Nic Dakin

Standing up for Local People

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Future of sixth form colleges

JLC.jpgMy article in  House Magazine.

 

Let me declare my interest as former Principal of John Leggott College in Scunthorpe.  In the 1960s inspirational local leaders established it as one of the first sixth form colleges in the country.  This demonstrated the power of local decision makers to make the best decisions for their community and young people. 

Like sixth form colleges elsewhere John Leggott has been a successful part of the educational landscape ever since.  Indeed sixth form colleges are consistently amongst the highest performing institutions nationally.  So why has a Conservative government made life so difficult for them? 

With 11-16 funding per student in schools at £5553 and in academies at £5969, why are sixth form college students funded at just £4,560 per student?  Whilst the Chancellor’s last minute decision not to further cut the core post-16 funding was welcome sixth form colleges remain funded 20% less than schools and academies.  And there’s no guarantee that other aspects of their funding, such as that for disadvantage or free school meals, will not yet be attacked by a Treasury hungry for further cuts.

For a long while now MPs have championed their sixth form colleges drawing attention to various funding injustices including the unequal treatment of schools and SFCs in relation to VAT.  So I welcome the government’s willingness to allow SFCs the opportunity to become academies if they meet the criteria and wish to. 

But what does it mean?  Is it just another structural fix of a symptom rather than a willingness to address the core problem that these Cinderellas who serially over deliver, should no longer be short changed when it comes to State funding?  When the Conservative Government should be tackling their self-created crisis in teacher recruitment and supply they typically prefer to fiddle around with structures!  But if structures are their answer why restrict the freedoms of SFCs who wish to convert to academies? 

SFCs enjoy a small number of freedoms that schools/academies do not, including charging fees to international students and receiving direct funding to deliver some higher education programmes.  At John Leggott the successful International Department was essentially an export business selling our high quality education to students drawn mainly from Asia.  It brings income to the college and the community and establishes future UK influence across the globe as alumni prosper.  Wouldn’t it be more free thinking and entrepreneurial to extend these freedoms to academies where they wished to explore them rather than say SFCs converting to academies should cease this activity?

What college governors and Principals want more than anything else is some certainty about the future of funding to their successful colleges!  Then they can plan their future activities and curriculum with the sort of confidence their present and future students deserve.  In the end with the option to convert to academies available SFCs, as autonomous, independent institutions will make the best decisions for their learners and their communities as the foresighted local leaders who created them did in their time. 

Trusting local people is a far better way of determining the future than any top down, government imposed area review!!!

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