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Beacon Award Commended College Synopses 2022/23 - The AoC Award for Excellence in Governance


Weston College

The College’s impressive ‘Creating Brighter Futures’ governance model, has realised ambitious growth (£9m 2001 – c£71m presently), with a stand out achievement of remaining in surplus throughout. More importantly, its model places an inclusive vision pioneered by the Principal at the heart of its strategic plan. This has delivered cross college outcomes consistently above national benchmarks, with a SEND specialism developed (32% of SEND learners with autism into employment c.f. 6% nationally), as a national SEND Centre for Excellence. Its methodology has been to adapt the iron triangle noted so well in business (of quality/time and cost Martin Barnes) into a golden triangle for FE of quality, finance and agility. Its success has been the rigour of its stretch; challenge; support and collaboration to continually keep the triangle balanced. It has also shown further innovation by demystifying governance and developing ‘elasticity’ in governance when responding to increased risk/project complexity. This includes new risk assessed approaches e.g. putting employers front and centre within its IoT governance model; a new ‘sustainability/social action framework’ and the use of an innovative Careers Excellence Hub Charter to bind its 14 Career Excellence Hubs together, for a collective White Paper vision to ensure no-one gets left behind.

Barnsley College

The introduction of a bespoke and dynamic assurance-based model has enabled Governors to have greater insight, greater input and greater impact on the College and the community - and it has created a significant shift in the College culture around governance. Framed in the context of the governance code of conduct but with College values and purpose at its heart, the model provides a map which helps each Board member to quickly understand the assurances they should be looking for and how to find them. The resulting streamlining of formal ‘scrutiny’ meetings means there is more space for the work of governance, with additional informal creative sessions providing an opportunity to focus on strategy and forward planning. Visibility and transparency have increased and with that has come better accountability and greater trust between the Board and College leaders. This Ofsted Outstanding college in an area recognised as one of the country’s most deprived with significant numbers of learners from low income families and with special educational needs and disabilities, mental health and wellbeing issues has a governance model which enables everyone to come together with professionalism and with passion for the College and the community.

Education Partnership North East (EPNE)

With a focus on impactful, value-added governance with the goal of transforming quality of education, student experience and staff satisfaction the Governance Improvement Programme utilises a unique, agile approach to governance through innovative and best practice ways of working to shape and deliver strategy to a newly formed college group.

Cardiff & Vale College

We transformed our governing body: - To not only increase the equality and diversity of our Board, but to actively headhunt local community-based talent through our networks - To make changes to our structure to include the mandatory Committees such as Audit and Search & Governance, but also to add a Community Board, which was noted as sector-leading practice in the 2020 ESRC FE Governance Project - To simplify the Governor categories to encourage recruitment from a wider scope of individuals to allow for differing time commitments, so Full Governors, Co-opted Governors and Community Board Governors - To change times of meetings to 8am to encourage those working to attend prior to going to the office/workplace, and to date, believe are the only FE College in the UK to have early morning meetings! - To change the frequency of meetings to ensure the most up-to-date information was presented for scrutiny, so monthly Main Board meetings, rather than the termly review of ‘old news’. This has supported college success and growth while allowing us to remain true to our principles and the community we serve.

EKC Group

This project is our well-established governance model that has been in operation and refined over a period of four years, including two mergers and acquisitions. It demonstrates a scalable and transferable model of governance that has also been ahead of the national policy curve. Whilst we are aware of other FE Corporations having similar looking Governance structures, we believe we are unique in having such a deep-rooted model that devolves accountability and responsibility for local education and meeting skills needs from the main Board down to Local College Board level. The fact that it is so well established and transferable means that other colleges will be able to learn from and apply it to their own institutions.

Moulton College

Governors identified an opportunity to develop a strategy that embraced EDI; the Principal and wider executive were fully committed to developing this. During a 4-month period ending March 2022, governors, governance professionals and senior leaders from two colleges collaborated on the components of an EDI framework known as, Strategy on a Page. A 1-day consultation event for 25 middle managers from the College was used to capture feedback on the draft framework before consulting with staff (180+) in smaller groups to ensure it was fit for purpose. Several consultation events were held between the governors, governance professionals and senior leaders from both colleges to agree key components. This included due consideration to the theoretical perspectives of EDI and practical application within a learning organisation. All parties agreed that bringing governors, governance professionals and senior leaders together to work collaboratively towards a common goal was paramount. The project culminated with a joint best practice event in March 2022 for 40+ participants which provided an introduction to EDI strategies to embed as part of an inclusive culture. Resources produced throughout the project were shared with a number of colleges impacting positively on hundreds of students in the wider sector from both colleges.

Solihull College & University Centre

Following an unexpected and seismic event in the death of the College Principal, the Governing Body at the College responded quickly, with compassion and focus. Through an initiative known internally as “Stepping Up” Governors assured staff and external partners that the previous Principal’s legacy would be honoured and built upon so that business would continue but with a period of stabilisation. This would allow time for grieving, to plan and manage change. A term after the death of the Principal the College was inspected by Ofsted. Governors and leaders recognised this as a great opportunity to bring people together and to honour the Principal’s memory. Governors, leaders and staff were well prepared for inspection and Governors worked with drive and energy to ensure it remained high on the agenda resulting in the College being graded as Good. It is testament to the reputation, extensive experience and wide-ranging support that the Governing body brings to the College that it was able to maintain high levels of teaching, learning and support during a challenging set of circumstances. The Stepping Up initiative has strengthened the culture of respect and openness within the College, positioning it to move forward and face new challenges effectively.