Over the series of our webinars we have spoken extensively about ‘ethical relationships’ post COVID-19 (CV19), ethical relationships is not new and has been around in the education sector for decades. We want to explore with you how the utilisation of ethical relationships and collaboration can go hand in glove and be very beneficial for all parties, we will look at a particular case-study and also open up how Value-Chain Analysis (VCA) can be used for competitive advantage.

According to Michael Porter, "a business can strive to add value to the product or service through differentiation and command higher prices (differentiation)”.

The public sector is under extreme pressure in the current climate and will be under extreme pressure post CV19, especially to secure Value for Money (VfM) with public funds. The current climate and especially post CV19 will demand for innovative thinking and an approach’s that must lead to VfM, to ensure sustainable competitive advantage and become more productive. It could be argued that within the Learning & Skills sector there will a reconciliation process of any payments that have been paid on profile and there will be scrutiny on how the use of Public Funding has been used (i.e. furloughing of staff in receipt of public funding, payments on profile, ethical approaches to how funding has been used etc). 

The need for us to deliver public services in new, better and cheaper ways will come as no surprise. The combination of straightened public finances with major social challenges mean that public services need to become more productive and develop new ways of working. Innovation in the public sector is therefore a pressing task, hindered, not least by the lack of available data on activity and performance”. (NESTA - Innovation in Public Sector Organisations (2011) - Stian Westlake).

Further Education has been catapulted into a new business cycle in the past five weeks:

  • to engage in an augmented way to ensure advantage over its peers 
  • review business planning and approach
  • digital transformation
  • Continuous Improvement, etc. 

“If school is a holistic web, where everything is interdependent and interconnected, then a change to one part of the school will not only rely on other parts of the school to support it, but it might also have an unanticipated, positive or negative, effect on the whole.” (Future Lab - Overcoming the barriers to educational innovation. (2009).

There are many barriers to innovative approaches, especially within the educational landscape, which demonstrate to change, recent changes have been embraced (on-line learning, but this is not new). “Resistance to change” and “lack of political will” are among the most serious barriers to innovation, especially in the learning & skills sector. To enable providers to be responsive, visionary and innovative it will require a full organisational approach to process thought, development, management and a structure for organisational change, this should entail working in a ‘Systems’ approach rather than in silos.

To cope with the changing world, providers will need to develop the capacity of shifting and changing – of developing new skills and attitudes; in short, the capability of learning. “Real knowledge needs to be continually learned and re-learned as customer expectations and circumstances change – in other words a systematic approach to improvement must be adopted”. (Managing Transformation actually means Transforming Management, The Deming Forum (2003), pp 11).

The formulation of working closely within the local community will be even more at the forefront of moving out of CV19, working together to ‘partner’ and work not to compete against each other but to develop an approach where the development of harnessing ‘competitive advantage’ by pooling resources, staff, and brain power together will lead to a stronger platform in the future state activity. 

Through the current changes and challenges that we all face due to CV19, the Learning & Skills sector is in a state of flux in the changing landscape, the sector must shape itself to harness innovation, creativity and the capacity to learn through a shaped learning organisation (developing the organisation into a double-loop learning organisation). 

In our view, many providers of education are in a silo approach, a ‘machine bureaucracy organisation’ and to develop the sector must develop to an approach to harness innovation within the new world, Systems Thinking will optimise how providers will operate from end to end, working together for the benefit of the organisation. The lean process effect, maximising internal expertise to focus on developing outstanding service to learners, employers and all stakeholders and capturing their needs enabling a positive impact will be in our opinion the new focus. 

Over 10 years ago a large college embarked on a journey to improve efficiency across the college and its partners through the removal of unnecessary and inefficient processes, the initial project aims were to:

  • Establish procurement as a shared service across the college and with its partners,
  • Review and map all non-pay-expenditure identifying critical risks and opportunities, 
  • Ensure the full support of the wider college and partners through positive key stakeholder engagement,
  • Develop a culture of excellence across the college and to develop its partners, including the local community that will translate in a mutual beneficial relationship (ethical relationships),
  • Work with other organisations to achieve mutual benefits and to ensure a fluid value chain. 

In the first year of this innovate creation it delivered savings of over £400k and the second year it delivered savings of over £500k. These savings (both in cash and non-cash efficiency gains) provided direct benefit to its learners and partners, which served to benefit all and created a hot spot of for the local community. The overarching programme was named ‘Achieving Excellence in the Things That Really Matter’.

With this in-mind, there was a particular focus to create relations through an ethical way of ensuring all partners were at the centre of the programme, this acted as a guiding light for positive partnership building and the creation of a fluid value-chain. 

Value Chain Analysis is a useful tool for working out how you can create the greatest possible value for your customers. It is a tool that can be used to harness the creation of ‘creating value’ to all, the more value a company creates, the more profitable it is likely to be., and when you provide more value, you build competitive advantage and this can be shared. 

Focus not on departments or specific accounting structures, but focus on systems, and how inputs are changed into the outputs for learners, employers and partners (partners in the wider sense). Using this viewpoint, you can create a chain of activities common to all businesses in your chain (upward and downward chain). 

Looking at future state activity (post CV19), there will be a need to create and generate true value and to ensure relationships are strengthened, not just for competitive advantage but to also ensure huge efficiency savings can be generated. Some of the activities where the VCA can be utilised, internally and well as across the full chain are:

Primary Activities

  • Inbound logistics – supplier relationships are a key factor in creating value here.
  • Operations – operational systems create value.
  • Outbound logistics.
  • Marketing and sales.
  • Service.

Support Activities

  • Procurement (purchasing).
  • Human resource management.
  • Technological development - maintaining technical excellence are sources of value creation.
  • Infrastructure – Legal, administrative etc. 

To conclude, we believe that post CV19 there will be huge opportunities for providers of all types within the Learning & Skills sector, creating ethical relationship with employers, partners and your full supply chain will be beneficial to all. It is also our advice to ensure you work within your full chain to create value for all and to generate efficiency savings, this will also be important given our prediction of scrutiny over the use of public funding. 

If you would like to discuss this further with us and how we can support your journey, please contact us through the Promote-Ed forums

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page