College governors get AoC code preview

The Association of Colleges (AoC) has launched a consultation on a proposed new code of governance for English colleges.

Ex-head of FE and skills investment and performance at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) Dr Sue Pember who is now AoC governance adviser, has spent the last six months travelling the country collecting ideas on what should feature in the code from more than 250 governors and other sector leaders.

Sue Pember

Dr Sue Pember

A draft version of the code [see below] was sent to colleges and other bodies with an interest in the sector including BIS, the Education Funding Agency, Skills Funding Agency, Ofsted, the National Union of Students and the University and College Union on Wednesday (December 10).

It was accompanied by a letter from AoC chair Carole Stott (pictured right) inviting principals and chairs of governors to submit their views on the document.

In the letter, Ms Stott said: “The new code should not be seen as supporting a ‘tick box’ approach, and boards are encouraged to adopt its spirit as well as its letter. By adopting the code, you can demonstrate leadership and stewardship in relation to your college help protect its reputation and that of the wider sector and give key stakeholders and partner’s confidence in our self-regulation.”

The original AoC code of governance, for general FE and sixth form colleges, was published in 2009. Ms Stott added that there were now “higher expectations on Ofsted’s part about the role of governors in overseeing quality improvement”. “With the continuing trend for greater transparency and ‘student/customer’ protection, I cannot stress enough the importance of being proactive in providing this assurance if we are to avoid future legislative or regulatory creep,”
she said.

The draft version of the updated code sets out 10 principles for good governance, including that each board should set “the mission, vision and strategy including defining the ethos of the college” and make “all final decisions on all matters of fundamental concern”.

Carole Stott

Carole Stott

It added they should be responsive to the labour market, develop a financial strategy to ensure the long-term solvency of their colleges and ensure that “due diligence takes place in relation to subcontracting and partnership activity”. It also said that boards should “foster exceptional teaching and learning and financial management by using best practice when selecting and recruiting the senior leadership team” and follow this up with “rigorous” performance management.

Dr Pember said: “This new values-based code of good governance will bring about a step change in governance. It has been developed through an open process with over 250 sector governors, clerks and senior leaders contributing to the principles and drafting. We believe this is a code for the sector by the sector.”

Email to respond to the consultation before it ends on March 5.


The values of college governance

High-quality FE, which commands public confidence and promotes the reputation of individual colleges and the sector, must rest on a number of shared values.

By implementing such values the governing board can ensure quality education and training for its students, demonstrate public benefit, provide the basis for its own effectiveness, support college autonomy, support the sustainability of the service and enhance the reputation of the sector and, by example, demonstrate 21st Century leadership.

A failure to adopt and implement a set of agreed values has implications beyond the college concerned, by potentially undermining the collective reputation of all colleges and the wider sector.

In setting out core values, the code adopts and builds on the Nolan Principles of Public Life, which provide an ethical framework for the personal behaviour of governors.

They are selflessness, openness, objectivity, integrity, honesty, accountability and leadership.

In addition, given the specific nature of FE and its reliance on state funding, and in line with good practice, the code also adopts the values and behaviours of respect and being passionate, professional and prudent.

The code is based on the following expectations of good governance, which illustrate the values and beliefs of further education governors:

– Putting the student first, promoting high expectations and ambitions for students and staff

– Ensuring inspirational teaching and learning

– Providing strong leadership to both the senior team and the community the college serves

– Setting the strategy and acting as guardians of the college’s mission

– Demonstrating accountability to students, parents, staff, partners, employers, funders and other stakeholders, including publishing accurate and timely information on performance

– Listening to students, employers and staff

– Ensuring the achievement of equality of opportunity and diversity throughout the college and implicit in initial access

– Using the college’s autonomy and independence to meet local education and skills needs

The 10 principles of good college governance

To implement and embed the above values and expectations in the college, governors and senior leaders will adopt the following key principles. The governing board will:

1. Set the mission, vision and strategy including defining the ethos of the college

2. Be collectively accountable for the business of the college taking all final decisions on all matters of fundamental concern

3. Ensure there are effective underpinning systems to implement the strategy and, through constructive challenge, monitor its progress

4. Ensure that the college is responsive to the relevant labour market by adopting a range of strategies for engaging with employers and other stakeholders that will support students progressing to relevant further study and/or successful employment

5. Adopt a financial strategy and plans which are compatible with the duty to ensure sustainability and solvency of the college. It will adopt effective systems of control and risk management that promote value for money, efficient use of the capital estate and technology, meet mandatory audit requirements and produce accurate and quality-assured college data

6. Ensure that effective control and due diligence takes place in relation to subcontracting and partnership activity, including setting up of academies, and ensure systems of delegation and accountability are in place

7. Foster exceptional teaching and learning and financial management by using best practice when selecting and recruiting the senior leadership team and following up through staff development and rigorous and effective performance management

8. Meet and aim to exceed its statutory responsibilities for equality and diversity

9. Ensure that there are organised and clear governance and management structures, with well-understood delegations and authorities and governors are capable, knowledgeable and supported

10. Regularly review performance and effectiveness