This month sees the completion of a sea change in attitudes to running colleges. While staff are not required to train for senior posts, a national framework for management training is now ready, reports Neil Merrick
When the Further Education Development Agency's senior management team development programme starts later this month, it will more or less complete a jigsaw of courses for FE managers.
One hundred people have so far completed Feda's programme for principals, launched last year, and a further 220, including 20 from Wales, should complete it by April 2001. "Word seems to be getting around the sector," says Graham Peeke, Feda's director of professional and organisational development.
The senior leadership programme for aspiring principals, which has been running for two years, also seems to be growing in popularity. Ninety managers took part last year, compared with 25 the year before.
With Feda also running programmes for middle managers, the only group that appears to be missing out are junior or first-line managers.
The senior management team (SMT) programme is being jointly run with the consultants Hay McBer, which also assisted with the principals' programme. Senior teams from 100 colleges are expected to participate by next March.
The programme will last for five days with each college receiving pound;5,000 from the FEFC standards fund. People who have completed the principals' programme can skip most of the first module, which assesses the needs of teams and individuals, but should attend the other two, covering team effectiveness and development.
"We'll be looking at the effect the SMT has on the climae created in the college and how that impacts on the effectiveness of the college," says Mr Peeke. In some cases, managers may receive training with colleagues from their own college - without coming into contact with a manager from another institution.
This begs the question as to how much management development should be customised to an individual college, or whether managers are better off mixing with people from outside, if only to share good practice.
Feda suggests that colleges come forward in mini-clusters of three, which will also reduce the net cost per college (excluding pound;5,000 from the standards fund) from pound;10,800 to pound;733. Mr Peeke, however, accepts this may not be particularly attractive to a college if it believes it will receive less individual attention.
The Scottish FE Unit, Feda's sister body, also runs leadership programmes for prospective principals. Nearly 50 senior managers have participated during the past two years, with half of new principals appointed in Scotland last year coming through the scheme.
Jim Ross, principal consultant at the unit, says management training is improving in most of Scotland's 47 colleges - partly in response to a study carried out in 1999 for the Scottish FEFC (see page 20). Consultants KPMG found that, while most colleges were well managed, there was still room for improvement in areas such as finance and human resources.
Colleges are being asked to review their performance against a series of "challenge questions" resulting from KPMG's findings. "Most colleges have some work to do, but I would be surprised if many felt it would be a huge volume," says Mr Ross.