Further Education Commissioner Dr David Collins (pictured) has revealed his early findings from the first wave of post-16 area reviews.

Scores of people came to hear Dr Collins speak at this year’s Higher and Further Education Show, in London’s ExCel, on Wednesday, October 14.

He discussed the reviews in Birmingham and Solihull, Greater Manchester, Sheffield, Tees Valley, Sussex Coat and Solent, which the government has said were “designed to achieve a transition towards fewer, larger, more resilientand efficient providers, and more effective collaboration across institution types”.

Dr Collins said: “For the next 18 months, myself and a team of advisers supported the Skills Funding Agency and Education Funding Agency will be going around the country endeavouring and encouraging marriages, federations and divorces between colleges to try and set up a sustainable further education sector”.

He added: “What has been clear when we have gone around the colleges in trouble is that the majority speak about the historical situation of poor management and do not address the current issues on efficiency.”

His speech came with initial area review steering group meetings having taken place last month and earlier this month.

The first steering group meeting for the Sussex Coast review is due on October 22 and for Solent it’s on November 5.

Dr Collins said the second steering group meetings would look at the rationalisation of curriculum and the third ones would focus on shared services and estates. The fourth will look at the financial implications and changes that need to be made to the colleges.

Dr Collins also addressed some of the issues he had already identified.

“I have got some issues at the moment with the background knowledge of principals — some of whom may have come from a curriculum route and be weak on the finance side,” he said, adding that the next round of reviews would announced in December.

“Others may have come from the finance side and be weak on the curriculum side.

“It doesn’t matter if you have got a very strong team around you but if you happen to have a weakness in the area of knowledge around you, then you are, in technical terms, in deep do-do.”

Association of Colleges (AoC) chief executive Martin Doel also spoke at the show in the FE Theatre, along with National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (Niace) head of employment and skills Toni Pearce.