Don't rest on your laurels, says Ofsted
Colleges that underperform are frequently blighted by complacency, a lack of ambition and poor self-assessment, Ofsted has concluded. A new report by the watchdog found that some institutions which fail to achieve a "good" rating or better in their inspections are often disadvantaged by a lack of "direction and vision from senior staff", and can be overly preoccupied with finance or capital building projects to the detriment of teaching and learning. Colleges with a higher proportion of temporary staff also tend to struggle, Ofsted found. Matthew Coffey, the watchdog's national director for learning and skills, said: "In outstanding and improving colleges, staff were more willing to accept change and could easily describe what their college stood for. As a result, leadership teams were better placed to act decisively to tackle underperformance and secure improvement."
'Overwhelming mandate' for strike at K College
University and College Union (UCU) members at K College in Kent have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a half-day strike on Monday (8 October) over plans to make up to 145 staff redundant. The UCU reported a 71 per cent ballot turnout, with 93 per cent of members backing the strike. Members of the NUT will also be taking part. The move comes about two months after 50 other posts were axed. UCU regional support official Adam Lincoln said: "Strike action is never entered into lightly, but the overwhelming mandate from members at K College demonstrates how determined they are to fight these ill-conceived and unjustified proposals." Principal Bill Fearon has insisted that the college has no choice but to scrap some unpopular courses in order to save money.
AELP moots payment by results for schools
Schools should be subject to a payment-by-results regime to improve pupils' GCSE attainment in English and maths, according to a paper by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP). The paper says the reform would help to address employers' complaints about young people not having the basic skills they need for the world of work. AELP chief executive Graham Hoyle said: "Government should accept responsibility for ensuring that potential apprentices reach the minimum levels of English and maths and other generic 'soft' employability skills."
Cash on completion for qualifications
Awarding body NCFE has launched a new pricing structure for qualifications after concerns were raised about colleges hit with high bills for late registration fees and students who drop out. The Association of Colleges has calculated that its members waste #163;20 million a year under the current system. In August, the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), which represents the largest exam boards, revealed that it was developing a new system to reduce the fees for colleges, due to be introduced in 2014. Under NCFE's new model, learners can be registered without charge and colleges will only be billed for the number of learners that successfully complete the qualification at the point when they receive their certificates.
In last week's FErret column ("Exposing the seedy underbelly of the sector", 28 September), we reported that author Richard Ayres used to be vice-principal of Newcastle College. In fact, he used to work at Newcastle-under-Lyme College.