Teachers are deserting Further Education in an exodus of talent that could hurt poor students and leave the sector without effective leadership in the coming years, a think-tank has warned. 

The Social Market Foundation said that political neglect of the FE sector is harming the life chances of millions of poor students. Politicians must do much more to support the FE sector and ensure colleges and other providers have strong leaders in future. 

The SMF warning come after the Augar Review of post-18 education urged politicians to give more money and support to Further Education and the millions of learners who rely on it. 

Most FE students are from low-income homes. Of the 2.2 million people aged 19 and over studying in FE institutions, more than half are from the lowest income households.   Almost a third of all FE students -- 683,000 people -- are from the most deprived 20% of the population.

In their report “Leading skills: Exploring leadership in Further Education colleges – Paper 2” supported by the Further Education Trust for Leadership, the SMF said that more than one in five FE teachers leaves the sector each year, a worse retention rate than for any high-skilled job in the public sector.   

FE teachers have been abandoning the sector as budgets shrink, the SMF said: the annual retention rate dropped has 5 percentage points from 84% in 2012 to 79%.

To stem the loss of potential future leaders, the SMF recommended ministers offer a package of support for “middle leaders” in FE giving teachers a clearer path to leadership roles, including more money for training and development.  

Ministers should also consider creating an independent staff college for FE, similar to the National College for School Leadership, to promote the status of FE and develop leadership talent in the sector. 

The SMF report builds on the analysis of the recent Augar Review, which warned that FE is finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and retain “high quality teachers and leaders”, partly because the schools sector offers significantly higher pay.

The Augar Review said this of FE staffing: 

“Recruitment of high quality teachers and leaders is made challenging by direct competition from schools, HEIs and business, all of which typically offer more attractive rates of pay for comparable roles.” (p128)

Nigel Keohane, SMF research director, said:

“Politicians have too long ignored the crucial role that Further Education plays in teaching and training millions of the most disadvantaged people in Britain. This exodus of talent as well as steep funding cuts are testament to this neglect.“Colleges need strong leaders who can deliver opportunity for learners and skills for their local economies. Now is the moment to invest in a pipeline of talent for the future.”

The SMF made several detailed recommendations for how FE can strengthen its “pipeline” of future leaders, starting with middle leaders in the sector: 


Increase investment: The DfE and the sector should increase investment in training and development for middle leaders, and the Middle Leaders programmes should be expanded significantly.

Create a formal qualification: The DfE should also consult on whether to create a formal qualification similar to the National Professional Headship Qualification in schools, with a view to creating a qualification that can act as a signal to potential leaders and to governing bodies.

FE Leaders Career Plan Guide: Sector bodies should create an FE Leaders Career Plan Guide to help talented junior managers understand the paths to leadership.

Public Services Leadership Academy: The Government should invite FE colleges to participate in its new Public Services Leadership Academy. We believe this could benefit the FE sector (especially those one-rung below principal) and other parts of the public sector.

Independent staff college: The DfE, in collaboration with sector bodies, should consult on establishing an independent staff college (similar to the National College for School Leadership) to promote the status of FE as well as to be responsible for system-level initiatives to retain and develop leadership talent in the sector.

Subsidise training: The DfE should consider a generous scheme to subsidise training and development and to reimburse colleges for time taken off to train by middle leaders.

Graduate programme: Unlike many other sectors, FE does not have a graduate programme for bringing in and developing talent. Previous attempts to bring in leaders from outside the sector have also had mixed success. That makes it especially important for FE to support existing staff as potential leaders, the SMF said. 

The report was supported by the Further Education Trust for Leadership, a registered charity. The SMF retained full editorial independence and is committed to naming all its financial supporters.

About the Social Market Foundation (SMF): A non-partisan think tank. We believe that fair markets, complemented by open public services, increase prosperity and help people to live well. We conduct research and run events looking at a wide range of economic and social policy areas, focusing on economic prosperity, public services and consumer markets.  The SMF is resolutely independent, and the range of backgrounds and opinions among our staff, trustees and advisory board reflects this.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Alicia has published a new article: The Rise of WFH & the Live-Anywhere Generation 11 minutes ago

Pain past is pleasure.

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page