Ever felt the world of education was moving at such a pace that you just can't get a grip? We are in a state of flux – this is a time for major opportunity coupled with significant challenge. Colleges at present are obviously surveying the lie of the land and deciding the best strategic moves – will it be involvement in a Free School, an Academy or some other form of sponsorship? Who actually will monitor such developments and will the jigsaw actually meet the needs of learners? Will schools flourish under the title of 'Academy'? Will there be a repeat of what happened to some colleges after incorporation, i.e. a need for major intervention to save Academies from collapsing financially?

The reality is that we are going to have to suck it and see but I am not sure this methodology is the right way forward. The role of the local authority appears to diminish significantly in the equation but somebody or some type of grouping will need to have a strategic overview – we all know of cities where already there are too many institutions in existence and what happens when supply exceeds demand. Irrespective, this element of business strategy seems lost in the current agenda.

So can we have a bit of common sense please in regard to the planning of learning for the future? The concepts of Studio Schools, University Technical Colleges and others are sound – they have the potential to enhance learning opportunity quite dramatically. So let's grab this nettle after some proper planning. Furthermore we should screen the potential bidders to see if they already produce results which are at least good with a profile of success well above national benchmark. In my own local authority there are exciting developments being planned with key involvement of local authority, Higher Education and Schools. In fairness we are a long way down the line with a 'Family of Schools' model introduced by the college in 2001 followed by a Federated School model some years later. On this basis I have confidence but equally there are other stories across the country of less than strategic approaches.

Still we need to be optimistic so let's develop a check list for the future. Here are the key points:

  • Look at your own provision and be realistic about expanding horizons

 

  • Check the quality profile is superb or that there are strategies in place to move to such a position

 

  • Work together if possible to plan for the future

 

  • NEVER EVER forget the learner

I know it's not that easy and that in some parts of the country collaboration is not part of the agenda but at least try to find somebody or something that will bring people around the table. And don't fall into the trap of winning the battle and losing the war!

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

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