New College Principal leads calls for national change

The principal of a local sixth form college is petitioning government to give all sixth form colleges the right to join academy chains, where they could contribute to “narrowing gaps, raising attainment, [and] collaboration”, the very goals the government has set.
Pauline Hagen, principal of New College Pontefract, is one of the key voices spearheading the campaign and features in this week’s edition of the TES, the education sector’s leading publication.
New College Pontefract is opening a 16-19 free school in Doncaster in 2016. It has created an academy trust to oversee the Doncaster project, but is not allowed to join that academy itself as it is an incorporated college.
That means New College Pontefract pays VAT, as do all sixth form colleges around the country with an average bill of £335,000 per year. New College Doncaster, on the other hand, like every school in the country, will be VAT exempt. In addition, 5-16 schools have had their budgets protected since 2010, whereas sixth form colleges have seen their budgets repeatedly cut.
“We feel we have much more in common with schools,” said Ms Hagen, “in terms of our systems, our pedagogy and our performance-related bonus scheme [for staff pay], than we do with FE. If you ask me where I stand, it’s on the schools side, not on the FE side.”
Ms Hagen’s comments are backed-up by the Sixth Form College’s Association (SFCA) which last week voted to explore closer links with the schools sector and explore the possibility of institutions converting to academy or free school status.