From education to employment

Good governance for independent training providers and employers​

What is good governance and why does it matter?

While governance is increasingly coming under the spotlight within the further education landscape, there are no explicit governance requirements for Independent Training Providers (ITPs) and employer-providers, and certainly not a one size fits all solution.

However, good governance is certainly receiving growing emphasis, and while there is nothing specific within an EFSA contract that commits providers to engage or commit to governance in any way, there is a rule of thumb that good governance impacts the effectiveness of your organisation and in turn your bottom line.

Governance should enable management teams and boards to run organisations legally, ethically, sustainably, and successfully, for the benefit of stakeholders, including shareholders, staff, clients, and customers, and for the good of wider society.

For ITP’s and employer-providers this can be linked to business planning, curriculum and delivery, QA processes, evaluation, and improvement. All of these to some extent or another fall within the remit of governance.

Governance fundamentals

To shape or improve governance within ITP’s and employer-providers, leaders must understand what “good” looks like. At the very least they need to work to a set of transparent standards and officially known criteria used to assess and inform education policy, provision, and performance. So, what does this look like in real terms for ITP’s and employer-providers?

The provider guide to delivering high-quality apprenticeships, published in November 2021 by the ESFA refers to governance in that:

“Providers should have effective governance structures in place, such as a board of trustees or directors. All providers are expected to have independent scrutiny to ensure that the best interests of apprentices… are considered. Good governance also ensures that all public funds received are spent properly.”

It is likely that providers can expect to see a clearer delineation between funding rules for providers and clearer governance expectations in the future.

The Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP) Code of Governance, 2018 is a useful resource to refer to for further information here. The code is relevant to all ITPs who work in the post-sixteen apprenticeship, education, training, and skills sector.

It is based on a set of shared values, principles, and expectations, and those following it are encouraged to adopt the “spirit” of the code as well as its “letter”, to show that they are conducting business in the best interest for learners, apprentices and employers, key stakeholders, and funders. Click here to read the full code.

What can happen if governance goes wrong?

Failing to recognise the importance of good governance and taking positive steps to implement a robust governance framework can lead to the following:

  • Missed opportunities for improvement and growth
  • Weak decision making, including poor financial management
  • Not spotting early indicators and warning – increased risk
  • Inefficient working practices
  • Not setting clear or realistic expectations
  • Lack of accountability for public funds
  • Insufficient quality monitoring and oversight
  • Safeguarding risks inadequately overseen

And we know the impact that these areas can have with the most alarming of all:

  • Removal from RoATP/ termination of contracts and other penalties
  • Getting the right support for ITP’s and employer-providers
  • Governance is unique for ITPs and employer-providers and as stated earlier cannot be implemented effectively, using a one size fits all solution.

SDN is running a workshop series for ITPs and employer-providers sharing insights and practical approaches on the following topics:

  • An introduction to good governance
  • Considering the learner within governance
  • Considering employers and stakeholders within governance
  • Considering you as the provider within your governance

To find out more and book onto the workshop series, visit Developing Effective Governance Workshops. We can also provide 1-2-1 consultancy via our Strategic Associates, who support governor teams at a range of training providers across England.

This may include conducting a review of your existing governance, defining areas for improvement, as well as acting as an independent member of your board. If our Strategic Associates cannot meet your specific needs, we will endeavour to put you in touch with someone who can.

By Karen Kelly, Strategic Associate, SDN

Related Articles