Education sector Partner, Paul Aristides, considers the impact on senior leadership recruitment in the light of the reclassification of the FE sector by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Given the recent reclassification of the FE sector and its now redefined status as a part of Central Government, it’s interesting to consider what impact might this have in recruiting to College senior leadership. One obvious area is salary and given the large number of College Principals/CEOs on a salary north of 150k, will salaries get signed off and signed off promptly? How will governing bodies react to rejected salary levels?
Current levels of dissatisfaction are quite vocal with formal objections potentially being submitted and frustrations centred on what it might mean in terms of Treasury intervention and FE control. Some disruption is already being felt by the sector and decision making will inevitably be delayed. One implication for Principals is that independence of decision making, that may have been a key attraction to the role, will need to become more compliant and this will require different skills to ensure decision making itself isn’t hamstrung by the additional hurdles to cross.
One consequence of this change might be a larger number of principals choosing to retire or leave the sector, many earlier than planned, which will leave a number of gaps across FE. Positioning the roles effectively and having clarity around the skills needed to work in partnership with government will be an initial priority. Thorough assessment will be needed to ensure that applicants are not appointed into role before they are ready.
While it should be recognised that a focus on different behaviours will be needed to collaborate effectively and navigate a complex stakeholder landscape, what the sector will not want to see is any less emphasis on creativity, innovation and commercialism so important to meet the needs of the communities Colleges serve. The financial sustainability of the sector relies on commercial activity and unless there is increased funding, many colleges will suffer with the potential curtailing of this commercial independence.