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Strange cases of Hertfordshire and Luton

Tackling a peculiar anomaly in the achievement of colleges in the east of England will be a priority for Mary Conneely in her new role as regional director.

One of only three colleges in England to be graded as "outstanding" by inspectors for its leadership and management is in her patch.

Barnfield college in Luton won the accolade last year, despite its four feeder schools being rated as failing. Paradoxically in affluent Hertfordshire, where schools do well in league tables, three of the four FE colleges in the county are rated inadequate.

"In Luton there are four failing 11 to 16 schools and it is left to our first-rate FE colleges to pick up the pieces," she said.

"Clearly the education authority and LSC have to work together on an integrated strategy. The goal must be to improve the school system and ensure colleges play their part. That is why it is vital we get right the 14-19 strategy for Luton. Barnfield has beacon status and we have got to encourage it to share its good practices and replicate that success."

She is hoping Barnfield's magic can cross the county border into Hertfordshire where inspectors have issued three dismal reports. West Herts college in Watford, Oaklands college in St Albans, and Hertford regional college in Ware.

"We want to see a major improvement in the Hertfordshire college infrastructure to mirror that of Luton," she added. "It is about getting best practice spread across the region."

Another task is to help her rural colleges, many of which serve massive areas.

She said: "Norfolk and Suffolk are among the most sparsely populated counties in England. There are issues of transport and investment in colleges that cover huge geographic areas.

"City College Norwich has four different learning sites outside the city and more than half its students travel in from all over Norfolk. The use of technology in distance learning is something I am interested in looking at."

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