The Further Education Commissioner has expressed surprise at how many of the basic elements of success are missing from the colleges in which he has had to intervene.
In his latest letter to the sector, sent last week, Dr David Collins (pictured) asks why quality is “so much better” in some colleges than in others, and why some colleges flourish while others struggle despite similar circumstances.
He sets out ten characteristics of successful colleges, which he describes as “more common sense than rocket science”.
However, he goes on to say: “In the intervention cases to date, it is surprising how many of the basics are missing. If a college is having a problem, my advice is simple – find someone who is performing well in that area and learn from them.”
Dr Collins says it is “tempting” to lay the blame on the shoulders of college leadership and management teams and evidence from the interventions so far would support that.
However, he says for the sector to improve it should look at the underlying characteristics if those that are successful.
He says successful colleges have "clarity, connectivity, confidence, a lack of complacency, consistency, cohesion, challenge, creativity, celebration and care".
Martin Doel, chief executive of the Association of the Colleges, said the Commissioner "clearly believes in the power of alliteration".
"More seriously, this, like the Commissioner’s previous letter, is a useful checklist, and the sense of the observations will be easily recognised within the sector," he said.
"Inevitably, the Commissioner’s attention is directed to the small number of colleges in difficulty, not the majority who are already complying with his 10 Cs and further measures of success.”
Skills minister Nick Boles said that while a great number of colleges have made significant steps in improving the quality of their provision, the Commissioner was right to highlight that there was more work to be done.
“I would encourage all colleges who need to improve performance to look to those who have demonstrated strong leadership, a clear outward looking vision and who nurture and celebrate the success of both staff and learners," he said.
"That way we can help make sure the entire sector is delivering to the highest possible standards.”
Summaries of the first ten college interventions made by the Commissioner have so far been published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
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New FE commissioner appointed to tackle underperformance in colleges – November 2013