New national leaders announced but diversity concerns remain

The FE commissioner has previously said that the lack of BAME national leaders reflects the small number of of BAME leaders in colleges.

The FE commissioner has previously said that the lack of BAME national leaders reflects the small number of of BAME leaders in colleges.

17 Mar 2022, 14:51

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The Department for Education has refreshed its roster of national FE leaders following its latest recruitment round, but has been unsuccessful in making the teams more diverse.

Five new national leaders of further education (NLFE) and two new national leaders of governance (NLG) have been appointed from high-performing institutions to step in and support colleges in need of improvement. 

Sector commentators have been critical in recent years of the lack of diversity among DfE’s top teams of FE specialists; including the FE commissioner’s team of deputies and advisers as well as the national leaders of governance and national leaders of further education. 

In an FE Week interview last year, new FE commissioner, Shelagh Legrave, regretfully insisted that this was “reflective of the small number of BAME leaders in the sector”.

“I think it’s really sad that we haven’t got as diverse in our leadership in FE as we should have. And I will certainly work with everybody to try and ensure that there is a greater diversity,” she told us in November.

There remains no non-white national leaders of further education. The group was gender balanced, but now has three more men than women. One member of the national leaders of governance team is from a BAME background.

The national leaders programme sits alongside the further education commissioner’s office as part of the government’s support and intervention regime for colleges. NLFE’s work with senior leaders to provide strategic mentoring and advise on the development and delivery of improvement plans. 

To be eligible to become an NLFE, applicants need to have clocked up at least five years as principal or chief executive and have achieved at least ‘good’ judgements in overall effectiveness, leadership and management and teaching, learning and assessment at their most recent inspection. 

The roles are unpaid, but an NLFE’s college receives a £10,000 per year bursary to cover costs for travel, staff cover and professional development. According to the latest annual report from the FE commissioner, the NLFEs and NLGs were working with 40 colleges in academic year 2020/21, down from 50 in the previous year. 

Leaders that were appointed to NLFE roles this week are:

Ian Pryce, principal and chief executive, Bedford College Group

Gill Worgan, principal, West Herts College

John Laramy, principal and chief executive, Exeter College

Ellen Thinnesen, chief executive, Education Partnership North East

Kate Roe, principal and chief executive, Darlington College

Four college leaders have stepped down as NLFEs, including former TEC Partnership chief executive Gill Alton, who retired earlier this year, Tyne Coast College’s Lindsey Whiterod, Huddersfield New College’s Angela Williams and Nelson and Colne’s Amanda Melton.

The Department’s latest NLG appointments increase the total of governance experts from eight to ten. David Wright, chair at Notre Dame Catholic Sixth Form College, and Charles Buchanan, chair at EKC Group join the existing members of the team. 

As with NLFE’s, the NLG group was gender-balanced before this latest round of appointments.

NLG’s receive a day-rate of £350 for their work and must be a serving chair of governors, governor or governance professional from a ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ college. They are typically appointed for two-year terms.

Applicants are subjected to a “rigorous” assessment process, according to DfE guidance, including scenario-based exercise and a formal interview.

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