This is the statement from the ESFA Inform Newsletter, April 2017, with our comments further down:
The Funding Information System (FIS) is undergoing changes as a result of new funding calculations required to support the apprenticeship service. For 2017 to 2018, we will continue to maintain FIS for:
- adult education budget funded programmes
- apprentices that started before 1 May 2017
- 16 to 19 provision
We will not include apprenticeship (funding model 36) funding calculations for new starts from 1 May 2017. However, the validation rules will include funding model 36.
FIS is not adaptable enough to meet the demands that would be placed upon it by the new apprenticeship programme. Therefore, the (new) apprenticeships funding calculation will not be available in the FIS for 2016 to 2017.
The Hub will include apprenticeship (funding model 36) funding calculations for new starts from May 1 2017. So providers will be able to access the earning calculation here. We recognise this is an issue for a number of users and have started discussions with software suppliers with regards to how we can help them to support the sector over the next 12 months.
This is now an opportunity to review the services offered by the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) going forward, including FIS, and to determine which options are available and what level of support the sector needs. We are looking to undertake a discovery phase (user needs) with regards to the future of the FIS and will consider options going forward, including an integrated online version of FIS. We will seek your initial feedback which will influence our business case development process.
We intend to develop a system which is easier to maintain and update, and which will supply more accurate reports for providers.
This was discussed at the Software Suppliers Group in March, but without any information that could be released publicly.
Extracting various portions of the ESFA note:
- FIS will not include apprenticeship (funding model 36) funding calculations for new starts from 1 May 2017. However, the validation rules will include funding model 36.
- FIS will NOT calculate the funding for the new funding model 36 apprenticeships. Hence TERMS cannot import funding values for FM 36 (as they are not there).
- From 1 May 2017, the Hub includes apprenticeship (funding model 36) funding calculations for new starts.
- The HUB will calculate funding for the new Funding Mode 36. It sounds like Providers will be able to get some reports of funding from the HUB for FM 36.
- The ESFA are looking to undertake a discovery phase (user needs) with regards to the future of the FIS and will consider options going forward, including an integrated online version of FIS.
At the meeting we were told that an online version of FIS was being considered for provider use, so providers would need to connect to an online FIS hosted by the ESFA and pass ILR XML files up to be processed. Later providers would be able to retrieve the results of the processing. It was noted that this was to be a separate area to the one used for the HUB and submitting actual returns.
One suggestion on how this would work for Providers was outlined:-
- Submit a file
- Receive a new secret key
- File is processed and the file is locked/encrypted with the key.
- Status is displayed on Dashboard
- Secret key will no longer be held in the system
- Users can download their secure data
- Use secret key to unlock the file – Can automate with HTML 5 browser support with a caveat
- Repeat 1-7
The ESFA prefer an Online FIS as it cuts down on their costs and makes it easier for them.
The issues for Providers and MIS systems include:
- Providers need to upload file to the Online FIS and wait for the output to be available and then download it.
- MIS systems cannot directly access the Online FIS 'internal' data (at least to begin with) and even if there was some mechanism to do this in the future it would need internet access from the MIS and completely new interfaces writing.
- Initially only the 'returned' reports etc. from the Online FIS would be available for MIS systems to attempt to process for getting funding calculated values. i.e. the proposed change makes life easier for the ESFA but harder for Providers and MIS Suppliers.
- Unfortunately as an MIS Supplier we just have to wait for more detailed technical information and the changes to the FIS etc. before we can even start planning any MIS system changes.