Is your FE college letting you down?

Roshan Doug shares 10 common warning signs that he says highlight problems with a college's leadership

Roshan Doug

10 warning signs of problems in FE college leadership

Most educational establishments are alike in terms of contents and structure. After all, they are governed by the same set of laws and regulations designed to maintain standardisation and uniformity.

Nevertheless, certain signs will indicate how badly organised or ill-managed an establishment is. And what’s more, you don’t have to be an expert to detect these.

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Here are 10 common pointers that will hint at the quality of an organisation's leadership:

10 signs of problems in college leadership

1. A pattern has emerged in the constant changing of the principal or headteacher in a relatively short period of time. 

This leaves the absence of a strong, defined leadership while chief executives pursue their climb on the pole, jumping from one institution to another.

2. The establishment has a history of appointing managers punching above their weight

This is sometimes due to nepotism or the formation of an inner circle. Family members and friends of the senior management team end up being appointed. This may have become common practice so that it doesn't even raise an eyebrow anymore.

3. Exams or registry admin staff leave at the most critical time in the academic year – ie, during enrolment or just before the exams season

This may result in multiple staff making frantic phone calls to students on the day of the exam, leaving parents befuddled and anxious due to mixed messages that their children might be receiving.

4. There is a big turnover of academic staff, especially those from minority groups

It may be that very little data relating to this is available from human resources apart from the standard equality and diversity documents. This may suggest that either they don’t care or they don’t have the skill and expertise to address the situation.

5. The establishment is known to appoint staff with the least experience, skills or qualifications into senior management while ignoring those with a higher set of skills

This is usually due to the insecurity culture often found in sleepy establishments that are made up of insular-thinking people, appointed through a dubious recruitment and selection process, or those with a limited understanding of education policy.

6. The senior management team possess a distinct paranoia about the way the educational establishment is perceived in the community

Staff may be banned from voicing their personal views on social policy whether privately or on social media platforms, even if their views are legitimate and make no reference to education or the place of work. Yet, at the same time, such establishments will proclaim to champion free speech, diversity and tolerance as British values.

7. Senior managers often ask their subordinates who have more expertise and skill on education policy to help them with their reports or research papers 

At the same time, they will have no qualms about disciplining them for writing about politics and education or spearheading public discourses on teaching and learning strategies.

8. Senior managers such as assistant principals or deputy principals regularly step in with their high-vis jackets and walkie-talkies to assist with invigilation 

This will indicate the lack of foresight or organisational competence in the selected leaders.

9. The establishment doesn’t share students' personal and educational needs with all the teaching staff because of data protection

This will prevent those very students from functioning effectively in a classroom situation, leaving them at a severe disadvantage during teaching and learning.

10. Local media are often privy to sensitive information that is kept from the staff who have to glean it second-hand from published sources or news broadcasts

This will reinforce the failure of the establishment to coordinate the basic rules about information sharing. It also suggests how little the management thinks of its staff.

Of course, not all of the above apply to all educational establishments. Indeed, there are FE and training providers that do an excellent job because they are forward-thinking and genuinely celebrate diversity, experience and skills.

But unfortunately, there are still far too many FE establishments that function below the radar. These need to be targeted for the sake of our youngsters, if not the dedicated staff who merely want to do a good job as teachers and lecturers.

Dr Roshan Doug is a educational consultant and FE teacher based in Birmingham. He tweets @RoshanDoug

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