Julie James, Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology
I would like to update Members on the ongoing work between the Welsh Government and the further education (FE) sector following the commencement of the Further and Higher Education (Governance and Information) (Wales) Act 2014, (the Act) which received Royal Assent on 27 January 2014.
The 2014 Act freed colleges from central government control, and reinforced the increasingly important role of college governors in setting the strategic direction of their institutions. The changes have given our colleges greater autonomy – reducing the restrictions on governing bodies, while strengthening their accountability to the students, employers and wider communities which they serve.
Many colleges have already seized this challenge, often in innovative ways, but more needs to be done if we are to raise standards across the FE sector in Wales. There is clear evidence that high quality is synonymous with strong and effective leadership. We need to work together to ensure that every college is as good as the best, maintaining an unwavering commitment and focus on raising standards.
My officials continue to engage constructively with key stakeholders involved in further education. By working closely with the sector we acknowledge the important role of governance in safeguarding financial health, raising the quality of provision, challenging poor performance, and securing the success of a college in fulfilling its mission. Strong governance is central to the effective delivery of our policies and is ultimately critical in ensuring accountability to the taxpayer and government.
This is exactly the reason for providing the FE sector with enhanced freedoms, to allow greater autonomy in decision making, with Welsh Government offering guidance rather than direction.
To strengthen that relationship we assisted ColegauCymru in the commissioning of a new framework of best practice for FE governance. The updated Code for Governors has been developed with the close involvement of sector stakeholders
Effective governance is at the heart of this aim, and is vital to every college’s success. Governors have a strategic oversight of their college; they lead the drive for improved standards in teaching and learning, holding Principals to account. Governors are also the guardians of public money, with responsibility for ensuring effective and efficient use of college resources.
I’m pleased to note the new Code for FE Governors in Wales acknowledges the commitment, energy and dedication governors bring to their role. It also recognises the special responsibilities and demands that come with assuming the role of governor. I would like to thank the FE sector and ColegauCymru for the work put in to date in undertaking this important project. The new Code has been developed by FE stakeholders to benefit the sector, in other words ‘by the sector, for the sector’, to support stronger governance and improved standards, by providing an easily accessible best practice resource which links to relevant and current support material.
On behalf of the Welsh Government I welcome the publication of this new Code. I would encourage all further education colleges in Wales to adopt the code as a resource for developing excellence in governance, so that together we can achieve what we are all working towards – a world-class further education system, successful students, strong businesses and a prosperous future for all.