Further education is facing a mass exodus of teaching talent due to political "neglect", according to a major thinktank.
The Social Market Foundation (SMF) cites Office for National Statistics (ONS) research showing that more than one in five further education teachers leave the sector each year. It also highlights that the annual retention rate has dropped from 84 per cent in 2012 to 79 per cent in 2018.
To stem the loss of potential future leaders, the SMF recommends that ministers offer a package of support for middle leaders in FE – including more money for training and development – to give them a clear path to leadership roles.
Writing exclusively for Tes, Nigel Keohane, SMF’s research director, argues: "This is at least in part a consequence of policymakers’ wider neglect of the further education sector, which has seen its budgets reduced severely."
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Teachers quitting FE
The Augar review, published last month, suggested that the reason behind the falling retention levels was the schools' sector offering significantly higher pay.
Mr Keohane said that politicians have ignored the crucial role that FE plays in teaching and training millions of the most disadvantaged people in Britain.
“This exodus of talent, as well as steep funding cuts, are testament to this neglect.
“Colleges need strong leaders who can deliver opportunity for learners and skills for their local economies. Now is the moment to invest in a pipeline of talent for the future,” he said.
The SMF’s recommendations
- The Department for Education and the FE sector should increase investment in training and development for middle leaders, and the middle leaders' programmes should be expanded significantly.
- The DfE should consult on whether to create a formal qualification similar to the National Professional Qualification for Headship in schools, with a view to creating a qualification that can act as a signal to potential leaders and governing bodies.
- Sector bodies should create an "FE leaders' career plan guide" to help talented junior managers understand the paths to leadership.
- The government should invite FE colleges to participate in its new Public Services Leadership Academy.
- The DfE, in collaboration with sector bodies, should consult on establishing an independent staff college (similar to the National College for Teaching and Leadership) to promote the status of FE as well as to be responsible for system-level initiatives to retain and develop leadership talent in the sector.
- The DfE should consider a generous scheme to subsidise training and development and to reimburse colleges for time taken off by middle leaders to train.