Minister is playing the blame game

7th December 2018 at 00:00

The current trend for blaming a single individual for a college’s troubles is awful.

Not only is it toxic for talent management as leaders ask, “Why would I want to step into the firing line?”, it’s also perfect ammunition for the government spending money elsewhere.

In her recent speech to the Association of Colleges, Anne Milton said there were too many colleges in “severe financial constraints that could have been avoided with good leadership”. She won’t blame her government, so she kicks the ball back into the institutions’ half.

And while it is simpler for us to blame an individual, which appeals to our sense of schadenfreude, it’s wiser to embrace the complexity of what is really going on. I know strong, expert leaders who decided to leave their colleges because it was the most effective way to secure support for the institution they loved. Sometimes departure is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Let it be clear, colleges’ big problem is this: for the past decade they have been insufficiently funded to do the job required of them, and those requirements change far too often. Forced mergers, a halving of adult learners, low pay, mass interventions – these are not the fault of individuals.

If, by miracle, every principal in FE was magically extremely wise and acted accordingly, would colleges receive more funding? I think not.

Ben Verinder is managing director of education consultancy Chalkstream

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