FIVE colleges have become the first to achieve accredited status and will each receive a one-off payment of pound;50,000 to help share examples of good practice in the sector.
The Further Education Funding Council named the colleges as Blackpool and The Fylde, Greenhead (in Huddersfield), Havering (in Essex), Knowsley (in Merseyside), and Worthing Sixth Form college.
To achieve accredited status colleges must: show the existence of effective quality assurance; apply regular and rigorous self-assessment; set targets for institutional performance; demonstrate that student achievements are being improved; and take effective action to remedy any weaknesses in accountability.
Four of the colleges, Greenhead, Havering, Knowsley and Blackpoole and The Fylde, will be having a double celebration. Last week they were among 10 colleges named as beacons of excellence by Education Secretary David Blunkett.
Those awards also came with a pound;50,000 payment, again to spread good practice, and to help weaker colleges in their area. Although all the extra funding was welcome, there was some concern in the sector that the outside world would find the awards system confusing.
In addition to Mr Blunkett's beacons, the Association of Colleges also has a programme of Beacon Awards for good practice.
Jim Donaldson, the Further Education Funding Council chief inspector, said the criteria for accreditation was demanding, but they provided an incentive for colleges to raise standards. "We expect these five colleges to be followed by many others as more go through our second round of inspections," he said. "These colleges will be in the vanguard of a process that will significantly change the way we work with colleges."
In Wales, Coleg Llandrillo has won an award of pound;16,586 in recognition of the quality of its catering provision, plus a further pound;2,000 to share good practice with other colleges.
The size of the award reflects the volume of student learning in the programme.