The Department for Education has published draft statutory guidance on college governors’ new duty to review local skills provision.
The new Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, currently going through Parliament, revealed in May a new duty would be placed on colleges to review how well the education or training they provide meets local needs, and assess what action they might take to ensure it is best placed to meet local needs.
Ministers hope this will help align provision with what employers want, and the duty is being accompanied by a number of measures with similar aims, including new Local Skills Improvement Plans (LSIPs) and powers for the government to intervene in colleges not following those plans.
The ‘statutory guidance for further education colleges, sixth form colleges and designated institutions’, published today, sets out how college governors will be expected to comply with this new duty.
Here is what you need to know…
What the reviews ought to look like
The guidance insists the reviews should be “evidence-based” and “focus on improvement”.
Data and evidence on learner employment destinations, learner participation, and outcomes by institution and curriculum area ought to underpin the reviews, as should “readily-available evidence” like LSIPs.
Barriers to building on existing strengths, including structural, should be addressed in the report. Governors are told to contact the FE Commissioner and the Education and Skills Funding Agency early on “if any of the agreed actions following on from the review could lead to structural changes”.
The reviews ought to reflect the mission, specialisms and local areas the college or colleges serves. So providers with a wide range of provision will have a broader review than that of a specialist college.
Governors will be expected to collaborate with neighbours
“In reviewing provision within a local area,” the guidance reads, “governing bodies are expected to collaborate with other governing bodies also serving that area”.
The guidance places a big emphasis on local colleges’ governors working in tandem on the review, including on curriculum collaboration.
Stakeholders should also be engaged in the review, including employers, employer representative bodies which are putting together LSIPs, learners, workers, local government, Jobcentre Plus and regional school commissioners.
Skills reviews must be done at least every three years
Governors will be expected to undertake “regular” reviews of how well provision meets local need.
How regularly is answered in the guidance, which reads: “Governing bodies should undertake a review at least once every three years.”
But it adds that the reviews should be undertaken “as required to ensure they remain relevant”.
For example, so they reflect changes to employers’ skills priorities, as set out in local skills improvement plans”.
Reviews must be published on websites
Within three months of the review being completed, it ought to be published on the college’s website, the guidance states.
Where colleges have produced a joint review, the government expects this to be published on both their websites, with reference to who their partner is.
When the duty comes into force
The duty on governors will come into force two months after the skills bill receives Royal Assent, when it is signed off by the queen.
It is currently in the House of Lords and will enter the committee stage, where a detailed, line by line, examination of the bill takes place, in the House of Lords next week.
Guidance to be reviewed in 2025
The guidance says it will next be reviewed four years from now.