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... and I'd like to thank my mum

The Education Secretary is due to announce the debut of FE's equivalent of the Oscars. Ian Nash reports

A national "Oscars" scheme to reward England's best college staff will soon be announced by Charles Clarke, the Education Secretary.

Ministers are seeking a high-profile media personality to head the National Award Scheme for Colleges. It will mirror the highly-successful initiative for schools, headed by Lord Puttnam.

The idea is only in its initial stages but ministers have asked the post-16 standards unit at the Department for Education and Skills to investigate its potential.

Jane Williams, who heads the standards unit, said: "Pay is not the only thing that needs attention in colleges. We have had recent encouragement from ministers to look very seriously at a national award scheme for teachers and trainers and for support staff. We have seen how this has attracted attention to good school staff.

"One of the ways of promoting education is to tell the stories of the best individual teachers and some of the extraordinary things they do every day."

She stressed the urgency with which the post-16 sector needs to raise its profile at the Association for College Management annual conference in Manchester last week.

"Department figures show that there are 600,000 people working in the post-16 sector. We need to recruit 500,000 people to the system to do what we aim to do by the end of the decade," said Ms Williams.

A range of measures is in place to improve recruitment and promotion of quality staff but there were concerns about "succession planning" of senior managers and principals, given the rate at which people were moving out of the sector or retiring, she said.

"At least 15 per cent of college principals are due for retirement in the next four years and 70 per cent of staff are 50 or over. We are developing a medium and long-term strategy for creating our future leaders," she added.

Her concerns were shared by many at the conference, who said that numbers applying for principals' jobs were now down to single figures in many colleges, compared with up to 200 a decade ago.

Ms Williams told FE Focus that the "Oscars" events would begin, as the schools national award scheme had, with local and regional events building up to a high-profile national media event. The local events would probably start later this year, with the first national award ceremony in 20045.

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