The FE commissioner is on the hunt for recruits to join his army of national leaders of governance.

Serving governors or clerks from grade one or two colleges can apply for the role, which pays £300 a day for an estimated 50 days’ work a year.

They will provide mentoring and support to governors at other colleges identified as needing extra help.

“We know governors need development,” Richard Atkins told FE Week. “I’m really looking forward to working with a group of experienced governors, who might be chairs, governors, or clerks, and deploying them to colleges that would benefit from that kind of focused support.”

The closing date for applications is July 13, and he aims to have a small team assembled by October.

Known as NLGs, they will work with colleges rated grade three or four that have been identified as needing governance support following a “diagnostic assessment” or full intervention carried out by the FE commissioner and his team.

Areas they could work on include diagnosing and reviewing governance improvement needs, and helping the board to develop an improvement plan, along with other support, advice, coaching and mentoring.

NLGs must be serving chairs, governors or clerks from a college rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ both for overall effectiveness and for leadership and management at its most recent Ofsted inspection. The college can’t be subject to current commissioner intervention.

Those interested in applying must be able to show experience in three main areas: supporting college improvement, building capacity within the college board of governors, and coaching and mentoring.

A previous NLG programme was run until March this year by the Association of Colleges, on behalf of the Education and Training Foundation, after which the skills minister Anne Milton brought it back into the Department for Education under Mr Atkins.

This happened “because we want to link the smaller number of NLGs to colleges that require or are asking us for specific help”, he said.

“We definitely want to target it more.”

The programme is one of a number of measures the FE commissioner and his team now use to support colleges before they fail.

It extends the “peer-to-peer approach” taken by the National Leaders of FE programme. These are serving principals or chief executives of ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’, who also work with struggling colleges to support them to improve.

Alongside these two programmes, weaker colleges can apply for cash from the strategic college improvement fund to pay for a tailored package of support.

“My overall aim here is to try and avoid the catastrophe we’re seeing at the moment at one or two colleges,” he said.

“If we’d caught some of these colleges earlier, put in an NLFE or an NLG, and they got a SCIF and we supported them, while they might have been in a bit of trouble they might not have ended up in such a bad way,” Mr Atkins said.

The NLG programme is part of wider plans by the DfE to strengthen college governance, more details of which are set to be announced later this year.

Applications should be sent to by July 13.

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