Nine projects secure £4.6m Collaboration and Shared Services Grant

The 157 Group and Association of Colleges (AoC) have announced nine projects which will benefit from the Collaboration and Shared Services Grant.

AoC and the 157 Group were each given £2.3million by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) for the grant, which launched in June for the further education sector (FE).

With the process complete and decisions – ratified by the SFA – made, the bodies have announced the successful bids.

Christine Doubleday, director of delivery models and innovation for the 157 Group, said: “It is crucial that the lessons learned from these projects are disseminated within the sector in a meaningful and dynamic way.”

Julian Gravatt, AoC assistant chief executive, said: “As we enter a period of austerity, the need for colleges to deliver efficiencies has never been more pressing.

“We’re convinced these projects will provide a valuable contribution to the development and implementation of significant and fundamental changes to the business model within the further education sector.”

The 157 Group and AoC produced a joint prospectus and evaluation process to manage bids, which covered the aims, scope and objectives of the programme alongside clarity on application response content and format.

These grants will help secure maximum and quantifiable efficiencies.”

In total, 69 applications were received from 64 different lead organisations by the 157 Group and AoC, with a total bidding request of more than £20 million.

Ms Doubleday added: “We wanted to go for big impact projects and those ready to deliver savings in the short and longer term. The money is from Treasury and it is grant aided, with the condition it produces savings in the sector.

“However we also wanted to ensure that the projects chosen are in tune with political and economic imperatives and will be of real use to the sector.

“The ability to scale up and disseminate was part of the process. In addition, the 157 Group wants to ensure the learning is dynamic, useful, applicable and inclusive.”

Mr Gravatt added: “The aims of the grant are myriad. They include the opportunity to work in partnership across the sector to maximise benefits and avoid any duplication or confusion; produce concrete tools and models which are ready to be adopted across the sector, and to disseminate learning.

“These grants will help secure maximum and quantifiable efficiencies. We hope that these projects encourage the development of strategic leadership in the sector and form the blueprint for future take-up and roll-out of sustainable models of efficient practice.”

Marilyn Hawkins, treasurer and director of the 157 Group and principal of Barnet College, said: “The innovative projects put forward are testament to the quality of FE and willingness to be adaptable and flexible in an ever-changing sector.

“We hope the legacy to come out of these bids is a powerful new precedent for collaboration and innovation within the sector.”

FE factfile on…the projects

The following 157 Group projects have been accepted:

  • Sunderland College, City of Sunderland College, Hartlepool Sixth Form College, South Tyneside College and Tyne Metropolitan College working as North East Shared Services Project Limited to build on a joint venture company model for shared services and collaboration.
  • Central Sussex College, Northbrook College Sussex, Chichester College, Brooklands College, Guildford College, City College Brighton, Sussex Downs College, Sussex Coast College Hastings working together for services in Sussex / Surrey Colleges to develop ‘share ready’ services collaboration between geographically connected colleges.
  • Highbury College, four non-157 Group colleges and any 157 Group colleges who wish to take part in collaborative curriculum development and delivery enabling colleges to work together to develop and share learning resources to deliver an effective curriculum.
  • There is also one additional college project under discussion and the 157 Group also has agreed to award the Third Sector National Learning Alliance a sum to support development of collaboration and shared services across third sector providers.

The following AoC projects have been accepted:

  • The Enterprise Agenda for Adults: Richmond Adult Community College, Open College Network London, Morley College, Tower Hamlets College, City of Bath College, Community Links, Paypal (partner), HOLEX (partner), WCL. The project aims to create an Adult Enterprise curriculum, supported by an efficient delivery approach which can be rolled-out nationwide.
  • Wessex Federation: Yeovil College, Bournemouth and Poole College, Brockenhurst College, Kingston Maurward College, Weymouth College. The project will examine the creation of a central shared service centre and implementation of a series of cost, efficiency and improvement initiatives across the five colleges.
  • Federation Development and Shared Services Programme: City College Norwich, City Academy Norwich, Wayland Community High School, EAGIT. The project will focus on developing an innovative organisational infrastructure for delivering technical/vocational further education, A-levels and higher education in further education colleges.
  • Federation of Strategic Services Project (FeSSP): a joint collaboration between Bishop Auckland College, City of Sunderland College, Tyne Metropolitan College. This project will look at the development and implementation of a federation model for colleges in the delivery of non-core strategic services.
  • There is one additional college project which is still under discussion.

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  1. But what will these projects ACTUALLY DO??? I’m massively cynical about how much can be saved by shared services in our sector, that this whole thing is a figleaf for 157 to look like they’re doing something when their best interests are served by small colleges failing, so they can hoover up the funding and learners…

    • Richard Teare

      If shared services are the panacea that politicians and others seem to think they are, why do we have a Civil Service (which apparently administers this country) that is -what?-twice as large now than when we “ruled”/administered 1/3rd of the planet?

        • David Irritated

          Alternatively perhaps we could still keep the Principals (a School not having a Head is a BAD thing) but stop paying them near Prime Ministerial salaries…..
          Oh, and stop paying the Head of the SFA MORE than the Prime Minister and stop letting him employ 1,600 staff who claim more than £800,000 quarterly in travel and subsistence.
          That would be a start.
          In fact, given the sfa’s profligacy in terms of staffing, perhaps they might have had a look at shared services themselves rather than bung cash at the 157 and AoC. The AoC who, by the way, should know better than to accept the £s given that it represents a clear conflict of interest and will weaken their, already pitiful, ability to challenge the SFA’s inefficiency and ineffectiveness WHICH IS THE BIGGEST CAUSE OF UNNECESSARY COST IN THE SECTOR.
          Other than that, I’m really looking forward to some fantastic and creative outcomes from these projects – probably, from the look of it, the same from each one. Hey hang on, maybe we could just run one project at a tenth of the cost…

      • Well, if you look at that one, it’s the only one that’s clear, it’s developing curriculum (which doesn’t really sound like a shared service to me, but there you go…). the 157 projects are very opaque though…

        also, all views my own, not representative of anyone else etcetc