At our recent Annual Governance Conference, I gave delegates a message they may not have been expecting; despite all the change that is taking place in our sector, there is no need to rush to change governance, unless change is justified.
In my closing address, I told delegates that as chairs, governors and clerks they should initially be concentrating on why and what they are delivering; then they should be looking at how this is to be delivered. Only then should they turn to the question of whether there should be changes to governance that would help improve the delivery.
As the body charged with driving improvement in the sector, LSIS has numerous tools to help Governors carry out this mission. We are developing a multi-agency ‘dynamic resource’; we are working with AoC, 157 Group and NIACE to provide joined up support for the sector in order to address the New Challenges, New Chances agenda. As a first stage of this project, we will be examining current practice, reviewing the drivers for change and options available, and providing a framework to analyse these options in response to the new context. The interim report will be published in May 2012 and the final report in September 2012.
The conference itself, which was held in Manchester on Thursday 22 and Friday 23 March, provided delegates with the opportunity to learn from representatives from the sector. Carole Stott, Vice Chair of AoC’s Governor’s Council joined me on stage for my final speech of the conference and David Hughes, Chief Executive of NIACE, presented one of the key note speeches. One of the main events of the two days was a question and answer session in which the floor was opened up to delegates. Ahead of the release of the AoC’s survey Pupils blocked from accessing college information the issue of schools with sixth forms restricting pupils’ access to information about alternative education options was discussed. Commenting on whether the new National Careers Service would make a difference, Verity Bullough, National Director, Employer and Learner Services in the Skills Funding Agency admitted that the new service will be big change so there will be an element of ‘suck it and see’.
The conference’s overarching theme was ‘accountability to your community – meeting their needs.’ The delegates were reminded that with the new freedoms that are being given following New Challenges, New Chances, there also comes responsibility. This means increased scrutiny from regulators and government, and of course the current and future challenging economic climate. In my closing speech I advised delegates that they should ensure that their governing body gets the support and development it needs to navigate through these times and to look for support sooner rather than later. LSIS is in a position to offer the support chairs, governors and clerks need, for example external evaluation through LSIS’s Learning Board.
Our chair, Dame Ruth Silver pointed out in one of her speeches that there is no longer a blueprint for colleges anymore; however our Annual Governance Conference is one of the tools LSIS has to offer the sector to help ‘forge excellent leadership and management’ – one of our three priorities for the sector as stated in our refined strategy.
Rob Wye is chief executive of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service, which aims to accelerate the drive for excellence in the learning and skills sector
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