The chief executive of the Network for Black Professionals has challenged FE and college governors to respond to change more quickly and effectively.

This need for change, says Robin Landman OBE (pictured right), can be seen in the response of FE governance to the new Ofsted framework, launched last September.

“One of the big challenges is understanding  and responding to the changed Ofsted grading and preparing appropriately for it,” he says.

“The guidance is very clear. The problem tends to be . . .  putting it into the practice.

“It’s taking people a long time to respond proactively. Some governing bodies or principals carry on until they find the rules of engagement with Ofsted have changed and they struggle to deal with preparation for the inspection.”

He says this has caused the ‘general fall’ in Ofsted grades. “People didn’t actually read and see that if their teaching quality wasn’t up to scratch they weren’t going to get a grade one,” he says.

Self–assessment played a major part in LSIS and Ofsted’s recent report, How colleges improve, which emphasised how important  leadership and governance were to performance. But, says Mr Landman, once again, self–assessment is only a useful tool if governors recognise the need to change how they measure themselves.

“Everybody carries on doing self–assessment as they’ve always done it and not responding to the changes unless there’s somebody who can say ‘That was fine last year, but we can’t use that criteria for our self–assessment this year, those things have changed’,” saysMr Landman.

He says  that senior management and leaders should never develop an “over–cosy relationship” with governors.

“There’s got to be more of a creative tension in the relationship,” hesays. “It’s important to see challenge in the minutes of governing body meetings – something that requires fairly robust and astute governors.

“The world is changing but in some cases governance hasn’t changed at the pace that’s required.”

This also applies, he says, to the representation of black and ethnic minority groups on governing bodies.

“The pace of change in the demographics of the country is ramping up but we’re still coasting along and not addressing the changes,” he says. “We have a leadership and governance that looks like Britain 30 years ago.”

Mr Landman says that while 22 per cent of FE students are black or of ethnic minority (BME), only around 8.5 per cent of staff are.

“That figure drops like a stone at senior levels . . . and if you look at the position of governance, it’s as bad, if not worse.”

“So in terms of social justice and equality of representation there’s an issue. And as FE thinks of itself as a second–chance sector and a social justice sector, it seems a bit strange that it doesn’t talk about this.

“I’ve got quite a high level of confidence in Ofsted.  It has been doing the right thing. An indicator of that is its partnership with the Black Leadership Initiative and the network that has generated some genuine changes at senior levels.”

He says that he is concerned about the interregnum between the disappearance of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) and the appearance of  the FE Guild. “There’s real risk of things being lost in that changeover,” he says..

“I’m not confident about what’s going to happen in the short term, but I am clear that the network and our supporters will be keeping a close eye on how things develop to make sure racial equality doesn’t drop off the agenda.”