What an interesting few weeks it has been since the funding agencies released details about priorities for next year and our funding agreements.

Without a shadow of doubt up and down the land the collective wringing of principals’ hands will be taking place.

What to do with less? That is the question of the moment and while some colleges are going all out for sometimes risky alternative income streams and growth, many are managing contraction of staff and, dare I say it, the curriculum offer itself.

Which begs the question about learner choice — what of the humble learner, those for whom we exist and serve?

Then, of course, while we’re all living with less we’re also expected to deliver higher standards and quality or we will be in the Ofsted naughty books, too.

Waiting in the wings is Dr David Collins, the FE Commissioner, and his team of trusty advisers ready to catch you when you fall, or not as the case may be.

So what has been achieved by the introduction of the role of FE Commissioner?

Has there been a miraculous turnaround of a failing college? Has the intervention had a positive impact on learners? Or is it simply another layer of bureaucracy to an already heavily burdened sector groaning under the sheer weight and volume of audits, inspections and accreditations.

Perhaps if the sector were to be more commercial and truly market and customer-driven we should be less regulated rather than further regulated by the likes of the FE Commissioner and allowed to get on with the job of educating and training rather than the constant looking over the shoulder we currently have?

Which leads me to another point — it would appear we have a crisis in the sector now and for the future. Simply put, where is the next generation of leaders ?

I work hard in my own college to foster a culture of ambition for younger staff members who have the determination and energy we so badly need in what is a very demanding role.

But so many are put off by the thought of the journey through management
into leadership roles. The chances appear limited to many of them and
the journey simply does not appeal. Why is that?

Part of the problem is the lack of a really well thought-out and developed programme similar to the Learning and Skills Improvement Service senior leaders and aspiring principals programmes which, sadly, has now withered on the vine.

The sector does need to sort this problem out quickly in my view or we will have our very own self-made skills shortage and be found wanting.

Maybe Dr Collins could and should advise young Mr Hancock to switch the focus of the commissioner’s role away from the punitive reactionary model and toward a supportive, and enriching role that enables colleges to develop, flourish and grow.

Come on Dr Collins, you know you want to.