A letter from the Education & Training Foundation, Association of Colleges and University College Union re: A new collaborative approach to simplify workforce data collection in Further Education.

It is a key priority for all organisations in the further education sector to ensure that the highest quality and most uniform workforce data is available to help us understand the composition and structure of our workforce. Credible and consistent data on FE staffing is essential if we are to respond to the current challenges the sector faces, and is necessary to ensure that we can continue to provide high quality 
education for future learners. 

Currently there are several separate data collection exercises undertaken across the FE sector each year which all attempt to measure very similar things, resulting in a number of different datasets with varying levels of completeness. Each year:

  • Education and Training Foundation (ETF) asks all providers, including colleges, to complete the Staff Individualised Record through SIR Data Insights;
  • The University and College Union (UCU) submits an annual freedom of information request (FOI request) on staff contracts and pay; and
  • The Association of Colleges (AoC) conducts an annual workforce survey. 

All three organisations have a shared interest in ensuring that the further education sector has the best and most reliable data possible and agree that it would be preferable for all FE stakeholders to have access to this information collected from a single, reliable source. 

Therefore, we jointly propose the collection of a single dataset of reliable and robust data on staff numbers, pay and terms and conditions in the FE sector.  It is proposed that the collection of this data occurs through the SIR Data Insights, and is shared with UCU and AoC. Our ambition is that this data collection will replace separate annual Freedom of Information requests and workforce data surveys. So colleges will have one return to complete, and it will be used by all three organisations – ETF, AoC and UCU. 

Colleges can individually choose to participate in this consolidated data collection exercise.  Below are the key details to help inform your decision.

What does this mean for my college?
If you complete your annual workforce data return through SIR Data Insights and agree to share your data at provider level with UCU and AoC, you will receive a short survey from UCU instead of a full FOI request. Your data on staff numbers and pay will be shared with UCU and AoC following the closure of the SIR Data Insights collection window at the end of October. You can see a sample of the data report sent to UCU and AoC based on your SIR data return here:

    Sample data sharing report from a provider

If you don’t complete your annual workforce data return through SIR Data Insights or don’t agree to share your data, you will receive a UCU FOI request as normal.

How does this benefit colleges?
Colleges that agree to data sharing are saved the administrative burden of having to complete UCU’s freedom of information request each year in addition to completing the workforce data return through SIR Data Insights.  It will also increase the robustness of staffing data available to colleges for benchmarking and planning purposes.

When will this happen?
From now. Our aim is to start data collection from 1 August, and to have the data reports available in November.

What about data protection?
All data provided to UCU and AoC will strictly adhere to the limits of the Data Protection Act 1998 (now GDPR) and no individual staff member will be identifiable. Any information provided by the ETF to UCU will be at provider level and in the same format as that collected by UCU through their annual FOI request.As outlined above, the purpose of this data sharing arrangement is to try to lessen the data collection burden for colleges caused by several separate data collection exercises each year, and to encourage a strengthening of staff data across the whole FE sector through the development of a robust single sector wide dataset.

What about next year?
Our intention is to fully replace the entire UCU FOI request and AoC workforce survey through a provider-level survey agreed by all three organisations to be completed as part of the workforce data return on SIR Data Insights. This would mean colleges would have only one return to complete, and data would be shared across all organisations. It would hopefully provide the sector with more robust and complete workforce data, and all organisations would use the same, transparent data set.

How do I opt in?

You can indicate that you would like your college to participate in the data sharing arrangement between ETF, AoC and UCU by following this link or when you log in to SIR Data Insights: https://www.sirdatainsights.org.uk/. You can edit your agreement at any time on your Provider Page.

If you have any queries about the planned data sharing arrangement please contact Charlynne Pullen at the ETF on 
Charlynne.pullen@etfoundation.co.uk, Jonathon Guy at UCU on JGuy@UCU.ORG.UK or Caroline Rowlands at AoC on caroline_rowlands@aoc.co.uk .    

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