UK Local Education Authorities (LEAs) are concerned that the allocation of student loans will not be sorted out by the start of the autumn term.
Despite reassurances from the UK Government that computer glitches will not freeze payouts, local councils are reportedly finding that software, which was developed to centralise the management of student loans, is about to be added to the list of the political embarassments resulting from new technology.
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A senior spokeperson for Wandsworth LEA in south London said: “We still have errors in the software. It is looking very worrying - the reassurance the government has been giving does not reflect the warnings from LEAs and civil servants.”
He added: “We have been talking with other LEAs and they don’t have working versions of the software either. The government says it has got a contingency plan - ours is working all through the holidays to get the student loan assessments done”.
While Wandsworth LEA estimates that it still has 2,500 assessments to complete, the Department of Education and Employment said it was optimistic about the situation. A spokesperson said that despite “initial problems” with the software: “it is our expectation that students will be paid on time, so there is no reason for students or parents to worry. We have no reason to believe that any authority will not be able to deal with student applications”. “Many LEAs have already assessed applications using the new software and have passed the details to the Student Loans Company for payment - most of the rest will be doing this in the next fortnight,” he added.
But Edward Lister, head of Wandsworth borough council maintained that many LEAs were up to eight weeks behind schedule. “It is not just that the software is late - the whole programme was too ambitious form the start,” he said. And because the loans company needs four weeks to make its own checks and arrange payments, many fear that some students will not have any money when they start the new college term in September.
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