Dr Sue, director of policy and external relations at Holex, answers your questions, backed by her experience as principal of Canterbury College and in senior civil service posts in education and skills.

Question One: Where have all the adults gone?

David Lammy’s passionate speech on the return of night schools prompted me to ask whether we open our buildings to the community. We were told there was no local call for evening classes and it was mainly self-financing gym use and some ESOL classes. I felt this was not enough but didn’t know whether to press further.

Answer: You should ask for this to be an item on your next governors’ strategy day. All the evidence suggests adult education will be a growth area in the future and you need to know your local demographics: for example, how many adults locally need ESOL or basic skills support – an area that government is fully funding.

There is a growing need for people to retrain and/or change career mid-life

Industry, business and the labour market are changing rapidly and there is a growing need for people to retrain and/or change career mid-life. The opportunity to learn in the evening and at weekends will be an important part of the future adult skills landscape. Government has confirmed they will they provide loans for level 4 and above, as well as maintenance loans. That’s a real sign that they see this to be an important issue.

If you just think about how driverless vehicles could affect the haulage industry, you soon understand the magnitude of the potential retraining scheme for lorry drivers.

Also, don’t underestimate the future market for full-cost education for those who want to learn new skills. Soon the largest slice of the population will be the over 60’s and research shows that people’s wellbeing and life expectancy are enhanced if they continue to learn, integrate and socialise.


Question Two: Governor visits to sub-contractors

When I walk around our college I see a lot of young people but very few adults or students with learning difficulties or disabilities. When I asked about it, the senior team explained they thought it was best to contract out adult work and LLDD to specialist partners. It started me thinking about governors’ responsibilities and whether I should do drop-in visits to sub-contractors and partners as I do in the college.

Answer: As the college owns the contract with SFA, the governor body is responsible for quality and the student experience, including safety and Prevent. Even though these areas might be covered in the contracts with sub-contractors/partners, the governors are ultimately responsible.

Out of courtesy you should discuss this with the principal

Therefore, you and your fellow governors need to be assured that all the normal policies, safeguards and quality assurance mechanisms are in place and working for any sub-contracted provision. You should also see performance reports for each subcontractor/partner and there should be regular appraisal of whether the partnership adds to the student experience.

If there is a visit or pop-in scheme in main college, there should be the same arrangement for sub-contractors. Out of courtesy you should discuss this with the principal, who may want to let the partner know. Once that is done you should go ahead and make the necessary visit arrangements, following the agreed practice, and if you are not comfortable with what you find, you must speak up and let the chair and principal know.

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