Press Release - FETL report
Research published today by Coleg Gwent, funded by the Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL), highlights the challenges FE colleges in Wales face with continuing austerity and how college leaders need to adapt their thinking and diversify.
The report, entitled ‘The changing face of FE leadership in Wales: meeting the challenges of financial austerity’, was launched in Newport, to an audience of education leaders, academics, policy makers, politicians and local authorities.
The report highlights a number of key findings and makes recommendations for the further education sector to be resilient and move swiftly to adapt to meet the challenges of the current financial climate, but it emphasises that the FE sector in Wales is diverse and there is ‘no one size fits all’ approach.
The FE sector in Wales is described in the report as the ‘neglected middle child’, squeezed between schools and universities who are far more effective lobbyists and it highlights a sector need to develop a consistent and robust ‘voice’ and a set of key messages for Welsh Government.
The sector as a whole recognises that their role is ‘not only to widen participation in education and in the economy, for the benefit of the individual and the wider community alike, but to tackle a broad range of political priorities – tackling poverty, social inclusion, increasing educational attainment and contributing to a vibrant and viable economy during a challenging era of ever diminishing resources’. However, there is agreement that there has already been a profound impact as a result of the cutbacks, specifically in part time and adult learning and this has impacted on social inclusion, creating inequalities in terms of access to education and training.
While FE institutions generally feel that they are under more financial pressure now than they have been at any time in the last 20 years, they feel that they have adapted successfully to the changes whilst maintaining the quality of their provision. However, the report notes that only a few FE institutions have a clear vision of how they intend to respond to any future funding cuts.
Coleg Gwent Chair of Governors, Angela Lloyd said: “This report represents the voices of senior leaders in both management and governance and has produced a thought provoking, challenging and constructive narrative in highlighting the current quality and commitment of leadership in the sector whilst identifying the need for further change to maintain and support its core business.”
Dame Ruth Silver, President of the Further Education Trust for Leadership said: “If we want to shape the future of FE and Skills, we must not underestimate the importance of strong corporate governance. To truly honour the people and futures we serve, Governance ahead must model clearly for all, impeccable and honourably wise leadership, the courage to lead change: their responsibility is a large one, it is both for today – and tomorrow.”
The report suggests that there is a degree of complacency regarding governance and differing views on the appropriate roles of governors and managers. It recommends that in some cases, Board membership should be reviewed and skills audits put in place to identify skills gaps.
It is recommended that on a sector wide level, a consensus should be built on the roles of governing bodies and consideration should be given to leaner structures and a recruitment process which enables the highest possible calibre of individuals to be head hunted to widen the business skillset of the Board in order to adequately respond to future needs and challenges.
The report further considers the current skills and experience of senior managers, with a need for leadership development programmes focusing on developing the necessary skills and expertise to deliver change management and employ commercial approaches to funding challenges. In addition, the need to look beyond the education sector for specialist, business focused leaders is raised.
Other recommendations within the Report include an increased focus on diversifying income streams and generating additional commercial income; collaboration and planning on a regional basis to avoid duplication, maximising cost savings and exploring opportunities such as shared services.
Notes to Editors
- FETL is an independent charity and think tank established to develop leadership of thought and evidence to change policy and practice within the FE and skills sector.
- Coleg Gwent is a Further Education college with five campuses, Blaenau Gwent Learning Zone, City of Newport, Crosskeys, Pontypool and Usk. The college also has a business training centre, in Newport.
- Coleg Gwent has 18,734 full and part time students. For more information on learning opportunities at Coleg Gwent, please telephone 01495 333777, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or log on to coleggwent.ac.uk