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New FE commissioner appointed to tackle underperformance in colleges

David Collins has been appointed as the first FE commissioner, and tasked with tackling failing colleges and driving improvement in the sector.

As the first holder of the new post, Dr Collins, formerly president of the Association of Colleges and interim chief executive of the disbanded Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS), will advise ministers and funding agencies on how to deal with underperforming colleges.

He will be called in to review any colleges which have been graded inadequate by Ofsted, fail to meet national minimum standards of performance or have received an inadequate assessment for financial health or management by the Skills Funding Agency, and implement swift action to resolve any issues.

Dr Collins (pictured above) brings more than 35 years of experience in the sector to his new position. He has held a number of senior roles, including spending 16 years as principal of South Cheshire College, and most recently served as interim principal of the Guildford College Group.

"I would hope to bring my extensive experience in the sector to bear in this new post so that problems in colleges and other institutions are swiftly addressed for the benefit of learners, employers and the local community,” he said.

“I have worked closely with governors and staff in the past in colleges and institutions that have received a variety of Ofsted grades and have always found a positive response to quality improvement. I am sure that all those involved in this new approach will play their full part in ensuring that, in the interests particularly of learners and stakeholders, difficulties are quickly and effectively resolved and the quality of provision is significantly improved."

Skills minister Matthew Hancock said that Dr Collins “fully understands the sector and the levels of excellence that can be achieved”.

“While there is much to praise in the FE sector, we must drive up standards across the board, and particularly focus on colleges that fail. The FE commissioner will help us to ensure that wherever a college or institution is failing students swift, co-ordinated and decisive intervention action will be taken,” he added.

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