Read a summary of our insightful roundtable webinar with Beej Kaczmarczyk and Tony Allen on the key elements of good governance for Independent Training Providers.
A question of size?
Tony began the webinar by emphasising there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ model for good governance, and that dependent factors include size of organisation and level of funding.
In answering the question ‘What in your view, is the best model of governance for us?’ (a medium-sized private training provider with £2m of funding) Tony suggested that 2 or 3 governors may offer an appropriate support level.
Beej went on to state that regardless of the size of organisation, Ofsted has no set requirement for governance models; rather it looks towards evidence of delivery of a high-quality curriculum, sound financial management and auditing compliance. In addition, safeguarding and performance are important facets of good governance, along with beneficial outcomes for all stakeholders, whether they be learners, parents, or employers.
Beej suggested that for small organisations, a board consisting of 3 senior managers and 2 independent advisors could work effectively, with the board meeting 4-6 times per year. For bigger providers, an appropriate governance model could consist of a board of governors and a separate audit committee to ensure compliance with use of public funds.
For yet bigger organisations (i.e., those the size of a medium-sized college) a quality and standards committee may be considered in order to determine best delivery and what is feasible in term of time.
Tony added that for small organisations, it may work best to have an informal setup in place with a single external advisor – this is considered a strong model by Ofsted.
In answering the question: ‘What are the minimum number of reports you would expect to see as an independent governor?’, Tony advised that there should be a data dashboard in place for key learner data, a safeguarding report including wellbeing and mental health considerations, and a risk register outlining the key risks to business, and how those risks are being tracked.
Beej went on to emphasise that focus should be on anything that affects the learner, whether in the classroom or in a work-based apprenticeship. Providers should maintain data on learner performance and achievement, along with clear reporting on financial performance, particularly when drawing on public funding.
A good way to look at requirements, continued Beej, was to refer to the AELP Code of Good Governance, developed in 2018. This code offers a model for excellence and provides a number of themes consistent with the Seven Principles of Public Life (the Nolan Principles). These principles include Integrity, Accountability and Openness.
Tony agreed with the importance of the Seven Principles for good governance, and that these principles are all part of agency department and Ofsted expectations. Being clear about your strategy is key, he added.
The importance of independent oversight
One major benefit of employing an independent advisor, explained Beej, is that they are able to effectively probe and make enquiries. This could mean asking key questions to senior management on whether the curriculum is being delivered in the most effective way possible, or whether the diversity and inclusion policy is being adhered to, for example. It is also important to maintain a clear division of roles between the independent advisor and the ITP leadership, he added.
This ability to challenge the ITP is an important one, continued Beej, and helps prevent a ‘club’ atmosphere from developing and disrupting progress. Further, it is helpful to create an atmosphere that is supportive yet challenging, and that both parties are aware of this way of working from the start.
What should be expected of external governors?
Tony mentioned that clarity should be a key component of a successful working relationship. The advisor and ITP team should set clear expectations from the beginning, including frequency of meetings, allocation of time, and whether renumeration is expected.
In terms of what the independent advisor can bring to the table, there should be the expectation that they have the level of knowledge and expertise required to effectively carry out their role. Beej added that they should possess an inquisitive mindset, and empathy for the complexity of running an ITP organisation. Further, large providers are keen for industry expertise, and often prefer the external governor to be currently practising in a relevant sector. Alongside finding room for improvement, the external governor should offer practicable advice on recommendations for improvement.
What good governance means for Ofsted
In answering the question ‘What does Ofsted expect to see in terms of good governance?’, Tony began by pointing out that Ofsted expects to see evidence of the strengths and weaknesses of the business, what it needs to do to improve, what impact has been made, and whether the correct safeguarding measures are in place.
Another factor to consider, Beej added, is whether the organisation is meeting the needs of the local and regional economy. It is important for the provider to meet the skills needs of the area through their apprenticeship offering.
Tony went on to explain that there is a clear correlation between organisations that have been given ‘requires improvement’ and ‘inadequate’ ratings by Ofsted and a lack of good governance.
- There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ model of governance
- Governance should be independent, and should challenge the status quo
- Minimum requirements include a data dashboard, a safeguarding report and a risk register
- The leaner should be the point of focus
- Ofsted aligns with the Seven Principles of Public Life (Nolan Principles)
- Providers should consider their strengths, weaknesses and impact
- Apprenticeships should reflect the skills needs of the local community
Advanced software solutions for good governance
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