Shrewsbury Colleges Group
Group Minutes of the Board
Date 10th July 23
Time 5.36pm
Minutes Membership In attendance
Prof. J. Barratt, A. Caesar-Homden, B. Greenaway, R. Harrison, A. Hodson, J. Hoyland, G. Mills, A Prichard, R. Sartain, C. Sharp, J. Staniforth (Principal/Chief Executive, M. Thompson, P. Tucker and R. Wilson.

In attendance through remote access by Teams
J. Staniforth
In Attendance Members of the Senior Leadership Team (SLT):
C. Armstrong, Vice Principal, Students & Partnerships (VP – S&P))
M. Brown, Vice Principal, Quality, Apprenticeships & Information (VP – Q, A & I)
M. Laws, Vice Principal, Technical & Vocational Education (VP – T&VE)
D. Lucas, Vice Principal - People (VP – P)
S. McAlinden, Assistant Principal - Curriculum Support (AP, CS)
P. Partridge, Executive Director of Finance (EDoF)
C. Sears, Vice Principal, A Levels Studies (VP, AL)

T. Cottee - Clerk to the Board
Apologies A Benghiat, D Johnson, N. Stitch and B. Wilson.

Prior to the meeting, the EDoF gave a Governor Development Briefing on the college’s Management Accounts. He explained how the Accounts were compiled, the information they contained and how governors used them to seek assurance on the financial management of the college.


24/23. Declarations of Interest 

  1. The Principal/CEO declared an interest in Minute Number 42/23.  He left the meeting before consideration of the item.
  2. The Executive Director of Finance declared an interest in Minute Number 42/23.  He left the meeting before consideration of the item.
  3. The Clerk to the Board declared an interest in Minute Number 42/23.  She left the meeting before consideration of the relevant item.

25/23. Minutes of Board Meeting Held 27 March and Special Meeting Held 22 May 2023 (Appendices – Agenda item 3)

Resolved:  That the Minutes of the meetings held on 27 March and Special Meeting held on 22 May 2023, be approved as a true record. 

Minute Number 21/33.  Governor Employer Initiative
The Board Chair provided a verbal update.  The Task & Finish Group’s proposals on how governors could engage with employers and the college’s stakeholders had been approved at the recent Special Board Meeting (Board Min. No. 21/23 refers).  One of the recommendations agreed was that a Governor/Employer event be held; this would now be held at the start of the 2023/24 year.  He encouraged all governors to attend if possible and, when the event date was sent and the invitation despatched, to circulate it amongst their networks.

26/23. Chair’s Announcements

The Chair – 

      • Welcomed J. Hoyland and A Prichard to their first Board meeting.  Both briefly explained their skills backgrounds.
      • Advised of some of the college events governors had attended since the last Board meeting - 
        • Academic Leavers’ Concert, English Bridge Campus – 02 May 2023
        • ‘Sister Act’, Severn Theatre – 16 – 18 May 2023
        • Governors’ Dinner, Origins, London Road Campus – 25 May 2023
        • ‘A Night at the Musicals’, Severn Theatre – 14 June 2023
        • Fashion & Arts Shows, English Bridge Campus – 16 June 2023
        • Star Awards, Clayton Hall, London Road Campus – 29 June 2023
        • HE Awards, St Chads – 07 July 2023

The Board Chair and governors who had attended these events praised the students and staff they had met and commended the breadth and quality of talent and achievement evident at the college.  

      • All link governors had held link meetings this Term.  He advised that J. Hoyland had accepted the Safeguarding Link Governor Role and R. Harrison had accepted the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Link Governor role.  He thanked them for their support to these important areas of the college.
      • The postponed Geology, Geography, Computing & Economics Governor Learning Walk Lunch, would be held on 12 July 2023. 
      • Presented gifts of appreciation to C. Armstrong, the Vice Principal, Students & Partnerships, who would be leaving the college at the end of August 2023.  The Board Chair and other governors paid tribute to her long-service and commitment to the college, particularly her impact as Designated Safeguarding Lead and for her consistent support of students and dedication to their safety and welfare.
      • The Term of B. Wilson, the 16 – 19 Student Governor would conclude on 31 July 2023.  A gift of appreciation and a certificate of achievement would be sent to him on behalf of the Board. 
      • The Student Union Executive (SUE) had submitted a Valid Nomination to the Student Governor (16 – 19) position, which would become vacant from 31 July 2023.  Wyatt Saveker would be appointed as the Student Governor (16 – 19) for a One Year Term from 01 August 2023 to 31 July 2024.  He had commenced Induction with the support of the current Student Governor and Clerk.

Resolved that: W. Saveker be appointed as the Student Governor (16 – 19) for a One Year Term from 01 August 2023 to 31 July 2024. and be appointed to the Quality, Standards & Curriculum Committee as a co-opted member.

Action:  Clerk to support newly appointed governor in Induction. 

In reflecting on another eventful year, the Board Chair reminded governors of how much the college had achieved; success in attracting substantial funding to invest in T Level provision, improvements to the estate to the benefit of student experience, the staff’s determination to support students facing external examinations for the first time, all while facing continuing external challenges presented by the current landscape.  He also expressed his thanks to the P/CEO and SLT for their hard work and to fellow governors for their support.  He felt that the Bard and college were well placed to improve even further going into 2023/24.

 Chair’s Actions

27/23. Strategic Discussion - Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Education (Appendices – Agenda Item 6a)

 The VP – Q, A & I, at the request of the Board Chair, provided a Governor Development Briefing on the college’s approach to AI and on how the college would embrace the opportunities and mitigate the risks it presented now and going forward.  Whilst there was an undoubted opportunity presented by the advent of openly available AI tools, the college must consider the level to which it wished to engage with AI and plan accordingly.

The VP explained – 

      • That although AI had been in existence for some time, recent developments had revolutionised its accessibility.  Despite concerns over its current limitations, AI was being increasingly embraced by organisations looking to improve processes and productivity and by individuals.  
      • There were opportunities for the college presented by AI, as it was well placed to do the ‘heavy lifting’ on a wide range of tasks that would take a human significant time to complete, such as supporting the development of deeper understanding, assist with structure, form, and summarisation of information and fact check.
      • The immediate issues relevant to the college were the requirements of regulators to ensure that the college ensured the integrity of student work.  This required the college to mitigate the risk of students mis-using AI to produce assignment content through  providing information to teachers and assessors to help them identify these instances.
      • For the college to effectively mitigate risks and embrace opportunities, staff and students should be equipped with the skills needed to understand the technology and feel confident to use it appropriately.
      • The initial mitigating actions being taken by the college, based on guidance issued by JISC.  
      • Senior Leadership Team was currently considering actions to facilitate AI engagement in the college.  

In discussion, the Board observed that AI was developing rapidly and would inevitably expand into the education sector; this had significant implications for the college.  Strategically, there was an opportunity to take advantage of its opportunities; however, the challenge would be supporting staff and students to understand and use the technology without undermining the college’s educational purpose.  The development of a Digital Strategy was included in the Strategic Plan, which the Board would review as it developed.

28/23. Principal/CEO’s Report (Confidential Appendix – Agenda item 6b)

The P/CEO provided a thorough strategic overview (previously circulated) on the following topics in particular – 

      • Progress on Applications and Welcome Days.  The college was well-placed to recruit strongly for 2023/24, compared to 2022/23, with more applications at this point than the previous year.  The focus was now on translating applications to enrolments.  The Welcome Day events had also been well attended, particularly the ‘Activity Day’ event held to give applicants the opportunity to meet fellow students.  The college continued to develop how it promoted itself, including through its new TikTok channel.    
      • National Strike Action.  Whilst the college anticipated minimal disruption on the remaining two NEU strike action days, both the NEU and the NASUWT had secured a mandate for strike action in the college during the Autumn Term.  Co-ordinated action presented the risk of disruption to teaching and learning.   
      • Qualification Reform.  The college expected to deliver seven T Levels from September 2023, to 157 students and had received £1.3mn for specialist equipment and £620k to support the delivery of Childcare and Health Science.  However, there were still no T Level alternatives to some current courses.  Daniel Kawczynski, MP, had arranged for the P/CEO to meet with Sir Robert Halfon and he and the VP, T&VP had also been asked to meet with Department for Education (DfE) officials, to discuss the implications of qualification reform.
      • Local Skills Improvement Fund (LSIF) and Accountability Agreements - The Marches Local Skills Improvement Fund application had passed Stage 1 meaning the bid, led by Telford College and supported by SCG, as well as Herefordshire, Ludlow and North Shropshire College, as well as the Chamber of Commerce as the Employer Responsive Body, could be developed into a full proposal.  The focus of the bid was higher level skills for manufacturing and construction, which would support the development of higher technical qualifications to meet the identified local and regional need.  
      • Awards –the college had been awarded the National Health & Wellbeing Prize at the annual Sixth Form College Association’s awards evening and the Commitment to People Award at the Shropshire Chamber Business Awards.  The two awards were recognition of the college’s student-centred ethos and commitment to being the employer of choice.  
      • Retention and Attendance – the college had put in place several measures to support student retention, including setting clearer expectations for all students and courses, additional capacity to support students outside of class both academically and pastorally and additional financial support to help students suffering from the cost of living.  Whilst these initiatives should also have improved attendance, it had not met expected targets this year.  A teacher-led working group had been set up to devise strategies to improve attendance into 23/24.
      • Association of Colleges: ‘Opportunity England’ – the AoC had published a new report, ‘Opportunity England: How colleges can transform life chances, overcome inequalities, and boost economic growth’.  The report called for a fundamental realignment of the national tertiary system, developed in partnership between learning organisations and other institutions (including local government, employer groups, unions and community organisations), to avoid excess regulation and unnecessary competition.  
      • Staff and Student achievements.  The Board expressed its pride in the many students and staff who had achieved academic and sporting success in competitions.

In response to questions, the P/CEO – 

      • provided an update on the pre-enrolment and parent information events, which had gone well. He praised the staff who had fielded questions at the events and provided high quality information and reassurance to parents.  The college was revising its webpages providing information to prospective students and parents.
      • an update to the college’s preparations to deliver T levels.

29/23. Summary of Minutes and Recommendations from Committees (Appendices – Agenda Items 8a – 8d)

Chairs of the committees presented the following meetings, drawing the Board’s attention to items of particular interest and presenting recommendations.

Finance & Business Operations Committee – 16 May 2023 (Appendix – Agenda Item 8a) (Minutes previously circulated)

The Committee Chair presented the following recommendation – 

30/23. Draft Subcontractor Management, Retained Funding Policy2022 - 2023 (Appendix – Agenda Item 8ai)

The Board reviewed (previously circulated) the Draft Subcontractor Policy for 2023 – 2024. 

Resolved:  That the Subcontractor Management, Retained Funding Policy 2023 - 2024, be approved.

Audit Committee – 14 June 2023 (Appendix – Agenda Item 8b) (Draft Minutes previously circulated)

The Committee Chair gave a brief report and highlighted the following: 

      • Prior to the meeting, the VP, Q,A & I had provided an update on the key challenges and risks facing the college with respect to IT, cyber security and IT business continuity.  He had explained the mitigations implemented by the college to manage risks to provide assurance to the Committee.  A Committee member, together with another governor, had recently met with the VP and the IT Manager.  He had reported on the visit and that he had received assurance on the college’s Business Continuity Plans and Disaster Recovery Plans.
      • The Committee had reviewed the latest suite of Internal Audit Service (IAS) Assurance Reports, all of which had provided assurance.  Regarding the Assurance Report on the college’s Wellbeing and Support Service, the Committee had been informed that the audit had not revealed any gaps or deficits; indeed, the experienced auditor, who had conducted similar audits at several other colleges had been very impressed with the college’s arrangements.  Regarding the Internal Audit Report on HR System Functionality and Utilisation, the Committee had agreed the recommendations in the report, including that functionality of certain aspects of the college’s current HR system, be reviewed.
      • The Committee Chair had considered the Committee’s performance during 2022 – 2023 and completed the self-evaluation, which the Committee had reviewed and agreed. 

31/23. Financial Statement Auditors 2022 – 2023 Audit Plan and Strategy (Appendix – Agenda item 8bi)

The Financial Statement Auditor’s Plan and Strategy (previously circulated) for the year ended 30 July 2023, provided an overview of the nature of the audit work and key aspects of the audit.

Resolved: that the Financial Statement Auditors 2022 – 2023 Audit Plan and Strategy be approved.

32/23. Risk Register and Board Assurance Framework (BAF) (Appendix – Agenda Item 8bii)

The Committee had concluded that the risks had been appropriately identified and the management actions reported were effectively mitigating these risks.  It had also agreed that the committee pre-meeting presentations, had provided additional assurance on the college’s risk assessment ‘culture’.

The EDoF explained the risks identified and mitigating actions being undertaken.

In response to questions, the P/CEO – 

      • explained that the risk of the adverse financial impact of significant under recruitment of planned 16 – 18 learner numbers had materialised for 2023-24.  The college has identified additional sources of income for 2023-24, and identified significant pay and non-pay savings.   tTe college focus remained on improving recruitment for September 2023, which would determine funding in 2024-25.  
      • provided a verbal update on the arrangements the college had put in place to maximise applications, and the number of potential enrolments to date.  The EDoF confirmed that the college was modelling against expected enrolments for 2023 – 2024 and the consequent impact on funding for 2024 – 2025.

The P/CEO invited the Board to consider the Register and raise through the Clerk any particular risk issues they wished to be the subject of future pre-meeting presentations to all governors.  The Board concluded that the risks have been appropriately identified and the management actions reported were effectively mitigating these risks.

Resolved: That the Risk Register and Board Assurance Framework (BAF) – July 2023 update, be approved:

Finance & Business Operations Committee – 27 June 2023 (Appendix – Agenda Item 8c) (Draft Minutes previously circulated)

The Committee Chair presented the following recommendations - 

33/23. Fees Policy 2023 – 2024 (Confidential Appendix – Agenda Item 8ciii) 

The Board reviewed (previously circulated) the proposed College Fees Policy for 2023 - 2024.

The Committee had reviewed the college’s Financial Regulations at its meeting in February 2023 (FBO Min No 06/23 refers) and approved by Board at its March meeting.  However, following the decision to move the further education sector to the public sector for accounting purposes, the Senior Leadership Team had further reviewed the Financial Regulations.  The Draft, incorporating new delegated authorities because of colleges being deemed public sector bodies, was presented for review.

Resolved:  That the revised Fees Policy 2023 – 2024, be approved.

34/23. Draft Revised Financial Regulations (Appendix, Agenda Item 8cii)

The Committee had reviewed minor revisions made to the College’s Financial Regulations (previously circulated) to ensure they remained robust and effective.

Having reviewed the recommended revisions, it was:

Resolved:  That the College Financial Regulations, as revised, be approved.

35/23. College Financial Forecast and Draft Budget 2023/24 (Appendices, Agenda Item 8ci)

The Committee Chair explained that the Committee had reviewed in depth the Draft Budget and revised two-year Financial Plan, prior to consideration by the Board (previously circulated).  

The EDoF gave a presentation (slide pack previously circulated) and explained the following key points – 

      • The initial plan for 2023-24, had been impacted by several significant challenges:
        • Lower than anticipated enrolment of 16-19 learners.
        • The ongoing energy supply issues and historically high energy costs.
        • Changes to the Financial Health scoring system which made achieving a Financial Health score of “good” more challenging. 
        • The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reclassification of colleges as “public sector” removed the potential for working capital overdrafts or other new borrowing.
        • Exams fee inflation and costs had increased significantly ahead of plan despite lower than student planned headcount.
      • Through the college management’s commitment to meet the revised financial goals, the college’s financial position was now more favourable than earlier in the year.  In response to a question, the EDoF provided an overview of the capital expenditure and investment made by the college into the estate and in preparing for the delivery of T level provision.  The college had been successful in attracting funding to support the delivery of T levels.  Whilst this had been welcomed, it would directly benefit a relatively small number of students; important areas of the college’s provision delivered to many more remained in need of further investment and the college still needed to fund anticipated growth and improve facilities.

Regarding the Draft Budget, the EDoF explained - 

      • Sources of income, how the college would spend income generated and the income assumptions made with respect to 2023/24 and 2024/25.  
      • Regarding Adult Education, Trades Union activity had increased and the small volume of Subcontracting continued to be delivered through known and proven partners aligned with the college’s plans.  There was an ongoing need to manage devolved authorities' expectations and contracts.  
      • Regarding Apprenticeship income existing apprentices continued with achievable targets for new starts.  In response to a question, the EDoF confirmed that the college had the capacity to meet this increase in the short term, but not in the medium term.
      • Regarding Pay Expenditure the impact of continued investment in tuition catch up and student support and assumed pay cost inflation was acknowledged; each additional 1% variance awarded = c£225k.  The Board supported the college’s approach to investing in teaching staff to support students.
      • Capital expenditure plans, cashflow and Financial Health forecasts.
      • As part of planning for next year and to identify where the impact of these challenges could be mitigated, the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) had reviewed the current in-year position and developed an updated plan for 2023/24.  The plan identified additional sources of income related to grant funding already secured and known opportunities for growth or new business which were highly likely to be realised.  In addition, it had identified sources of and targets appropriate cost savings.  In response to questions, the EDoF confirmed that all goals set had been met, although non-Pay, exams, bursary, transport and materials costs continued to present a challenge and the college would continue to focus on finding efficiencies throughout next year.  

The Committee, having reviewed the Draft Budget and considered the EDoF’s presentation, had concluded that – 

      • The 2023-24 year remained challenging with significant risks around pay and non-pay cost inflation.
      • Underlying Financial Health was Good, with plans to maintain that rating in 2023/4 and 2024/25.
      • Through prudent management, Cashflow remained sound.
      • Ensuring that planned full cost and other income were delivered was key to achieving the college’s strategic objectives.

Having reviewed the Report, the presentation and the conclusions of the Committee, it was 

Resolved:  That the Draft Budget and revised two-year Financial Plan, be approved.

36/23. Quality, Standards & Curriculum Committee – 03 July 2023 (Agenda Item 8d) 

The Committee Chair explained there were no recommendations.  However, the Committee had reviewed:

      • an overview of the outcomes from the college’s Professional Practice Review (PPR) process (previously circulated) to provide assurance regarding the quality of teaching and learning in the college, that teaching and learning practice effectively supported students’ progression and achievement and that the college was aware of skills to develop.  The outcome of the PPR feedback suggested that the college had well-qualified teachers with exceptional subject knowledge who engaged well with students to create a supportive learning environment with good classroom behaviour.
      • Progress Grade Period 3 outcomes.  The Committee had acknowledged that the college had worked hard to put in place measures to support the achievement of good or better outcomes for a cohort that had not sat external exams before.
        • Regarding safeguarding, the college had extended the Student Assistance Programme, to provide all students with access to video and/ or telephone counselling.  The intention was that more students could access support more quickly, the outcome being to help them attend college, as well as preventing escalation if students needed to wait for support.
        • The outcomes from the year-end Student Perception of College (SPOC) survey.  There had been high percentages of satisfaction regarding the campus estates (97%), atmosphere at college (92%), the quality of teaching (94%) and would recommend the college to others (96%).  Students felt safe in college (98%) and, to provide further assurance to the Committee, those that did not feel safe had been followed up directly and individually by the safeguarding team.  
        • Reports on apprenticeships, sub-contracting, careers, higher education and student voice.

37/23. Risk (Agenda Item 11)

The Board reviewed those risks specific to the Board and requested that the Risks be updated to reflect the Register approved at Min No. 32/23.  

38/23. Date of Next Meeting

Scheduled Meeting – Monday, 16 October 2023 from 5.30 p.m.  Venue – Higher Education Centre, London Road Campus. 

39/23. Governance Pack 

The Board reviewed the following reports (previously circulated) – 

40/23. Board Calendar of Meetings 2023/2024

Resolved:  That the Board and committee calendar of meetings for 2023/24, be approved.

41/23. GDPR Annual Report 2022/2023

Resolved:  That the GDPR Annual Report 2022/23, be accepted.


It was agreed that Minute Number 42/23 be considered as a confidential item under Instrument 16(2) (c ) and (d) and Standing Order 11 and that, in accordance with Instrument 13(5) (d), Staff and Student Governors, members of the Senior Leadership Team and affected Staff be excluded during consideration of Item 42/23.  

Staff and Student Governors and all members of SLT, except for the VP – P, left the meeting at this point.

The Executive Director of Finance and Clerk to the Board left the meeting.

In accordance with Instrument 12, a Board member was appointed to act as Clerk to the Committee during her absence.

42/23. Draft Confidential Minutes and Recommendations – Board – 27 March 2023 (Confidential Verbal Report)

The Chair of the Committee provided a confidential verbal update, details set out in a Confidential Minute.

The meeting concluded at 7.27 p.m.


Referred to deaths of students.
Fact that they happened close together affected us.