From education to employment

The FE Commissioner’s Annual Report- More Than We Hear About

Sarah Marples

Today saw the launch of the annual report of the FE Commissioner, Richard Atkins together with the superb podcast interview with him from our media partner FE News

It was heartening to hear the extensive supportive work Mr Atkins and his team do for Colleges across England and that 82% of our 240 Colleges are rated either Good or Outstanding. It is shame that like the PTP sector, we too frequently hear of the bad and not the outstanding that goes on across the sector. The team are here to support the celebration of achievements across all of our sector, and this includes Colleges. We recognise the significant work they do, often in very challenging circumstances to support their communities. 

I was pleasantly surprised by the significant work the Commissioner and his team are doing on supporting Colleges prevent formal intervention and support the achievement of excellence. I would like to hear much more and the benefits this provides to those FE Providers that receive such support. The FE sector has always been good at peer reviews, ever since incorporation in 1992 and the PTP sector have much to learn from that work. 

Back in 2005, my husband was interviewed and quoted on his views of Colleges which was, and still remains that they undertake superb work, with often hard to reach groups and communities. There are some areas where they do not excel, and a greater focus on the ‘narrow and deep’ is probably an inevitability as the unit of resource continues to be squeezed. But boards and their executive teams have a difficult balancing act, unlike PTP’s where it is much easier to make decisions about the future of provision based on demand and viability. We can both learn from each other on this!

We have both always believed that collaboration is key to success, indeed our former business was built on partnerships with local Colleges, not just through sub-contracting but through deeper relationships, delivering provision and combining the strengths of each organisation. 

This does lead me to the question of whether we should have a Commissioner for the PTP sector and indeed employers. Colleges are funded through grant in aid and not contract. The governance requirements on them are more significant so it is not surprising they should be given a greater level of support and indeed scrutiny.

Let’s think about how the principles of peer review so embedded and successful in the FE system could be applied to the PTP and employer providers and work with our FE colleagues to systemise quality improvement across our sector. 

After all, it is in all our interests to achieve incremental improvement for everyone. We will then get less of the sensationalism and more opportunity to spread the positive messages that FE News do so successfully.

We have been contacted by many Colleges over the past week, some on line and indeed some College Principals directly. Our forums are for everyone, so let’s spread the word and all work together more closely to achieve beneficial change.

Sarah Marples, Promote-Ed

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