FE Commissioner reveals early post-16 area review findings

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.

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  1. Graham Ripley

    I think it important for the Commissioner (and the Minister for that matter) not to import into good and stable colleges the solutions and of those in some form of serious challenge.

    It would be a fundamental mistake to examine a limited batch of colleges and consider them to be representative of the majority.

    There are too many sweeping statements about the sector from these “worthies” that seem to be predicated on an illogical connective.

  2. LRoding

    Since I wasn’t at Dr Collins’ session, I can only rely on this report of what he said. However, if the reporting is accurate, the comments merely reinforce my view that the reviews are deeply flawed in both scope and the range of possible outcomes. I do hope that the analysis performed by the Commissioner and his merry band is rather more incisive and revealing than some Principals come from curriculum backgrounds the others are accountants nonsense. I despair…..

  3. I find it disappointing that Dr Collins’ comments following such an important review came down to his conclusion that pricipals who lack finace expertise on one hand and those who lack curriculum pedigree on the other is a contributing factor to the demise of colleges. His comment below (in quotation) I find unbelievably naiive. Is he suggesting then that David Cameron is in trouble running the country since he doesn’t have a finance or even a medical background depite having experts around him? I have always wondered why people like Dr Collins get the media attention that they do as he makes no sense at all.

    “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.”