Government to tender for college board recruitment and audit service

The Department for Education has announced it will be piloting a college governor recruitment scheme and board performance audits.

The £110,000 ‘FE Colleges Governor Recruitment Services Pilot’ will pay for a single supplier to find at least 30 “effective leaders” to act as chairs, deputy chairs, and finance and audit chairs for colleges in “the greatest need of help”.

The supplier would be counted on to help appointees manage their new responsibilities, which could include giving them a mentor and induction programmes.

They will also be asked to find at least ten “qualified and experienced” candidates for short notice interim appointments to key governance posts.

The pilot is “designed to test the effectiveness of increasing the availability of bespoke governor recruitment services for the governing boards of FE colleges”, the pre-tender notice says, and it is hoped this will increase boards’ capacity “to offer effective leadership to their colleges”.

The second tender, worth another £110,000, is for around 30 board “capability reviews”, which would also be run at struggling colleges referred to the supplier by the FE Commissioner or the ESFA.

These reviews would include an assessment of the skills, experience and development needs of existing board members, with an analysis of strategic planning, operational structures and working practices to identify areas which can be developed.

This pilot has been designed, the pre-tender notice says, “to test the efficacy” of making these reviews more available for governing boards, “to increase their capacity to offer strong leadership to their colleges”.

Each of these capability reviews will be followed by a review report analysing any issues, making recommendations for change, and providing a “robust” action plan to secure improvements.

Both pilots would involve a short evaluation report based on a survey of users.

FE Commissioner Richard Atkins recently extended his reach over governance by recruiting four new National Leaders of Governance, adding to his team of 15 experienced college governors and clerks.

They have in the past been dispatched to fill positions at a number of colleges: for instance, Andrew Baird from East Surrey College was made chair of Hadlow College ahead of it becoming the first college to enter insolvency, and Brooklands College after the government demanded it hand back great stacks of funding following a subcontracting investigation.

Funding for the suppliers in these two pilots will be available in the financial year April 2020 to March 2021. The contract start date is listed as this May and the end date is March next year.

Potential suppliers have until Wednesday 8 April to apply for both pilots.