The Further Education Trust for Leadership (Fetl) last week unveiled the four people chosen for its first wave of fellowship grants, worth up to £40,000 each, to fund research into FE leadership issues.

Reporter Paul Offord spoke to Cornwall College Group’s Ruth Allen (pictured) in the second of four FE Week articles focusing on the chosen fellows.

The lack of “time to think” for increasingly embattled FE staff is an issue that Ruth Allen  fears is stifling the ability of providers to cope with policy changes and funding cuts.

It is why the Fetl fellow, who joined Cornwall College Group in 2007 as a business research unit assistant, has decided to focus her research on ‘leadership strategies which foster a creative culture in FE’.

Miss Allen, who was appointed higher education development manager in 2011 and promoted to development manager for the entire group in September, aims to identify a set of ‘creativity indicators’ allowing organisations to work out how to engage staff in creative thinking and measure its impact.

She said: “A lot of people, from principals to lecturers, have had to take on more work and responsibility as roles in FE are streamlined and they’ve lost the time to think.

“The challenge now is to think ‘how as an organisation can we still allow people to think creatively?’

“Embracing activities that give space for thinking can reduce anxiety and stress among individual staff and release their potential for creativity.

“There are also a multitude of benefits for wider organisations, from new product development to improved operational practices.

“Creative thinking allows providers to take a lead over what is happening to them, whether that’s less funding or regulation changes.”

Mark Ravenhall, Fetl chief executive, said: “Creativity is an important aspect of FE leadership. This research project should give us practical hints as to what works best and how providers best adapt in uncertain times.”

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