19th February 2016 at 00:00
Swept under the MAT

Strength is power

Ever since chancellor George Osborne made the grand announcement back in November that sixth-form colleges would be able to become academies, speculation has been rife about which institutions would be allowed to make the transition.

If it hasn’t already arrived, the long-awaited official guidance on this should finally be landing in principals’ inboxes next week. And, if the early version stuffed into an unmarked brown envelope that ended up in FErret’s paws is anything to go by, clarification is finally here.

The primary opportunity for academy conversion is for institutions looking to join or set up a multi-academy trust (MAT), the document reveals. Here are the “four main scenarios” in which the government envisages the transition could take place:

An “educationally strong” college with strong finances (ie, rated “good” or “outstanding” both by Ofsted and in terms of its financial health) becoming a sponsor and establishing a new MAT.

An educationally strong college with sound finances (ie, satisfactory or better) joining an existing MAT.

An “educationally weak” college (likely to be rated “inadequate” or as “requiring improvement”) joining a strong MAT with “the capacity to drive improvement”.

A “financially vulnerable” college joining an MAT in a more secure financial position.

In cases where a college opts to become a standalone academy, it will need to be “financially and educationally strong” (so rated either “good” or “outstanding”), and set out a range of partnerships with schools and other local providers.

In short, the plans allow for sixth-form colleges in positions of either strength or weakness or make the transition to academy status. But their strategic influence on the emerging MAT landscape will be very much defined by their current educational and financial strength.

The lady’s not for turning

Stephen Grix, the chief executive of MidKent College, is not in FErret’s good books this week. Fair enough: his sage advice in Further earlier this month about not letting work get in the way of family life was a crucial message for those of you who regard yourselves as slaves to the FE sector (bit.ly/GrixBalance).

But Mr Grix’s “important reflections we can all learn from”, as one reader described them, may have cost FErret a few bob. Rewind back to September, and the retirement of FE’s grand dame Lynne Sedgmore from the 157 Group. Despite the irrepressible Dr Sedgmore’s insistence that she really was exiting FE for the final time, FErret was willing to bet that she wouldn’t be able to stay away from her beloved sector for long (not least because her first attempt at retirement lasted about the same length of time as the average tenure of a Leeds United manager).

But now it transpires that, just as Dr S was about to crumble and apply for a position serving on a board in the sector, Grix’s “brave and beautiful” words on the importance of putting family first persuaded her against it. Damn it, Grix…

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