DfE plans new funding ‘centre of excellence’ team

The government is preparing to launch a funding “centre of excellence” that will be led by its first overall director of funding.

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) is expected to announce who has been given the coveted position soon. The successful candidate will be responsible for the “development, implementation and maintenance of a truly 21st-century funding system”, according to a job description advertised late last year.

The funding director, who will control more than £63 billion of government money, will take charge of delivering the national funding formula for pre-16 schools and the post-16 funding agenda, including apprenticeships.

The job description said the ESFA was “moving towards a single funding operations centre of excellence, bringing together and improving existing functions”.

The Department for Education would not provide further details, but the term “centres of excellence” has become fairly common in business. A company sets up a centre of excellence that as well as an operational role, also takes on improving expertise and discovering best practice that it shares between departments.

This approach has been taken by other government departments. For example, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs runs an Earth observations centre of excellence, alongside other external partners, to focus on how data from satellites complements existing data to deliver policy and services. And the Department of Health and Social Care is piloting a best practice centre to improve the management of existing private finance initiative deals.

The new funding director will focus on national policies and work alongside fellow ESFA directors Mike Pettifer (academies and maintained schools group), Peter Mucklow (further education) and Keith Smith (apprenticeships).

He or she will take up the post at a time of change for the ESFA. The delayed national funding formula for schools will not be rolled out until 2021, with the government facing increasing pressure from schools for more funding.

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