Breath of fresh air that FE needs

5th December 2008 at 00:00

Barry Johns is an inspiration (see page 1). A man willing to give up a healthy private sector pay cheque to come and work in further education management where, for many, the pay could be better. And for what? Well, as he says, for personal fulfilment - to do a job that really means something to him.

Hats off to people like Barry Johns. They will, as the UCU's Dan Taubman says, bring a breath of fresh air to FE management. And new ideas and innovative working will be in demand as the further education system faces up to the changes and challenges ahead.

But let us swallow the lumps in our throats and dry the tears of admiration, at least for a minute, and consider what people from the private sector might also bring to the further education table.

Management cultures suited to the cut and thrust of the corporate world must be reappraised for the not-for-profit, public sector purposes of colleges. Independent learning providers may find there is less of a clash, but still, these are businesses that deliver education not widgets.

This is what makes initiatives such as Catalyst and its component programme, Make a Difference, worth supporting. Make a Difference preselects people to join a pool of potential FE managers. Having secured a job, Make a Difference entrants receive management training. It all amounts to a thorough induction to FE.

People like Barry Johns should, therefore, be nothing other than a positive influence on further education.

But there is another way to ensure that the optimum public-private cultural balance is maintained. And that is by giving opportunities for professional development and career progression to those already working in further education. For this we support and expect much of organisations such as the Institute for Learning and the Learning and Skills Improvement Service.

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