Commissioner specification ‘prejudices’ FE hopefuls

College leaders hoping to play a part in the FE Commissioner hit squad have been put “at a disadvantage” by the job’s specifications.

The deadline for applications to the post, along with its seven advisory posts, ended last week.

But the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and its leadership arm, the Association of Managers in Education, questioned the requirements of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and the Department for Education.

This means college leaders will be at a disadvantage, compared with the many national leaders of education, etc, who are already registered and ready to respond to the request to quote.”

The departments wanted candidates registered on the National College for Teaching and Leadership’s operational associate framework so they could issue a request for quotation.

But an ATL spokesperson said this could stifle applications from FE staff.

“The invitation to bid through a request for quotation and the requirement to be registered on the framework will prejudice applications from anyone in FE who hasn’t already set up a limited company — which is ridiculous, given the nature of the role,” they said.

They said the framework was established to save money and to ensure that consultants were not working regularly enough for the taxman to consider them full-time employees.

The spokesperson added: “Even if FE staff have formed a limited company, it will still take a few days to fast-track their application to join the framework.

“This means college leaders will be at a disadvantage, compared with the many national leaders of education, etc, who are already registered and ready to respond to the request to quote.”

But a BIS spokesperson said individuals were not required to be set up as a limited company.

They could register against a company, school, college or university, said the spokesperson, adding that if an organisation was not already included on the framework, potential applicants could register their organisation’s profile on the system.

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock announced the FE Commissioner plans last month as part of the government’s Rigour and Responsiveness in Skills strategy.

The strategy said a commissioner would be sent into colleges graded inadequate by Ofsted; in financial trouble; or failing to hit learner success targets. They could call for institutions to be given administered college status, thereby losing powers such as staff changes and expenditure, and could recommend governors be kicked out. Ultimately, they could call for a college to be dissolved.

Lynne Sedgmore, 157 Group executive director, said a team of eight seemed “reasonable”, but she, along with the ATL, questioned the departments’ call for candidates to be registered against broker and practitioner skills frameworks.

“The detail of what the skills frameworks actually entail is slightly elusive,” she said.

“We wonder whether there is anything more specific about social impact and responsibility?”

A BIS spokesperson said: “The FE Commissioner’s appointment and that of the advisers is being managed through the National College for Teaching and Leadership’s e-procurement system.

“We alerted representative bodies and those who had expressed a direct interest to the process and included an article in the FE and skills newsletter, giving interested individuals more than a week to register on the operational framework.”