Pember is back for AoC review

The former head of FE and skills investment at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is to lead a review of college governance.

Dr Susan Pember, who retired from the civil service just over two months ago, has taken up the post of governance review adviser at the Association of Colleges.

Her first task is to draw up an action plan to support governors and clerks.

She said the review had been commissioned “not because the present system is broken, far from it, governance of FE colleges is working well, but to determine what is now needed for the future”.

The work is expected to take around three months and will involve finding good practice by looking at organisations relevant to college governance, and carrying out an appraisal of existing support.

Martin Doel, association chief executive, said: “With her background as a former principal, as a governor of a college (West Herts) and as a former senior civil servant working on this agenda in BIS, Dr Pember was eminently well qualified to lead this work.” It is due to be completed by September.

The review will also look at helping chairs to assess output from Ofsted, the type of helpline and web support that should be in place, and legal and advice services.

It comes five months after Ofsted boss Sir Michael Wilshaw told members of the education select committee that college governance was not as responsive as school governance when failure was identified.

Sir Michael had already expressed concerns about college governance in his first annual report as Ofsted boss in November last year.

Ofsted learning and skills director Matthew Coffey welcomed Dr Pember’s review.

He said: “Governance is such a fundamental aspect of leadership and management, something that was highlighted in last year’s annual report.

“Weak accountability, leadership and governance are common failings in poor provision.

“One of the most significant underpinning reasons why providers failed to improve was a lack of effective accountability.

“Following discussions with the association’s governors’ council, Ofsted is developing a governors’ dashboard that will support governors in their role.”

Mr Doel said: “With the freedoms extended to colleges under New Challenges New Chances it is clear that more will be asked of governors and governance in colleges.

“These enhanced expectations were reinforced in Rigour and Responsiveness and in the annual report by the chief inspector.

“In response to this, the governors’ council has initiated a review of governance support requirements and arrangements for colleges with funding from BIS.”

Dr Pember, who got an OBE in 2000 for services to FE, joined the then-Department for Education and Skills in 2000 as director of adult basic skills strategy, before taking up her BIS position in 2006.

She began her career as a lecturer and later became a senior education officer, before taking over as principal at Canterbury College.