Clerks’ course safe with us, says ETF

Governors’ clerks have been assured that their training will continue after the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) closes at the end of next month.

Sir Geoff Hall, interim chief executive of the Education Training Foundation, which will take over from LSIS, said there was “no basis for thinking the clerks’ course won’t continue”.

Clerking In The New Era: Implications For College Governance, which LSIS says is the first research into clerking for 10 years, found worries over the continuity of the clerks’ qualification programme, availability of governor training materials, annual conference and governance support.

Sir Geoff said the course  was discussed at the clerks’ conference “and we are expecting a proposal from the national clerks’ network so they can take responsibility for the continuation of the courses, which is just the type of professionalism we want to encourage”.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) added: “There’s a commitment that those who are on the existing clerking programmes will be able to complete them.”

The report, based on consultation with 31 clerks, also highlighted increased demands they faced as a direct result of the new freedoms under the New Challenges, New Chances policy document, concerns over access to college budgets, geographical barriers to training and misconceptions over the work of clerks.

It said: “Barriers some clerks face include difficulties accessing college budgets, and limited budgets for training, not just for themselves but for their board members. For almost a fifth of clerks, the training budget for their own training and board members was under £1,000 per annum.”

Geographical barriers “added time and cost”, for clerks in more remote regions, preventing them travelling to national training events.

It said 93 per cent of clerks surveyed were educated to degree level, with 40 per cent having higher degrees, and many coming into clerking from local government, civil service or higher education backgrounds.

But it said there was a “misconception” of the role.

“It is viewed as administrative — rather than governance advisory. This misconception, many clerks feel, is not helped by the title ‘clerk’. The time may be right to consider a review of the title and the consideration of alternatives including; ‘governance adviser’ or ‘director of governance’,” it said. The priorities for the future, according to the publication, include working with the foundation to ensure continuity of the clerks’ qualification programme, support and training for new clerks, including clerk induction programmes and induction pack, and possibly introducing a formal mentoring scheme.

A spokesperson for LSIS said: “Over the past few months we have had discussions with BIS, the Education and Training Foundation and a range of partners regarding the many LSIS services, and we continue to work with them. In the few weeks that remain LSIS is, to the best of our remaining capacity, keen to support the transfer and continuation of services that have been valued by and of benefit to the sector.”