National Leaders of Further Education (NLFEs) are one of the tools available to colleges as part of the active support outlined in the College oversight: support and intervention guidance.
National Leaders of Further Education (NLFEs) are serving college leaders who have a strong track record of delivering improvement – both at their own colleges and in working with others. They provide mentoring and improvement support to other colleges.
The NLFE programme aims is to engage and mobilise outstanding leaders within the further education sector to work with their peers in supporting improvement, to secure the best possible outcomes for learners at all colleges. NLFEs are supported in their role by their senior leadership teams and members of staff in their own colleges.
Participation in the NLFE programme offers principals and colleges the opportunity to develop the skills of senior staff through leading improvement projects, to work with other NLFEs as part of an active improvement network, and to transfer learning and experience from both back to their home college. Designation as an NLFE is prestigious, helping colleges to attract good quality staff, and to build strong relationships with employers.
The role of an NLFE
NLFEs have significant autonomy in determining how they deliver support and tailor their work to fit the needs of the college(s) they are supporting. This could include involving other members of the NLFE’s college staff to provide support. An NLFE might, for example:
- work with the principal and leadership team of the supported college to identify improvement needs, and potential sources of support
- provide strategic mentoring to the college leadership; or
- work alongside key members of the leadership team on the delivery of specific improvement programmes
The department will match NLFEs to colleges that have requested support or where a need has been identified by the FE Commissioner.
NLFEs may work to support improvement within their own region, or with a college in a neighbouring region, where issues around competition between the relevant institutions are less likely to arise.
Where an NLFE is engaged on the delivery of a major improvement project, the NLFE diagnoses and reviews improvement needs, and works with the leadership of the college to draw up an appropriate improvement plan, identifying suitable sources of support – including, where applicable, the NLFE and their own college. The NLFE negotiates the arrangements under which their support is provided to the supported college, see section on funding below.
Each year, an NLFE (including their team) is expected to commit a minimum of 10 days to their role, and to undertake at least one major improvement project partnering with another college. The time commitment involved in delivery of a major project varies significantly according to the nature of the improvement activities involved, and the NLFE’s role.
Funding for work as an NLFE comes from 2 sources:
An annual bursary
DfE provides the NLFE’s home institution with an annual bursary that can be used to cover costs associated with the NLFE role. The value of the bursary is £10K per annum. The costs covered through the bursary can include, for example:
- travel for meetings, NLFE training and network events
- travel to an initial meeting with a college to discuss a potential need
- the cost of staff cover in relation to those activities
- professional development for the NLFE’s college team which is related to the NLFE role; and
- other non-recoverable costs incurred as part of the NLFE role
The supported college
For major projects, and other support activity where the costs incurred by the NLFE exceed the amount provided for in the annual bursary, the NLFE’s costs need to be recovered from the supported college.
Training and development
All new NLFEs attend an induction workshop and will be invited to meetings twice a year. They are also invited to join a network with other NLFEs where they can share experience and good practice in delivering improvement support.
NLFEs will be required to submit quarterly reports on the improvement support that they have provided and its impact. They will also be required to report on bursary spending at the end of each financial year.
If an NLFE fails to provide the minimum level of support in any given academic year, his or her status will be reviewed, and some or all the bursary funding paid for that period may be repayable.
NLFEs are appointed for up to 3 years. At the end of their period of appointment, they may be able to apply for re-appointment.
To apply you must:
- be a serving CEO Principal of a general or specialist further education college or sixth-form college in England
- have been a substantive CEO Principal for approximately 5 years or more (at point of application), in which time you have been legally responsible for the management of a college and accountable to the governing body
- either be named as CEO Principal in the most recent Ofsted inspection report for your current college where ‘overall effectiveness’, ‘leadership and management’ and ‘teaching, learning and assessment’ have been judged as at least ‘good’
- or be named in the most recent Ofsted inspection for your previous college with the same grading (where the most recent Ofsted inspection for your current college pre-dates the point at which you became CEO Principal, or where your current college is treated by Ofsted as a new provider and does not yet have an Ofsted inspection grade)
Your current college must not be in intervention.
Your application will be rigorously assessed including a review of:
- your skills
- your expertise
- your track record
- your Ofsted inspection reports
- data that DfE and ESFA hold on institutions in which you have served
There will be an initial paper-based sift. Short-listed candidates will be invited to an interview and scenario-based exercise.
We will consider factors relevant to the objectives of the NLFE programme in making a decision. For example, geographical distribution and a range of experience across all NLFEs to best match the improvement needs of colleges.
If you are interested in becoming a National Leader of Further Education, please download the FE.Commissioner@education.gov.uk .and email the completed form to
The deadline for applications is 31 December 2021. We expect to invite shortlisted candidates to an assessment centre in January 2022.
If you have any questions about the NLFE programme, please email FE.Commissioner@education.gov.uk.