 300 by September 2010 with further expansion to 400 thereafter.
  • Provide direct support to 750,000 young learners, mainly through Education Maintenance Allowances.

Local Authorities

Significantly, the lead responsibility for securing education and training provision for young people will be passed from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) directly to local authorities – enabling the system to be more locally focused rather than top down.  This is a positive move as councils can use their local knowledge of opportunities available to the advantage of young people in their region.
The YPLA will support this by providing high quality intelligence, simplifying and streamlining funding and commissioning so that we get as much resource as possible to the front line. These arrangements will help build a new partnership between local authorities and schools, colleges and other providers, for the benefit of all young people. Mark Sanders, Chief Executive, Bury Council, explains: “Working with the YPLA will allow all providers to speak with one voice to ensure all local 16-19 year-old students access the provision they want and gain the achievements they deserve.”

Education and Training Providers

Our partners will also include education and training providers, a vital part of the equation. A strong and coherent pre-19 sector, made up of many different types of institution including sixth form colleges, FE colleges, tertiary colleges, specialist colleges, third sector and independent providers, academies and maintained school sixth forms, is vital if we are to deliver our shared ambitions for young people and adults. David Pearmain, Headteacher Kenton School in Newcastle is keen to stress the importance of the relationship between the local authorities and the education establishments:
“We want to work with the new body to ensure that there is a level playing field for all providers in commissioning dialogues with local authorities. We want there to be a clear framework for assessing performance which is common across all providers of education and training for young people and adults. In the interests of learners, it is crucial that the delivery of high quality training and education remains the central focus of providers during the transition period from the LSC.”
Ensuring there’s a combination of local knowledge and national expertise at the heart of the YPLA is critical to the success of the new organisation. The vital experience from the LSC will be retained by those staff moving across to the YPLA, while LA colleagues and key providers for 16-19 years old education will be active on the YPLA board; providing invaluable understanding of partner and young people’s needs and ensuring funding is delivered against these at a local level.   
The YPLA will assign funds based on local authorities’ commissioning plans which will themselves be drawn from the grass roots expertise of schools, colleges and other providers. To ensure consistency, local authorities will be supported with statutory guidance, which will include a National Commissioning Framework (NCF), which will set out key stages in the commissioning process.
In addition, it will also provide funding and support to local academies, of which there will be 300 by September 2010 with plans to expand subsequently to 400. The YPLA will also work with all providers to build the performance and reputation of schools, colleges and all learning providers. The YPLA will be well placed to undertake this role because of its regional structure and awareness of local needs.
As Pete Birkett, Principal and Chief Executive, Barnfield College and Chairman, Barnfield Academies, puts it: “As we head towards the target of 400 open Academies, we need one streamlined and well-led funding organisation that will focus on existing and new academies, providing the services, support and challenge necessary to ensure success. Every Academy is unique, that’s why a more regional approach has been adopted by the YPLA to ensure local partnerships work. This can only bring positive benefits for the sponsors, principals, parents but, most importantly, the students. I believe the YPLA is well placed to deliver its vision in an efficient and highly effective way.”    

But first and foremost in our focus will be what is right for young people. We will champion young people’s learning and aim to develop our strategy and prioritisation to make a reality of this commitment. We have a unique opportunity to work with partners to create a system which will have this focus from the start.

On the first of April, the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA) will launch in the UK. It's aim is will champion young people by providing financial support to young learners, by funding academies for all their provision and by supporting local authorities’ commissioning of suitable education and training opportunities for all 16-19 year-olds.

The YPLA will directly fund local academies which will grow to 300 by September 2010 with further expansion to 400 planned. It will also provide direct support to learners, mainly through Education Maintenance Allowances.
The YPLA will come into existence on 1 April 2010. It will operate as a non-departmental public body (NDPB) and will be sponsored by the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF). YPLA staff will work from national offices in Coventry, London and Darlington and regional offices around England.

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