Stone King comments on Commission’s publication of recommendations for English Colleges

Following its most recent report outlining its UK-wide thoughts, the Commission on the College of the Future has today published recommendations specifically in relation to the role of colleges in England. Further recommendations in respect of the remaining three nations are expected to be published in the coming weeks.

Welcoming the publication of The English College of the Future, Stone King Partner and Head of Further Education Tom Morrison said:

We are at a key moment for all our colleges. Following a difficult decade the Government was already well underway with planning a substantial review of Further Education when the pandemic hit. At the same time the Commission and its supporters have been engaging in some of the boldest discussions in FE: what role does our country want colleges to play over the coming decade and how can we support them in that?

The pandemic has only served to heighten the importance of supporting colleges to deliver on their missions, and the Commission’s latest report offers some thoughts on how that could be done.

We are awaiting the Government’s FE White Paper, promised before the end of the year, but this report provides an opportunity for the sector to make its voice heard before the White Paper is published. If you feel that any of these recommendations could support your college’s role in its community then now is an opportunity to amplify the Commission’s work and spread the word. If there are recommendations you are unsure of, there is no better way to explore that than to get involved in the discussions. A key theme from the report is that colleges collectively should be in a position to take the lead and propose solutions that work for their circumstances and their localities. There is a common good here which we can all serve by contributing to the development of policy in a sector which delivers so much social and economic benefit.

The report makes eleven core recommendations, following the themes which emerged from its earlier publications around the role of colleges in supporting people, place and productivity. In addition to a series of recommendations supporting colleges as anchor institutions in their localities, there are ideas for developing increased collaboration between and amongst college networks, with funding settlements and an oversight regime to match. Employers are proposed to be given the opportunity to engage with colleges in a more structured way and the education ecosystem is encouraged to operated in a more joined up way.

Stone King Education Partner Ciara Campfield works with providers across the sector, including some of the most progressive MATs as well as Sixth Form and General Further Education Colleges. Noting the Commission’s recommendations regarding the future relationship between colleges and schools, Ciara said:

Given our team’s work across the sector, we see examples of innovation and joined up thinking in communities throughout the country. There are a number of colleges who have taken school partnership working to the next level by sponsoring MATs directly with the goal of helping them to achieve better outcomes for learners in their localities.

There are some very real practical challenges currently faced by College/MAT provider groups in implementing the most effective solutions in what can at times be a tricky policy context. We welcome the Commission’s proposals for a pilot to explore some potentially impactful changes. There are several of our College/MAT provider group clients who are keen to contribute to progressive policy development in this field and we continue to engage at all levels in trying to find solutions to help these groups be as effective and efficient as they can be so that they can drive up standards and support their communities.

Noting the Commission’s comments around the development of college networks, Tom Morrison said:

The sector has always been at its best when taking control of its own destiny. We know what colleges are for, and the Commission’s report provides a possible bedrock from which the case can be made for increased investment and focus. Collaboration and coordination amongst colleges, and between colleges and other stakeholders, is going to be a key feature throughout this coming decade: making the most of our available resources, coming together to provide student- and employer-focussed solutions, concentrating expertise, and strengthening our communities.

This is the time when we are reminded of the transformative power of FE and the ability of our colleges to deliver on audacious goals in partnership with other stakeholders for the public good.

You can read the Commission’s report here. We will continue to contribute to the work of the Commission, the Association of Colleges and others and will be publishing more thoughts on the recommendations contained within Commission’s report - and, once published, the FE White Paper. Following on from our recent webinar and subsequent paper, we will also be creating further opportunities to engage in the debate, regionally and nationally. If you would like to know more please contact Tom Morrison or Ciara Campfield.

The law and practice referred to in this article or webinar has been paraphrased or summarised. It might not be up-to-date with changes in the law and we do not guarantee the accuracy of any information provided at the time of reading. It should not be construed or relied upon as legal advice in relation to a specific set of circumstances.

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