The number of my colleagues looking to change career, retire early or who feel simply burnt out is sadly increasing.

I cannot say I am surprised – the FE sector is in meltdown and whilst I don't disagree with the government that there have been many, many examples of poor management practice you have to have a certain amount of revenue coming into an institution to make it work.

Area Reviews are an attempt to look at the situation – both the FE Commissioner and Deputy FE Commissioner have from my perspective shown significant insight and proactivity in dealing with the situation. As a Principal currently experiencing area review first hand there is definite rigour in the system but actually it is only the people on the ground who can make it work. What is without doubt in existence for those of us on the ground is a fatalistic blend of ego, control freakishness, power craziness and the whole process could be sponsored by Prozac!!!!

'He's off on one again', I hear you say but the only way to deal with the current demise of FE is to face up to the facts head on.

If you are a concerned dedicated FE professional then you will be trying to do everything you can for your learners and staff and hoping that you can break even financially with good success rates and evidence of progression.

If you are not then you are probably doing lots of schmoozing with the politics, looking after yourself and somehow I bet the quality is not up to scratch!

So what is the advice for colleagues in the sector and how should we advance the agenda? Of course if I could answer the question perfectly then I would be worth a lot – sadly all I can do is tell you, warts and all, what I am doing from a checklist perspective.

  • Getting my house in order structurally from a management perspective
  • Ensuring that strategies for academic success are in place including progression
  • Identifying what we do and questioning again why we do these thing
  • Working with my council and innately the LEP to look at development
  • Re-examining structures and aiming to at least balance the books as we move forward

One thing I will tell you and that's when you make the structural decisions, clarity emerges immediately and then it's all systems go.

A message to the Government – treasure what you have got in FE, there is brilliance, entrepreneurship amidst the chaos and uncertainty. At the same time we all have to change and be ready for the brave new world!

If we join the skills motorway of the future and we grow apprenticeships, meet the outcome agreements and deliver the quality, presumably the money will be there for growth of apprenticeships and preparing for the next generation of skills?

Everyone in the FE sector needs much success – in the main we have committed governors, brilliant staff and aspiring students for the future. Focussing on skills development is crucial for every part of the food chain! Big is rarely beautiful in the world of FE but equally we must be of a sufficient size to be sustainable for the future.

Dr Paul Phillips is principal and chief executive of Weston College, Weston-super-Mare

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