Leading skills: Exploring leadership in Further Education colleges – Paper 1

The future of Further Education and the backgrounds of college leaders. Ben Savours and Nigel Keohane

The Further Education and Skills sector fulfils a twin economic and social mission by providing educational opportunities to young people, adults and employers within a diverse range of settings.

Central to success in these missions is effective leadership. There is a strong body of evidence showing that leadership matters to public service outcomes. Specifically, past research has shown that good leaders in FE drive improvements in teaching standards and student outcomes.

Compared to studying in a college led by a low performing leader, a successful leader can improve the likelihood of a student achieving a Level 2 qualification by 15.9 percentage points and a Level 3 by 14.1 percentage points.

Over the fence, school leadership has received considerable attention from policymakers and politicians. Reforms have included efforts to: reduce bureaucracy, increase headteacher autonomy, recruit and develop top headteachers, bring headteachers in from outside the sector, professionalise school leadership, and establish a recognised path to school leadership. The list goes on.

However, there has been much less analysis of who college leaders are, what skills they need in a fast-changing environment and how we can develop the leaders for the future. This project seeks to fill this gap.

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