Commissioner strips second principal of powers

The FE Commissioner has slapped a second grade four college with administered status as an Ofsted monitoring report blasted its action plan for lack of results.

The senior management team at Stockport College, which fell from grade one at the end of September, has been stripped of control over staffing and finance following a review by commissioner David Collins.

Stockport joins K College, which was given administered status last month. Mr Collins has made two further college visits, to Bristol and Liverpool, and both have seen him issue recommendations.

Stockport’s Ofsted monitoring visit report last month blamed the college action plan for slow improvement.

Further, Ofsted called for principal Stephen Carlisle (pictured) to ensure there was “less time spent in meetings discussing the plans” and more “taking action”.

And, following Mr Collins’ visit, Skills Minister Matthew Hancock wrote to Stockport MP Ann Coffey about placing the college into administered status. The letter said: “I do not believe the existing leadership has the capacity and capability to deliver the quality improvement and financial recovery needed to protect learners and make efficient use of public funding.”

He warned that changes to the governing body and executive leadership team were “urgently needed”.

Stockport College deputy principal Karen Moss said: “Although we are implementing major changes which in turn will raise standards at the college, not enough time had passed to demonstrate any impact.

“Our main focus at present is to achieve the key targets we have set out in our post inspection action plan quickly and effectively.”

Currently, the commissioner’s findings are not made public, and a Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) spokesperson told FE Week they were unable to say whether the situation would be changing.

However, the BIS spokesperson added that the commissioner had “identified weaknesses in the governance” of Liverpool college.

She said: “The report makes a number of recommendations that will, once implemented, address these weaknesses and help steer the college in the right direction.

“The FE Commissioner will be monitoring and reporting back on progress regularly.”

Further, she said the commissioner’s review of City of Bristol College carried out in September had concluded that the college was “making good progress in delivering improvement”.

Vice principal Cliff Shaw said the outcome of the visit had been “positive” and “useful” and the commissioner had validated the college’s action plans. He confirmed the college would continue to be subject to further monitoring visits from the commissioner.

K College principal Phil Frier said the college would keep operating as normal, and staff would be paid as usual.

No one from Stockport College or City of Liverpool College was available to comment on the commissioner’s review.

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Editorial

Sharing the benefits of a busy FE Commissioner

The FE Commissioner certainly seems to have hit the ground running.

Four visits (that we’re aware of) so far and the results have been swift.

Administered status at Stockport and K College, plus recommendations for Bristol and Liverpool.

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock is getting nothing if not his money’s worth from David Collins.

But while we wait to find out whether the commissioner’s knowledgeable recommendations and calls for action work, how does the rest of the sector benefit?

Shouldn’t improvement for all learners at all colleges be a goal?

Ofsted reports are public documents and providers scour them to see if they can improve their own offer and practices.

On that basis, we should also see publication of the commissioner’s findings and recommendations.

It is understandable that the commissioner should focus his efforts on those most in need, but that’s no reason to deny successful colleges the benefit of his expertise.

To square that circle would be, for one, to make the commissioner’s findings accessible.