An innovative multi-million pound fund to boost the quality of education offered across the further education sector has been launched by Skills Minister Anne Milton (28 June).
Speaking at the Association of Colleges conference, the Minister announced the main phase of the £15million Strategic College Improvement Fund (SCIF), which will partner strong colleges with those in need of improvement –to share best practice and drive up standards.
Colleges that need support to improve will be able to apply for a grant to work with a stronger ‘partnering’ college and together they will create an action plan to tackle the issues they face.
Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Anne Milton said:
We want to improve the quality of education for everyone. It is vital that all further education and sixth form colleges are able to give people the skills and knowledge they need to get on in their life and succeed in the workplace.
I’m really thrilled to announce the next phase of the £15million Strategic College Improvement Fund. This fund will enable colleges to work together to improve standards across all colleges.
The launch of this fund follows a successful pilot phase, which saw fourteen colleges receive grants totalling over £2million. Outcomes from the pilot included colleges reporting that the fund built awareness of good practice, fostered mutual learning and enabled rapid action to improve quality.
This move follows the launch of the National Leaders of Further Education and National Leaders of Governance programmes, which also aim to spread the expertise seen in the top colleges across the country.
Association of Colleges Director of Education and Skills Policy David Corke said:
Association of Colleges has long called for a peer improvement scheme for further education to match the one in schools.
It was great to see the Department for Education pilot this and we are encouraged by the opening up of the eligibility criteria to allow more colleges to apply.
Sixth Form Colleges Association Chief Executive Bill Watkin said:
We are delighted that, after a successful pilot, from which valuable lessons have been learned, the Strategic College Improvement Fund is to be made available to more colleges. The SCIF represents a real opportunity to benefit from a well-structured and well-resourced quality improvement programme, and we urge colleges to apply to participate.
Sixth Form Colleges are a tight-knit and mutually supportive family of providers and the SCIF means that colleges that understand each other will have a framework to help each other and learn from each other. The result will mean an even better sixth form experience for even more young people.
Further Education Commissioner Richard Atkins said:
I welcome today’s launch of the SCIF. The fund offers a great opportunity to harness the capacity within the sector.
Improvement through collaboration, as encouraged by the SCIF, is a fantastic and viable approach to improving the quality offer within the FE sector.
I encourage colleges to apply to the SCIF, either as applicant colleges with a specific quality improvement need or as partnering colleges to share best practice, knowledge and expertise.
Available until March 2020, the SCIF is funded by the Department for Education and will be administered by the Education and Skills Funding Agency.