The Chair referred to the Remote Meeting Procedure and Protocol (previously circulated) and reminded those present that, although the meeting was held remotely, the Corporation’s Instrument & Articles and Standing Orders still applied.
PART I – OPEN ITEMS
55/21. Declarations of Interest
- A. Allen declared a Standing Interest as an employee of Harper Adams University.
- The Finance Director declared an interest in Minute Number 76/21. He left the meeting before consideration of the item.
- The Clerk to the Board declared an interest in Minute Number 76/21. She left the meeting before consideration of the relevant item.
- The Principal/CEO declared an interest in Minute Number 76/21. He left the meeting before consideration of the relevant part of this item.
56/21. Minutes of Meeting Held 11 October 2021 (Appendix – Agenda item 3)
Resolved: That the Minutes of the meeting held on 11 October 2021, be approved as a true record, subject to the following amendment –
Minute Number 44/21. Principal/CEO’s Presentation - Review of 2020-21/Planning and Goals 2021-22
The Minutes reflect a question from M. Thompson that, given the considerable effort and investment the college had put into safeguarding initiatives since the November 2019 Ofsted inspection such as badge entry systems on all three campuses, the fencing at London Road Campus, and quotes such as "we have a really impressive story to tell regarding our continuous improvements” and the FE Commissioner observing "Safeguarding – clearly a tremendous focus which has led to further good improvement” was Ofsted right in 2019? The P/CEO responded that safeguarding had always been and always would be an area of continuous improvement for Shrewsbury Colleges Group. The GVP – CS&BD also mentioned that, in some cases, the data requested by Ofsted at that inspection had existed just not necessarily in the form requested. Since then however, the College had created and maintained spreadsheets in readiness to respond to future queries.
57/21. Matters Arising
58/21. Chair’s Announcements
The Chair –
- Welcomed both Colin Sharp and Angela Creighton to their first meeting of the Board as governors.
- Reported that there had been two Learning Walks since the last Board meeting (Vocational Provision - Health & Social Care on 19 October 2021 and Academic Provision - History, Politics, Classics and Religious Studies Learning Walk on 02 December 2021), both of which had been positively received by governors, staff and students. In addition, all link governors had undertaken their termly link visits. This demonstrated governors’ continuing commitment to engaging in college life and taking an interest in students’ development and progress.
- Reminded that the Strategy Planning Event was currently scheduled to take place on Friday, 29 January 2022. Amongst the topics for possible discussion were digital innovation, the future of the college’s estate and curriculum opportunities.
- Advised that the Second Term of A Allen, Chair of the Quality, Standards & Curriculum Committee and Apprenticeship Link Governor would conclude on 31 December 2020. A gift of appreciation would be delivered to him on behalf of the Board. Governors thanked him for his support and commitment to the college, its staff and students during his Terms and wished him well for the future.
- Advised that Chris Pemberton, the Group Vice-Principal, Quality and Curriculum Development would be leaving the College on 31 December 2021 after almost 23 years’ service to both the College and Shrewsbury College of Arts & Technology. A card and gifts of appreciation from the Board had been presented to her prior to the meeting. Governors thanked her for her hard work and service and particularly acknowledged her contribution to the recent OFSTED Inspection.
In accordance with Standing Order No. 19, the Chair had approved the appointment of Colin Sharp as an Independent Governor of the Board of Shrewsbury Colleges Group with effect from 23 November 2021 for a Four-Year Term and had confirmed his appointment to the Audit Committee. This Action had been taken to maintain quality governance, the Chair having considered carefully the Board’s succession plan, skills audit returns and the Board’s future skills requirements.
The Chair expressed thanks on behalf of the Board to the Principal/CEO, SLT and staff for their hard work, resilience and commitment during another extremely challenging Term and recent full OFSTED Inspection. He also expressed his thanks to the Board for their support and to those governors who had met the Leadership & Management Inspector.
59/21. Change to Agenda Order
The Chair advised that the following items would be taken out of Agenda order, so a representative of the College’s Financial Statement’s auditors could attend the meeting by Microsoft Teams.
60/21. Summary of Audit Committee Minutes and Recommendations from Committee held 24 November 2021 (Appendices – Agenda Item 8 c)
The Committee Chair gave a verbal update and presented recommendations.
61/21. Internal Audit Service (IAS) Annual Report 2020 – 2021 (Appendices – Agenda items 8ci)
The Committee had reviewed the Annual Report 2020 – 2021 (previously circulated) summarising the outcomes of the reviews carried out on the college’s framework of governance, risk management and control and was designed to assist the Board in making its annual governance statement.
During the year, seven reviews had been conducted; five receiving Substantial Assurance, two attracting Reasonable Assurance and no reviews attracted Limited or No Assurance. One Review (Accommodation Strategy and Management) had been cancelled. The reviews undertaken had not resulted in any urgent recommendations and there were no areas reviewed where it was assessed that the effectiveness of some of the internal control arrangements provided ‘limited' or 'no assurance’. In response to a question, the Committee Chair confirmed that there had been minimal or no impact on the delivery of the internal audit work for the year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. There had been no changes to the planned work as a result of Covid-19; any changes to the planned work had been based on business/operational need.
Resolved: That the Internal Audit Service Annual Report 2020 – 2021 be accepted.
ACTION: Clerk to advise IAS
62/21. Audit Committee Draft Annual Report 2020 – 2021 (Appendix – Agenda Item 8cii)
The Committee had reviewed a précis of its activities for the Year 1 August 2020 to 31 July 2021 (previously circulated).
The report provided -
- a summary of the work of the Committee during the financial year under review, including any significant issues arising up to the date of preparation of the Report;
- any significant matters of internal control included in the management letters and reports from auditors or other assurance providers;
- the Committee’s view on its own effectiveness and how it had fulfilled its terms of reference; and
- the Committee’s opinion on the adequacy and effectiveness of the College’s audit arrangements, its framework of governance, risk management and control and its processes for securing economy, efficiency and effectiveness.
The Committee, having reviewed the Draft Report, had agreed that the section on the Internal Audit Service be supplemented to include the updates to the IAS Annual Report, as this had provided further assurance on the integrity of the College’s control systems.
Resolved: That the Audit Committee Annual Report 2020 – 2021, be accepted.
ACTION: Clerk to submit signed Report to ESFA
63/21. Risk Register and Board Assurance Framework (BAF) (Appendix – Agenda Item 8ciii)
The FD explained that some structural changes had been made to the Register since the last review in July 2021. The FE Commissioner had included in his recently published Final Report a suggestion in relation to the Board’s approach to risk and it was considered that the Register met this recommendation.
The Committee had concluded that the risks had been appropriately identified and the management actions reported were effectively mitigating these risks.
The FD had advised the Committee that the College had been invited to apply for registration to the Register of Approved Training Providers (RoATP) in December 2021 and the revised Risk Register reflected that there was a potential significant risk whilst the College awaited the outcome, which would be known in February/March 2021. The College was currently working on the registration.
The Committee had also requested that, as an ability to meet anticipated 16 – 19 growth was a challenge to the current estate and growth had been identified in the strategic plan, this risk should be added to the Register.
- the Risk Register and Board Assurance Framework (BAF) – November 2021 Update, be approved; and
- the risks identified for the 2021 – 2022 Risk Register and BAF, as amended, be approved.
64/21. Terms of Reference of Committee (Appendix – Agenda Item 8civ)
The Committee had reviewed its Terms (previously circulated) and had agreed that, whilst the Board membership was in a period of transition, with new members joining, it was appropriate to recommend the amendment of the Terms of Reference to “The quorum for the Committee shall be three members (at least two of whom must be governors)” to ensure that meetings were quorate going forward.
Resolved: That the revised Terms of Reference be approved.
Mr W. Devitt, of Grant Thornton, attended the meeting by remote access for the following item.
65/21. Approval of Financial Statements and Going Concern Report (Appendices - Agenda item 9)
The Board reviewed the Financial Statements for the Year Ended 31 July 2021 (previously circulated), having already been considered by both the Audit Committee (Audit Min No. 30/21 refers) and the Finance & Business Operations Committee (F&BO Min No. 58/21 refers).
Financial Statements for the Year Ended 31 July 2021
Mr Devitt presented the Financial Statements for the Year Ended 31 July 2021 (previously circulated). He thanked the FD, Finance Team and the MIS Manager, who had all supplied the additional samples required due to the increased assurance work required and had provided high quality information, resulting in no adjustments being required. The auditors confirmed an unqualified audit opinion in terms of both truth and fairness and regularity. .
Going Concern Assessment
The FD presented a report (previously circulated) providing the Board with assurance regarding the status of the College as a going concern. The draft year end accounts, 2021 - 22 financial plan and year to date operating outcomes demonstrated continuing good financial health.
The predictable nature of the timing of the Education & Skills Funding (ESFA) funding payments meant that the college could anticipate and plan for when the cash position was lowest (in March and early April of each year). The college had in place adequate mitigating actions in place to ensure cash fluidity at this time during 2023.
Resolved: That, having considered the draft Financial Statements, the report of the Finance Director and Financial Statements auditors and the reports on going concern –
- the Board considered the Shrewsbury Colleges Group to be a going concern; and
- approved the draft year-end financial statements 31 July 2021 and Management Letter, for signature by the Chair and Principal/CEO.
ACTION: Signed Statements to be submitted to ESFA
Mr Devitt left the meeting at this point.
66/21. Principal/CEO’s Report (Confidential Appendix – Agenda item 6)
The Principal/CEO provided a thorough strategic overview (previously circulated) on the following topics in particular –
- Regarding the recent full OFSTED Inspection, he expressed his sincere thanks to the Senior Leadership Team (SLT), operational and academic management and all staff for the hard work undertaken in preparation for the Inspection, particularly as, during the past two years, the college had also dealt with both the consequences of the Covid pandemic and the additional work created as a result of being in Intervention. It had been confirmed that the final report would be published in the new year. The Board added their appreciation that, throughout this challenging period, staff had ensured that students remained engaged in learning and safe. In response to a question, the P/CEO confirmed that the college had a strategy in place to communicate the report outcome.
- The Covid pandemic continued to affect both student attendance and retention. Year to date attendance was lower, compared with this time last year; this was in line with the schools in Shrewsbury and with colleges across the Midlands region. 16-18 retention currently was lower than this time last year. Analysis has revealed that students had started on a classroom-based course and then secured an apprenticeship, whereas last year, there were few in year apprenticeship opportunities, and that more year 2 students had not returned for their second year because they had found full-time work. It appeared that the further education sector had generally not recruited to anticipated levels this year.
- Regarding works to the estate, the extension to the brick workshop at the London Road Campus had been completed. Solar panels were currently being installed on the rooves of the Electrical Plumbing and Gas (EPG) and Engineering building at the Campus. This project would help to reduce carbon emissions and realise savings to free funds to reinvest in improving students’ education. In response to a question, the FD explained that it had been originally estimated that the college would break-even on the project investment costs within four years; however, due to the increasing electricity prices, it was now expected that this timescale would reduce.
- The college was currently involved in three pieces of collaboration work with other colleges regionally and nationally, including as a partner in the Marches Strategic Development Fund programme to enhance teaching and learning in Health and Social Care through the use of mobile technology to support virtual learning, and to upskill existing NHS staff through flexible professional development programmes. In addition, the college was also involved in two exciting developments in higher education in relation to health and care. Staffordshire University had validated the college’s foundation degree which would allow the college to offer a new award from September 2022, to meet the needs of students to continue their studies locally. The college had also gained the support of Staffordshire University and the Integrated Care System (ICS) in Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin for the innovative Adult Nursing pathway. This would allow Level 3 BTEC Health and Social Care students to specialise in Adult Nursing, with a guaranteed place at Staffordshire University on the Adult Nursing degree, supported by the NHS and ICS who would provide placements and ultimately jobs for the graduates.
- Regarding 16-18 applications, a number of schools were behind in their application processes because of the challenges they faced this term and this reflected in the number of admissions received to date. The Admissions Team had identified actions to drive recruitment, given the new strategic plan had growth as a key goal. In response to a question on the college’s plans to enable students in Newport to attend the College, the GVP – CS&BD responded that the college was working with Arriva to advertise its existing route via Whitchurch and funding a taxi for a cluster of students in the area. It was looking to improve the route offer for September 2022.
Resolved: That the report of the Principal/CEO be noted.
67/21. Strategic Development Plan– Update on Progress (Appendix – Agenda Item 7)
As requested by the Board (Board Min No 45/21 refers), the P/CEO presented a progress update on Strategic Development Plan projects. The P/CEO explained that progress to date, should be taken in the context of the impact of preparing for the OFSTED Inspection. However, now the Inspection had finished, work on these projects would progress in earnest.
In response to a question on whether the project to develop a Safest College Strategy would address the current pressure on the college emotional health and wellbeing team, the GVP – CS&BD explained that she was currently meeting with a number of stakeholders to establish the scope of the strategy. The growth in demand on the team was due to the impact of the Covid 19 pandemic on students’ wellbeing and emotional health. The college continued to invest resources in this area and was also working with students to encourage them to develop life management skills, as an alternative to the expectation that they would receive 1-2-1 counselling as a matter of course.
68/21. Summary of Minutes and Recommendations from Committees (Appendices – Agenda Items 8 a, b, d & e)
Chairs of the committees presented the following meetings, drawing the Board’s attention to items of particular interest and presenting recommendations.
Search & Governance Committee – 12 October 2021 (Appendix – Agenda Item 8a) (Draft Minutes previously circulated)
69/21. Committee Membership 2021- 2022 (Appendix – Agenda Item 8ai) (Previously circulated)
Resolved: That the following committee membership be approved
Audit Committee Membership
- J. Barratt
- R. Sartain
- C. Sharp (Co-opted committee member)
- M. Thompson
Estates Strategy Working Group
- D. Pulford (co-opted F&BO committee member)
- G. Mills
- Finance Director
- R. Sartain
- M. Thompson
- P. Tucker
- R. Wilson
Finance and Business Operations
- G. Mills
- D. Pulford (co-opted committee member) *
- P. Tucker
- R. Wilson
Quality Standards and Curriculum Committee
- J. Barratt
- A Benghiat
- H. Hawksworth
- J. Rowe
- J. Sharrock
- R. Wilson (ex-officio)
- Student Governors (co-opted committee members)
- G. Mills
- J. Sharrock
- R. Wilson
Search & Governance Committee
- B. Greenaway
- J. Staniforth
- R. Wilson (Chair)
Link Governors and Governor Representatives
- A. Benghiat – H.E.
- J. Rowe - E&D
- J. Sharrock – Safeguarding
- R. Sartain – H&S.
Radbrook Foundation – R. Sartain
The following be disbanded –
- Post Inspection Action Plan Steering Committee.
Finance & Business Operations Committee – 02 November 2021 (Appendix – Agenda Item 8b) (Draft Minutes previously circulated)
70/21. Health and Safety Annual Report 2020 – 2021 (Appendix – Agenda Item 8bi)
The Annual Report on Health and Safety across the college for August 2020 to July 2021 (previously circulated) also included an Assurance Statement based on the Institute of Directors and the Health and Safety Commission ‘Leading Health and Safety at Work’ guidance as assurance on the effective leadership of health and safety.
The Health & Safety Link Governor confirmed that he had reviewed the Report. He further reported that he had recently visited the college’s Health & Safety Officer. He had also witnessed members of the College’s on-site security team engaging pro-actively with students to manage social distancing.
Resolved: That the Health and Safety Annual Report 2020 – 2021, be approved.
71/21. Health & Safety Policy and Statement (Appendix – Agenda Item 8bii)
The Board was recommended to approve the college’s Health & Safety Policy and Statement, which would be signed by the Chair of Board and the Principal/CEO.
Resolved: That the college’s Health & Safety Policy Statement be approved.
Quality, Standards & Curriculum Committee – 06 December 2021 (Appendix – Agenda Item 8d) (Draft Minutes previously circulated)
The Committee Chair reported that the Committee had –
- Received a thorough report from the Safeguarding Link Governor on her activities so far this Term, which had consisted of a blend of formal meetings and informal learning walks at each site. Following the learning walks, her overwhelming impression was that there were very effective safeguarding procedures and teams in place at all three sites. There was a strong safeguarding culture and a feeling that safeguarding and student safety being paramount throughout the College. The Link Governor considered that there was a broad and shared understanding of the changes to Keeping Children Safe in Education (KCSiE) and the duties and responsibilities with respect to safeguarding throughout the Board. As a result, all governors were well equipped to exercise effective oversight of safeguarding.
- Considered the latest position regarding the college’s arrangements in respect of careers guidance and advice and reviewed progress against the Gatsby Benchmarks. The college currently met five out of the eight Gatsby Benchmarks and as the Committee expected full achievement within the autumn term 2021; it had also reviewed the college’s plan to close the gaps on the remaining three to the expected deadline.
- Reports on complaints and compliments received and updates on student voice activities had also been considered.
Finance & Business Operations Committee – 02 December 2021 (Appendix – Agenda Item 8e) (Draft Minutes previously circulated)
The Committee Chair gave a verbal update. The Committee had also reviewed the Financial Statements and Going Concern Report.
72/21. Risk (Agenda Item 10)
The Board reviewed those risks specific to the Board.
73/21. Date of Next Meetings –
Strategic Planning Day – Friday, 28 January 2022 from 9.00 a.m. Venue – tbc; and
Scheduled Meeting – Monday, 28 March 2022 from 5.30 p.m. Venue – tbc.
PART II – CONFIDENTIAL SESSION
It was agreed that Minute Numbers 74, 75 & 76 be considered as confidential items 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 76.
74/21. OFSTED Inspection Outcome (Confidential Agenda item 12)
The P/CEO provided a confidential briefing on the draft Final Report.
75/20. Safeguarding Annual Report (Confidential Appendix – Agenda Item 13)
The Board considered the Safeguarding Annual Self-Assessment Report (previously circulated) which provided updates on Safeguarding at the College including -
- Staffing structure to safeguard students
- Partnership relationships with external stakeholders
- An evaluation of the College’s safeguarding arrangements and details of the College’s response to the OFSTED Inspection Report
- Safeguarding referrals
- Emotional Health & Well Being
- The impact of Covid-19 on safeguarding students and the College’s response
- Looked After Young People
- Employment Checks
- Safeguarding Training and Development
- Risk Assessment and Transition
- Safeguarding Delivered through Tutorial and Enrichment
- Policy review and updates
- Safeguarding Committee activity; and
- The Quality Improvement Action Plan for 2021 – 2022.
The GVP - CS&BD expressed her thanks to the DCS and his Team who had demonstrated continuing resilience and determination to ensure that the college’s students continued to be safeguarded. The DCS explained that the Team had identified and reviewed plans to ensure that vulnerable students had coping strategies in place to ensure that they were safe over the Christmas period when the college was shut. The GVP – CS&BD explained that the Emotional Health & Wellbeing staff had also put together a pack of resources for students to access over Christmas.
Resolved: That the Safeguarding Annual Self-Assessment Report 2020 – 2021, be accepted.
Staff and Student Governors and all members of SLT, except for the GVP – HRD, left the meeting at this point.
The Principal/CEO, Finance Director and Clerk to the Board left the meeting at the appropriate point.
In accordance with Instrument 12, a Board member was appointed to act as Clerk to the Committee during her absence.
76/21. Draft Confidential Minutes and Recommendations – Remuneration Committee – 13 December 2021 (Confidential Verbal Report)
The Chair of the Committee provided a confidential verbal update, details set out in a Confidential Minute.
Resolved: That the recommendation set out in a Confidential Minute, be agreed.
The meeting concluded at 7.32 p.m.