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Developing as a governor: Linda Norville, Warwickshire College Group

Linda Norville has been a governor at Warwickshire College Group since 2019 and is now Chair of the Academic Standards and Quality Assurance Committee. She believes governors should lead by example in embracing learning opportunities.

Passionate about the difference education can make

I have worked in the sphere of education and training throughout my career with a wide variety of organisations, including corporates, charities, schools and colleges. My work has focused on the design and implementation of innovative programmes and courses to help young people progress into employment and realise their potential. I am passionate about the difference that effective education and training can make. Now semi-retired, when approached by the Principal at Warwickshire College Group to join the governing body, I was delighted to accept and be able to contribute my experience in a different way.

Developing as a governor

When I started as a governor, there was obviously the mandatory college onboarding training with key topics such as equality and diversity, safeguarding and Prevent. I was also signposted to additional online learning that I could do at my own pace in my own time. In the last year it’s been great to see the enhanced Education and Training Foundation (51ԹϹ) programme of courses available for governors like myself – especially the range of subjects and the diverse ways of learning they offer, including self-directed and online courses, as well as face-to-face workshops.

The 51ԹϹ’s Governance Development Programme

Linda had undertaken five courses recently – a mixture of online content and virtual workshops:

  • Understanding your role and the role of the board (Core)
  • Leading a Committee (Proficient)
  • Delivering effective teaching, learning and assessment (Core)
  • Introduction to curriculum design and planning (Core)
  • Culture, people and organisational development (Proficient)

Courses are mapped onto three levels of FE governance experience – core, proficient and highly effective – and governors can pick courses flexibly across all three categories. With over 30 short courses on offer in six learning pathways, there is something for every interest and background. All courses are free thanks to funding from the Department for Education (DfE). The aim is to support and equip governors with the knowledge and skills to fulfil their responsibilities with confidence.

Best experience so far

The virtual workshops I’ve done have been great because, regardless of your level of expertise or sector experience, anyone can benefit, even if the course is a refresher for you. On the last course I did, someone had done it before and was back on.

The live online workshops are approximately two hours, which is the right length for that style of delivery. I found the last two workshops very informative – on ‘Culture, people and organisational development’ and ‘Delivering effective teaching, learning and assessment’. It’s been fast paced, but that’s good, and the workshops have been led by highly experienced professionals.

I enjoyed hearing from practitioners who presented on parts of the workshops. They shared their knowledge and best practice with useful ideas to take back to college (for example, the potential impact of Artificial Intelligence). There were also, of course, other governors sharing their diverse college experiences.

Learning from the programme

The knowledge I’ve gained from the programme has been incredible because it allows me to support and challenge my college in a much more effective and knowing way. I think it makes me a better governor.

There is an 51ԹϹ checklist which has all the modules on the Governance Development Programme where you can see what’s on offer and select the ones relevant to you. I’m really keen to take my learning further by participating in more of the Highly Effective elements.

Value of an online programme

I’m grateful that the programme exists, because as you progress in the world of governance, I don’t think there’s much else to support you, other than your college. Access to an external FE governance community and the opportunity to learn with flexible online courses and workshops is fantastic! The fact that it’s free is an added incentive.

Applying the learning

I’ve certainly taken back and shared learning from the courses, especially for our strategy days. For example, after the virtual workshop on culture and organisational development, the question of how we approach culture and asking our stakeholders what they perceive to be the culture of the organisation, became more of a priority. The courses have helped sharpen questioning around governance and our college’s curriculum offer and enabled me to lead the Academic Standards and Quality Assurance Committee more effectively – for example, looking at why certain student demographics are not achieving as highly as others. The different practices and ideas included in the training allow participants to consider new approaches to achieving excellence in learning.

Recommendation

I would recommend the 51ԹϹ’s Governance Development Programme to other governors. I believe that, as governors in a learning environment where we encourage students to embrace lifelong learning and staff to proactively pursue CPD, it’s incumbent on us to lead by example.

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