Time to face the challenges and opportunities of the academic year

Dr Paul Phillips - Weston College

Dr Paul Phillips OBE

Dr Paul Phillips OBE, Principal and Chief Executive of Weston College gives Business Leader Magazine his thoughts on the education sector.

Well the honeymoon period is definitely over and it is time to face both the challenges and opportunities of the academic year.

The agenda does remain a little confusing but it only requires a few tweaks to get it moving smoothly from my perspective.

Like statins

It’s a bit like statins in my view; one week in the newspaper I read that they are the very best solution in healthcare, the next week a different article reports on the dangers of long term use.

But let’s be optimistic and hope that our ‘statins’ produce the best possible results.

I will start with adult loans on the checklist.

At Weston College the take up has been better than expected for core adult provision, particularly Access provision, but for apprenticeships it has been dire and that must be a worry in the ‘get Britain back to work’ agenda.

Meeting with David Laws MP

Also I recently met with David Laws, the Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Yeovil and the Minister of State for Schools and the Cabinet Office, and raised some of these particular issues.

His response was highly analytical and enquiring and there was real understanding of the agenda faced by the education sector.

This is the same person who supported the agenda already afforded to schools so that ‘disadvantaged’ students in further education and sixth form colleges will be eligible for free school meals.

When such a funding anomaly is resolved it gives us hope for the future – one down and 99 to go!

Is the level playing field between colleges, sixth form colleges and schools on the horizon for both funding and inspection?

I must go and find my tablets; I think I am getting euphoric.

Local Enterprise Partnerships

Now to the thorny issue of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) and the Skills Funding Agency and the proposed pilots allied to funding and capital.

Principals locally gathered to consider such a future only this week and there is an impetus to ensure that we deliver to the agenda of the LEP which, if it is serving into communities uniformly, should mean no changes to approaches if LEPs and College are working together to ensure that through a ‘skills matrix’ agendas are simultaneously met.

As educational leaders and deliverers we must not lose sight of the learner and why we came into this exciting profession in the first place.

A brave strategy

The Colleges and schools/academies in our communities need to work together and build trust to ensure that the very best learning opportunities are available to every learner.

The authority I work with is North Somerset Council and this week they put on a seminar for the College, schools and academies to press home this message.

It was from my perspective a brave strategy and let’s face it with their own limited powers under the current education agenda they could have just avoided the issue.