City College Norwich (CCN) is developing a federation model alongside two academies and a potential University Technical College (UTC), which will help share essential services and promote collaboration.

Dick Palmer, principal of CCN, says their proposals include a shared services company which will be in charge of purchasing “basically everything other than teaching and learning.”

“Our shared services will be quite unusual,” Mr Palmer told FE Week.

“It will be providing services to both FE colleges and schools, but we’re also looking at possibly the fullest range of shared services I think that anyone is looking at.

“So we’re looking at advice and guidance, PR, marketing, library services, as well as the normal things like HR, finance, IT and premises.”

The college was given £900,000 last year through a Skills Funding Agency Collaboration and Shared Services grant to help setup the federation. The partnership, which consists of CCN, City Academy Norwich and Wayland Academy in Watton, aims to help all of the providers be more efficient when purchasing services, including impartial information, advice and guidance (IAG).

“Schools are expected to get impartial advice and guidance and we know that’s quite difficult for many schools to do that,” Mr Palmer said.

“We already provide an impartial IAG service from within the college, not just to ourselves but to other people around the region, and we know it can help deliver that in our federation schools as well.” He added: “Creating a better, wider, more supported and more informed learner experience is undoubtedly part of the ambition for the project.”

David Brunton, principal of City Academy Norwich, says the federation could also include up to seven more providers, including a UTC which CCN hopes will be approved later this month.

Mr Brunton said: “We’re hoping that something in the region of ten organisations will form part of the federation so we can maximise our purchasing power. In the current climate of individual academies, there is a danger of isolation and therefore another key element of the federation is to setup formal, collaborative structures focused on the development of high quality teaching and learning.”

The federation will launch in September and be fully operational by January 2013.

Mr Brunton said: “We will own the service company and they will be part of our federation, so we will have direct input and be able to hold them to account for their performance.

“That closeness of the relationship gives all partners within the federation a sense of ownership, and it’s not only about having the service available, it’s about having high quality and value for money.”

He added: “We think, with the spending power that we have, we will be able to make sure that we deliver the highest level of service.”

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