The FE Commissioner has repeated her warning over colleges’ use of subcontracting in her latest annual report.
Now in her second year as FE Commissioner, Shelagh Legrave also said colleges’ vulnerability to cyber-attacks and the number of “too comfortable” governors that have served more than ten years are what she sees as “persistent problems”.
The report repeats Legrave’s concerns over the quality of oversight of subcontracting first revealed by FE Week at the AoC’s annual conference in November. The Commissioner claims that economic climate is making learner recruitment harder for colleges and therefore more likely to turn to subcontracting to fulfil their contracts:
“The economic climate is causing more adults to work rather than taking training opportunities, so the temptation for colleges is to use subcontracting as a way of fulfilling contracts. There is a place for local subcontracting, but it is vital that this is overseen appropriately, both from a quality and a funding perspective” the report states.
On governance, Legrave said she is concerned by “the number of boards where governors have served for more than ten years.” Adding: “Whilst the time given by these governors as volunteers is hugely appreciated, it is often too comfortable a relationship with the senior team.”
Legrave first warned that some colleges were withdrawing from “priority courses” in her interview with FE Week last month, highlighting that the colleges “can’t find the staff to deliver them.”
She goes slightly further in her annual report this year, saying: “Some colleges are having to withdraw some T Level courses due to lack of staff to deliver them, with shortages extending to support services too.”
The Department for Education have been approached to clarify which colleges have had to withdraw from T Level delivery due to staff shortages.
Two full intervention assessments took place, both due to financial triggers, the annual report states.
Just one college received a new diagnostic assessment this year, but 25 follow-up visits took place in 22 colleges. One of those was escalated to intervention.
Nine colleges formally exited intervention this year, a similar number to the ten that exited the year before.
However six of those are still under monitoring through the Commissioner’s new post-intervention monitoring and support (PIMS) category.
Diagnostic assessments will now be known as health checks and will be offered as part of the FEC’s active support offer and will be available colleges on request, as previously announced. Twenty six diagnostic assessments took place in 21/22, up one from 20/21.
Two structure and prospects appraisals (SPAs) took place, which resulted in the merger of Selby College with Wakefield College, forming the Heart of Yorkshire Education Group, in March, and Berkshire College of Agriculture’s merger with The Windsor Forest Colleges Group in July.
This is down from five SPAs in 20/21.
And the national leaders have been busier this year than last having visited 54 principals, CEOs and boards in this reporting year, up from 40 the year before. There are currently 12 national leaders of further education and 8 national leaders of governance.
One national leader of governance, Andrew Baird, resigned earlier this year after being found to have shared a racist meme on WhatsApp following the appointment of Rishi Sunak as prime minister.