Governance that makes a difference

Governance that makes a difference

17th July 2018

The development of a new code of governance for independent training providers could have a direct impact on the quality of skills training, says FETL President Dame Ruth Silver

A new draft code of governance for independent training providers was launched at the end of June. Developed by the Association of Employment and Learning Providers (AELP), with support from the Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL), the new code sets out the key principles which providers must adopt to show they are conducting business in the best interests of trainees, employers, key stakeholders and funders, drawing on Nolan’s seven principles of public life.

This is extremely important work and I am delighted that FETL has had the opportunity to support it. Governance matters. In many ways it is the least understood and least observed dimension of British public life. Yet it is something that directly, and often in profound ways, affects the wellbeing of organisations and the lives of the people who work for and are affected by them. As FETL’s recent work on whistleblowing demonstrates, transparency, openness and honesty are at the heart of ethical leadership and decision-making. Good governance is a part of that.

The draft code provides an ethical framework for governance, designed to apply to all independent learning providers in receipt of public funding, whatever their size or focus. Pleasingly, it is based not on desk research or theories of leadership but on applied research harvesting best practice on ensuring public funds are well spent, with the needs of learners and employers at the heart of that. It is not intended to encumber training providers or to prevent them acting in a dynamic, responsive way, but rather seeks to ensure that all of that important work is underwritten by a commitment to the highest standards of conduct.

There are, of course, many examples of seriously good governance among independent training providers, characterised by thoroughness, wide expertise and generosity of spirit. There are also examples of poor governance, which is not informed by a commitment to high standards or sound processes of accountability. This should change and I believe the code of conduct will support that. By focusing the attention of leaders on the promotion of high expectations among trainees and staff, the need to listen to students and staff and the importance of supporting inspirational training, teaching and learning, and assessment, it should also have a direct impact on the quality of skills training.

Good governance not only contributes to the success and performance of providers, it is a critical indicator of the standards applied in leadership across the sector. The pressure on leadership in further education and skills is enormous. The scale of change and the level of uncertainty are really unprecedented. As Professor Ewart Keep notes in a forthcoming FETL publication, produced in partnership with the Association of Colleges (AoC), we are facing something of a ‘perfect storm’. In such circumstances, it is more important than ever that we assert and stick to our values, and keep to the fore our commitment to providing high-quality teaching and learning and the needs of our key stakeholders, including employers, government and learners. Maintaining these standards is what this new code of governance is all about. We hope it will contribute to the development of a sector that is mature, confident and, above all, committed to its important mission.

A copy of the draft Code of Governance of Independent Training Providers can be downloaded here.

Dame Ruth Silver is President of the Further Education Trust for Leadership

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