John Bingham: 'This reform will improve the support that governors need'

Chair of the board, Association of Colleges

People who are thinking about becoming a college governor often spend little time considering how the institutions work and how they are directed before deciding to join. Most become a governor because they want to put something back into their community – they possess knowledge or skills which they know will be of benefit to staff and the students they serve – and understandably they don't focus their thoughts too much on the intricacies of further education and the instruments and articles of governance.

But, on joining a board, they quickly need to become familiar with specialist knowledge. Unfortunately, the information, training and support offered to prospective, new – and, to a certain extent, existing – governors have often been limited and dependent on individual colleges. In many respects, there has been a tendency to assume governors will ask questions of areas they need to know about.

The sector needs to address this issue and provide more all-round support. The creation of the Governors' Council by the Association of Colleges is at last about to change this. It will provide guidance and assistance that governors tell us they need. The result is that governors are already having a greater impact – and reporting greater job satisfaction – than in the past.

I'm not suggesting college governors are crying out for help. In some ways, it's almost insulting to suggest they need to be trained at all in certain areas. A local business person who decides to become a college governor, for example, is unlikely to need training in strategy, finance or business. But they may need help grasping the idiosyncrasies of college funding rules.

While existing training already provides this to a certain extent, the new Governors' Council offers a number of ways in which governors will be able to explore this topic in greater detail, should they wish. Many do. After all, the key roles of college governors – setting strategic direction, ensuring accountability, and monitoring and evaluating college performance – require, at least in part, knowledge around how college funding streams can best be used.

The majority of colleges provide institution-specific inductions to all new governors, but governors are increasingly expressing an interest in training or induction of a more generic nature, so that they can learn more about other colleges and how they work, and also gain a better appreciation of the college sector in general.

Similarly, governors have told us they would like to be better briefed on the wider political context in which further education sits.

Because the Governors' Council was only formed last year, it is in many ways still somewhat embryonic, but it has already started to make an impact. We have introduced, or in a few instances revived, national and regional networks. Governors say they are benefiting enormously from better links with other colleges, and for the first time feel as though there is genuine collaboration.

We have produced a new national briefing system for governors that includes important information on national developments affecting colleges, and we have been instrumental in ensuring that governors are invited to the special events and seminars that have previously been seen as primarily for college principals.

There has long been an emphasis on chairs of governors, simply because they sit at the helm of all other governors. What is crucially different now is that this emphasis is being extended so that all governors are being provided for.

There's no doubt that being a college governor is a time-consuming and demanding position of responsibility, but those who take on the role speak passionately about the unrivalled satisfaction of seeing for themselves the tangible benefits of determining the overall pattern of the college's provision, and making sure that everyone within the college does their bit to make it happen.

Such a job allows governors to bring new ideas to the table and they get to see the results of their work in action. Any governor will tell you that there's nothing like attending a college presentation event, where they see the huge impact that colleges make on the lives of individuals from all backgrounds. I hope that the Governors' Council will increase this sense of pride and improve the support for governors to the level they need and deserve.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Recruitment Genius: Nursery Nurse and Room Leader - Hackney

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a qualified childcare p...

AER Teachers: PPA TEACHER/MENTOR

£27000 - £37000 per annum: AER Teachers: THE SCHOOL: This is a large and vibra...

AER Teachers: EYFS Teacher

£27000 - £37000 per annum: AER Teachers: EYFS TEACHERAn 'Outstanding' Primary ...

AER Teachers: YEAR 3 TEACHER - PREPARATORY SCHOOL

£27000 - £40000 per annum: AER Teachers: YEAR 3 TEACHER - PREPARATORY SCHOOLA ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent