'Berated' FE leaders want private commissioner reports

Call for 'punishing' reports by FE commissioner to be kept confidential

Kate Parker

'Public FE commissioner reports berate leaders'

Putting intervention reports by the FE commissioner into the public domain feels like a "punishment" and should stop, FE leaders have warned.

Speaking at a Westminster Education Forum on the future of the further education sector this morning, Stephanie Mason, head of FE and skills at RSM UK, said publishing the reports meant that college leaders were being publicly "berated".

Ms Mason said: "We've just seen a number of reports just released and that public reporting of interventions does feel like punishment rather than nurturing.

"When a significant percentage of the sector is in financial difficulty, think about whether it's right to berate individual colleges publicly."

News: Over 40 colleges supported by FE commissioner

Revealed: the scale of FE commissioner intervention

Background: FE commissioner to review 'unviable' college site

On Friday, the FE commissioner published eight intervention reports on colleges in England. 

'A system-wide issue'

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said that he had asked the DfE to suspend the public financial notices to improve during the pandemic.

He said: "During this pandemic, every college is facing difficult financial challenges and cashflow is particularly difficult, not least because the payment profile from ESFA under-pays by 6 per cent in March each year.

"That means colleges are asking for support, with advances in payments likely to be needed for many this coming March. Because this is a system-wide issue, we do not believe that it is desirable nor helpful to issue a public 'notice to improve'."

Shelagh Legrave, chief executive of Chichester College Group, said that it was "inevitable, however good the leadership in a college, that rescue deals have been required".

She said: "No part of the education sector has been as underfunded as further education in the last 10 years, with the 16-18 funding cuts in real terms, the 18- to 19-year-olds earning 17.5 per cent less, and adult funding becoming more and more restrictive. There was the debacle of the LSC capital funding promises that never materialised in 2008.

"Is it any wonder that bail-outs have been required? FE leaders are experts in trying to deliver high-quality education, while making redundancies time and time again, and being unable to pay their staff to keep in line with schools."

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateParkerTes

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