From education to employment

Stability is everything

A new Prime Minister, an exit from Europe, Area Review, devolution and a new Head of Ofsted. One wonders if the above parameters will gel together or whether it will be a cauldron of separate components.

If I add to the mix increased competition, growth of multi-academy trusts and the new white paper on Higher Education you may wish to consider where the pot of opportunity may be in the angst of the bubbling cauldron.

Either way, a sprinkling of the apprenticeship levy may point you in the right direction.

Further Education is unique, it is still the part of the education equation that creates dynamic success for individuals. It is time for Government to realise it is the jewel in the crown that enables aspirations to be realised and furthermore produce incredible value for money.

You only have to look at the salaries paid to FE lecturers compared to those in schools, academies and universities to realise the value of services we produce. Imagine a college that turns a failure at school/academy level into a young person with prospects, imagine the student with learning difficulties who gains the skills to enter employment, or imagine the thousands of A Level and Level 3 students who progress to employment and university.

In many parts of the country the number of A Level/Level 3 students in a college exceeds the combined total of all of the learners who study in all the local sixth forms in a local area. Am I biased? – yes I am, I have worked in every sector of education but FE is the best!

So why is FE facing such an interrogation at the moment with college mergers and amalgamations? Poor quality, poor financial management, lack of attention to the community? The answer is yes in part but having experienced area review and work with many other colleges I believe there are some key rules needed to ‘sort’ a college or give it that MOT for the future.

The following is my checklist:

  • Is the top tier management structure simple to understand but very strong?
  • Are levels 2 and 3 of the structure producing the back-up needed for tier 1?
  • What key reports are produced by the Principal for his/her top team?
  • What key reports does the Principal produce for the Governing Body?
  • How well do Governors understand the financial/quality targets?
  • Who is wagging the tail of curriculum? – hopefully not the MIS system!
  • Does the Principal meet regularly with staff?
  • How does the Principal assess the key delivery functions including staff appointments?
  • If this was your own business, with your own money, would you still take the same action?

In addition to the above I also look at additional support. I use my AoC Regional Manager for advice and when I need elements of consultancy I am very selective of getting someone who understands my College’s ethos. In many cases a consultant from industry gives better context then a precise FE advisor but not always. If I use a typical FE consultant I look very carefully at their career profile in terms of the management of change, financial and quality profile they brought when they were working full time. I find 80% are failed professionals but the other 20% are often quite exceptional.

In conclusion, it’s July and the end of another exciting and challenging academic year. Everything is changing but stability is everything – so quality, finance and putting the learners first remains paramount. I am privileged to work with so many talented people.

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