Fourteen general FE and sixth-form colleges have received grants through a fund designed to support failing colleges to improve the quality of education and training.

Details of the successful applicants to the two pilot rounds of the £15 million ‘Strategic college improvement fund’, along with the colleges that will support them, have been published by the Department for Education.

The programme, which opened in October, is part of a package of measures announced by former education secretary Justine Greening intended to improve standards at failing colleges or those at risk of doing so.

Colleges rated ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’ overall, or for their apprenticeship provision, are able apply for grants of between £50,000 and £250,000. The exact allocations have not yet been announced.

Each application had to be supported by a stronger college, rated at least ‘good’ at its most recent Ofsted inspection.

Working with a partner college will “enable the applicant college to refine its understanding of the quality challenges it faces, develop a rigorous and costed programme of work, and use the experience and know-how of the partner college to put that improvement programme in place”, according to the DfE’s guidance.

Further details of the main programme, which is expected to run until at least March 2020, are due to be announced later this year.

In an interview with FE Week last November, the FE commissioner Richard Atkins said the fund was “enough money to make a real difference”.

“I’ve spoken to a number of colleges; if we made between £200,000 and £300,000 available in-year and focused it on key quality-improvement, they’ve all said to me that could make a real difference,” he said.

Eligible costs aren’t predetermined and can include diagnosing a college’s quality issues and developing a plan to tackle them, mentoring and other professional development activities for senior leaders, or the cost of staff time.

He said he wanted to learn from the pilot before deciding what will be funded during the main phase.

Three of the supporting colleges announced today are part of the FE commissioner’s national leaders of FE programme, announced in January.

They are Grimsby Institute, St John Rigby College and Dudley College of Technology, all rated ‘outstanding’.

The NLFE initiative aims to use the expertise of successful colleges to support struggling institutions.

Mr Atkins told FE Week in January that he expected principals and other members of senior management teams to work with a number of colleges in need to improvement – and that this work would lead to applications to the SCIF.

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