Leading skills – exploring leadership in Further Education colleges (part 1)


Further education colleges provide skills to 2.2 million adults and 16-18 year-olds. Compared to those on the skill level below, undertaking training through further education boosts employment and wages, raising pay by 11% for those who achieve Level 2 and 9% for those who achieve Level 3.

Effective leadership underpins successful colleges. 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 16 percentage points (equivalent to five good GCSEs). And at a time of significant funding reductions, competition from other providers and huge technological change, the case for strong leadership is all the more powerful.

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.

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 report is the first of two seeking to fill this gap.

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