College board capability review service now available

The Department for Education (DfE) has awarded the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) the contract for up to 30 board capability reviews to be provided free of charge to colleges.

The reviews will be offered in the period before the end of March 2021, with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)-funded FE colleges, sixth form colleges and other designated FE institutions eligible for the service.

The reviews will be undertaken following a referral by the ESFA or Office of the Further Education Commissioner; or following an application by the provider organisation itself to the DfE.

Priority for reviews will be given to colleges identified as being most in need of support. For providers wishing to self-refer, that need might be demonstrated by a recent self-assessment which indicates the need for a thorough review, a recent change in leadership, a period of structural change, or other new challenges which require the college to take stock. Providers wishing to apply for a review should email explaining the factors they believe would make a review helpful.

The capability reviews service will be carried out by the ETF in collaboration with its chosen delivery partner, the Association of Colleges (AoC). The review model designed by the ETF and AoC builds upon the fundamental principles of delivering good governance and maximising board effectiveness enshrined in the Code of Good Governance in English Colleges. Reviewers have been selected for their credibility and credentials in the sector and have been trained to deliver the bespoke review model by governance reviews expert the College Development Network.

After each review, reviewers will work with the board to co-design action plans and capability development pathways, including the identification of any evidence-based capability development and governance recruitment needs. Thanks to the support of the DfE, it is anticipated that the service will lead to improved governance capability and effectiveness, which in turn will help to drive improvement in the FE system.

David Russell, CEO of the Education and Training Foundation, said: "College boards have faced an increasingly complex and demanding set of challenges in recent years, and the Covid-19 pandemic has added yet more stress and uncertainty.

“The role boards play in delivering first-class leadership of the sector is vital, and the Education and Training Foundation is already providing a variety of support to help governors and clerks fulfil their responsibilities. It is not enough for Colleges to have excellent people round their board tables – they must also act together with great skill and coherence as non-executive leadership teams. The new capability review service – and particularly the ability of colleges to ask for help by self-referring – is another important step in supporting boards and driving improvement.”