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Colleges not 'in a mess', insists FE commissioner

Richard Atkins tells the Association of Colleges' annual conference that he has witnessed some 'spectacular' colleges

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Richard Atkins tells the Association of Colleges' annual conference that he has witnessed some 'spectacular' colleges

The new FE commissioner has insisted that the sector is not “failing”.

In his first public appearance since being appointed, Richard Atkins told the Association of Colleges’ (AoC) annual conference that he believed the sector was doing “pretty well”.

“I do not subscribe to the [view that] all of FE’s in a mess, or the FE sector is failing… Some of the colleges I’ve visited are spectacular; very, very successful.

“I see that the majority of colleges are doing a good job and, in some cases, a really exceptional one. We do have part of the sector that is not performing well, and part of my job is to work with you to get those colleges back on track as fast as we can.”

Mr Atkins is the former principal of Exeter and Yeovil colleges, past AoC president and current chair of AoC Sport. He took over from Sir David Collins this month. Under his leadership, Exeter College was named college of the year in the TES FE Awards 2012. He is also a former judge for the awards.

Governors 'absolutely crucial'

Mr Atkins told a session for college governors this morning:  “I always keep the best interests of the learners and the local community in mind.”

He said the role of governors was “absolutely crucial”. In the interventions he had been involved with so far, he had noticed the importance of the role of chair of governors. In the worst cases, he described the approach as being one of “all pals together, no challenge involved”.

“Either that person is making an incredibly positive contribution, or that is part of the problem,” Mr Atkins continued.

“I think you’re doing an absolutely brilliant job, many of you… When [the role is] working well, the whole college seems to work well. When it’s not working well… over time it seems to infect the whole college.”

Mr Atkins also said he planned to write to colleges once a term to give updates on his work.

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