Further education colleges across the country have much to be proud of. They empower people to move in to meaningful, long-term employment and help deliver the skilled and talented workforce British employers need.
While there are many excellent colleges, some institutions have faced challenges providing the top-quality teaching and training needed and ensuring they are on a sound financial footing. That is why the government has introduced a strengthened intervention process that allows poor performance to be dealt with rigorously and rapidly.
The Further Education Commissioner, Dr David Collins, and his team of FE advisers are tasked with making sure improvements are made where poor performance is found in FE colleges and FE institutions, for the benefit of learners, employers and local communities. Today (17 November 2014) sees Dr Collins publish his first annual report, sharing his reflections on his first year in post and his work to tackle poor performance in further education.
In the last year, Dr Collins has found that, for the most part, there has been encouraging progress at the 11 colleges that he and his team have assessed. Despite significant challenges, the hard work of staff, governors and the leadership across each of the colleges is producing some impressive and rapid turnarounds.
Dr Collins argues that colleges and institutions need to work together to ensure that resources are best used for the benefit of learners and employers. The FE Commissioner believes that this will mean some consolidation and specialisation, as well as neighbouring colleges, institutions and providers considering joint plans. Such considerations will ensure that more expensive areas of the curriculum, such as science and engineering, do not disappear when a college is looking to secure financial stability.
Dr David Collins said:
Our colleges have an important role to play in the development of the economy and in ensuring social mobility. I am pleased to see that, thanks to the hard work and dedication of governors, leadership teams and staff to take tough decisions and make changes, there has been positive improvement in many of the colleges. However there is still more work to be done, both in many of these colleges and across the sector to ensure we are delivering the high quality education learners deserve.
The FE Commissioner’s report follows the news that City of Liverpool College has recently become the first college to successfully come out of intervention. The College, first assessed in November 2013, has made significant progress in improving the quality of its provision and the success rates of its students, and has worked to improve its financial health.
Skills Minister Nick Boles said:
While the further education sector of course faces a number of challenges, I believe it has the resilience to continue to deliver high quality vocational education, and that intervention, when it does happen, will be efficient, robust and effective in driving up standards.
The FE Commissioner and his FE advisers will continue to work with failing colleges and institutions to build a stronger, better quality further education sector. While there will be challenges on the road ahead, boards and senior management teams working across the further education sector have the talent and commitment to rise to the occasion and drive forward change for the benefit of all.
Appointed as the first FE Commissioner in 2013, Dr Collins and his team of FE advisers have worked over the last year to assess and intervene in FE colleges and FE institutions that are facing quality, and, or financial issues.
Between August 2013 and July 2014 the FE Commissioner and his team of FE advisers have assessed 11 FE colleges.