A new programme designed to "empower" leaders within the FE sector has been announced by education secretary Justine Greening.
Ms Greening, speaking at the British Chambers of Commerce’s Business and Education Summit in London today, said a National Leaders of Further Education programme would help to "lift up" areas of the FE sector that are "further behind" than others.
Ms Greening said: “There is a wide array of talent in the FE sector, so I want more of that to be able to contribute to lifting the whole FE system. So I am going to establish a programme of National Leaders of Further Education, people who will recognise and identify as these best principals, the senior leaders across the FE sector, and I want to make sure these people are empowered to spread their expert knowledge, their experience, as well as to mentor and support and to lift up the parts of our FE system that are further behind.”
A National Leaders of Education programme already exists to support headteachers to work alongside and support struggling schools, but this does not extend to FE providers.
‘FE needs to be far more attractive’
Ms Greening also pledged to do more to improve teaching quality in technical education – something she said was a “critical step” – and said the FE sector would need to be “far more attractive” if it were to succeed in recruiting teachers into the workforce.
She said: “The teachers and the teaching professionals in FE are going to be at the forefront of how we make sure all of the changes on things like T levels are really delivered on a day to day basis."
Ms Greening added: "I think we need to get business more plugged in. I think it needs to be a more streamlined relationship between business and FE; I think that we need to make FE far more attractive; [and] I think teachers coming into that profession really need to be feel like they’re part of something that’s absolutely going to either make our country successful or not and that they’re at the centre of making that happen.”
'Existing government skills policy'
Ian Pretty, chief executive of the Collab Group of colleges, said aside from the announcement of a Strategic College Improvement Fund and an expansion of the FE commissioner’s role, the speech had "largely re-affirmed existing government skills policy". "The general thrust of this policy is to be welcomed but in policy such as the £500 million funding to reform technical education there is still very little detail about exactly how these funds will be distributed."
He added: "The speech also reaffirmed the Conservative manifesto commitment to develop a dedicated programme to help industry experts join the FE sector. This might be helpful. But what we now need to see is a shift from a conceptual discussion to practical and pragmatic implementation. If we are all to truly deliver the cultural shift that Justine Greening referenced in her speech, we will need to be creative in our thinking. Simply recruiting business people into the sector is not new."