Time to shine a spotlight on college governance

Time to shine a spotlight on college governance

Skills Minister Matthew Hancock and Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw have both drawn attention to the importance of FE governance.

The minister spoke of the contribution made by governors when he addressed a gathering of 130 FE governors and chairs of governors, at Lancaster House, London, early in the year.

“I am deeply grateful for the commitment and energy you bring to your roles as governors,” he said.

“Just over a year ago, New Challenges, New Chances advocated an increasingly important role for college governors in their institution’s decision–making.

“I have been impressed with the way the best colleges have taken ownership of this approach and responded positively.

“I know that achieving effective college governance is not easy.

“Colleges are large and complex businesses serving a wide range of customers, striving to meet the aspirations of learners and employers alike, as well as performing a vital role at the centre of their local communities.”

But ultimately, he said, institutions with effective practice and successful governance were those in which decision–making was “transparent, properly informed, rigorous and timely, where there are appropriate and effective systems of financial and operational control.”

Mr Hancock said: “Above all, where there is a strong commitment to providing a quality service for all those that the college serves.”

He said that being a college governor was “a serious job”. It needed a lot of commitment especially from chairs. “It is therefore timely to consider how we support governors” he said. “We want to work with you to look at this matter.”

The minister reminded governors that it was their responsibility to ensure their board contained the breadth of skills that it needed, and to take up their new freedom to form a wider range of strategic partnerships.

“Much has already been delivered, but there is more to do,” he said. “Rest assured, we will help you in whatever way we can to ensure that you get the support and development that you need.”

Meanwhile, Sir Michael spoke about the role of governance for schools and colleges at the Association of School and College Leaders’ annual conference on March 15.

He said: “It is important governors support heads who are trying to make a difference and play an active part in challenging the school to do better.

“Consequently, Ofsted is reporting on governance in much greater depth and with much greater rigour.”

Sir Michael acknowledged the “consternation” caused by his proposal to offer payment to attract more professional governors to boards that failed to hold schools and colleges to account, but said it was an option that should not be ruled out.

“All our evidence at Ofsted shows that in the best governing boards, it is often a small core of governors who lead the other members of the governing board and take on the greatest burden of work,” he said.

“However, where this small core of people does not exist or is hard to recruit, especially in our most difficult schools and areas, then we should incentivise good people to do this job.”

Caption for featured image: Skills Minister Matthew Hancock at Lancaster House, London, earlier this year