Shrewsbury Colleges Group
Group Minutes of Finance & Business Operations Committee
Date 19th May 21
Time 5.30 pm
Minutes Membership In attendance by electronic device and contributing towards the meeting quorum, in accordance with Instrument 12. (Members may count towards the quorum if they are able to be present by electronic or digital communication (including attendance by video conferencing or telephone conferencing).
A. Allen, B. Greenaway, J. Staniforth (Principal/CEO) and R. Wilson (Chair).

In Attendance
T. Cottee - Clerk to the Board
Apologies None.

08/21. Declarations of Interest

A Allen declared a standing interest as an employee of Harper Adams University.

09/21. Minutes of Previous Meetings (Appendices – Agenda Items 3a & 3b) (previously circulated)

Resolved: That the Minutes of the Meeting held on 03 March 2021, be approved as a true record.

10/21. Board Vacancies and Succession Planning – Update (Appendices – Agenda Items 4a & b)

Application for Board Opportunity

The Committee acknowledged that there were currently two Independent Governor Vacancies on the Board. The Clerk to the Board had received an application for an opportunity to join the Board (completed application pack previously circulated). The applicant had passed Due Diligence Checks and had also taken up the opportunity to meet informally the Principal/CEO and Board Chair. The applicant had accordingly been invited to attend the meeting for formal interview. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, the applicant was unable to attend. The Committee, based on the verbal feedback from the Principal/CEO and Board Chair, AGREED to invite the candidate for interview at a later mutually convenient date.

Action: Clerk to contact Applicant

Board Vacancies and Succession Planning
The Committee considered an update on progress in search activities in anticipation of upcoming vacancies on the Board (previously circulated). The Report also included the latest update with respect to –

      • current vacancies and opportunities; and
      • actions taken since the last Committee meeting.

Since the last Committee Meeting

      • One Appointed Governor had resigned. This Governor had also been Vice Chair of the Board and Chair of the Finance & Business Operations Committee. Arrangements to appoint a new Vice Chair and Committee Chair were in hand, in accordance with the Board’s succession planning programme.
      • The Board had appointed a further Audit Committee Co-Opted Committee Member, as recommended by the Committee. They were currently on Induction, meeting all expected development targets to date.
      • The Student Governor (16 – 19 cohort) had been appointed. The Student Governor (H.E.) had been nominated and would be appointed at the next Board meeting.
      • The Audit and Finance & Business Operations co-opted committee members had all been re-appointed.

Governor Vacancies - Recruitment Update

      • As directed by the Committee, the Clerk had embarked on an extensive search programme and contacted directly further applicants of interest.
      • Following this, four applications had been received, with a further two expressions of interest being pursued.

The Committee discussed the applications received in relation to the current Skill’s Audit, Succession Plan and appointment timetable and AGREED that three of the four applications be progressed to Due Diligence stage, with one application being considered not meeting the Board’s current requirements. The P/CEO mentioned a possible candidate with skills and knowledge of further education, higher education, government agencies and partnerships, governance and procurement and would pass on contact details to the Clerk.

Action: Clerk to contact applicants

The Clerk reported on work undertaken on the ETF Board Review recommendation to continue the work being undertaken to broaden the cognitive, demographic and experiential diversity of the Board, including a suggestion to develop effective KPIs. In addition to following up resources from the EducateOut Racism Conference attended by the Academic Staff Governor (London Road), the Clerk had met with the Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Lead at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust and the Chief Executive of the National Black Governors Network; both had provided useful insight into the Board’s possible approach. Both had observed that whilst developing KPIs had its uses, the Board could possibly benefit more from developing a short, medium and longer-term strategy built around what the Board ‘must’, ‘should’ and ‘could’ do to broaden diversity in governance, based on its skills audit and key strategic priorities. The Committee directed the Clerk to draft an outline approach for consideration at the next meeting, in relation to the priority search issues.

Action: Clerk to draft report

Governor Opportunities and Succession Planning

      • A total of 7 Terms would end within the next 8 months: an Appointed Governor and Committee Chair on an extended Second Term, the Support Staff Governor, the Academic Staff Governor (English & Welsh Bridge campuses), both Parent Governors and the two student governors. Thereafter, the Board entered a relatively stable period.

The Committee noted that –

      • The Clerk and Board Chair had worked with the College’s marketing team on a Parent Governor recruitment campaign, which would be launched to coincide with enrolment events. Possible candidates had already been identified and contacted;
      • The current Staff Governor (Support Staff) had expressed a desire to seek re-nomination on the completion of their Term. The Notice of Vacancy would be posted in September 2021;
      • Following the recent Appointed Governor resignation, search activities would focus on candidates with accounting qualifications, although it was noted that the Board membership did include those with financial skills and chartered banking qualifications. One of the recent applications received met the skills criteria and the Clerk was directed to progress this application to Due Diligence stage;
      • Succession planning for the Audit Committee Chair was in progress.

        11/21. Governor Development and Skills Audit – Update (Appendix – Agenda Item 5)

The Committee considered the latest update (previously circulated) on –

Mandatory Development Modules

      • Safeguarding and PREVENT – 100% compliance;
      • Equality Essentials – 95% compliance reflecting that the recently appointed Audit Committee co-opted member was currently on Induction and had been set targets to complete the Module;
      • Health & Safety - 95% compliance reflecting that the recently appointed Audit Committee co-opted member was currently on Induction and had been set targets to complete the Module;
      • GDPR – 95% compliance reflecting that the recently appointed Audit Committee co-opted member was currently on Induction and had been set targets to complete the Module.

The Committee expected all Induction Development Modules for these governors to be completed before the next meeting.

Safeguarding. The Safeguarding Link Governor would present her Termly Report to the Quality, Standards & Curriculum Committee at its meeting in June 2021. As agreed by that Committee (Q, S&C Min. No. 21/21 refers), all governors had now been provided with details on how to access the National Online Safety Resource, which featured online courses and information on a wide range of safeguarding and PREVENT issues. The Committee agreed that the resource would support governor development, both to keep governors aware of the current issues around safeguarding and PREVENT and, going forward, as part of Induction.

Governor Development Plan 2020 – 2021

Several governors had attended external events provided by the Association of Colleges to supplement their development; this included

      • A Allen - How to increase diversity of race on school governing boards
      • R. Wilson - Chairs Development Network Session.

Several governors had also attended webinars produced as part of the 2020 – 21 Sixth Form Colleges’ Association’s (SFCA) programme., including –

      • A Benghiat & M. Thompson - Finance 2021 - What board members and the finance committee should be considering remotely.
      • G. Mills & D, Pulford - Antiracism and the role of College Boards

The next all governor assurance briefing, held before the Audit Committee on 16 June 2021, would be on the College’s arrangements to produce Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs).

Skills Audit

The Board Skills Audit, which had been updated to include the most recently appointed governors was considered (previously circulated). The Skills Audit showed that all the key skills identified as required were present except for at least one member having self-assessed a ‘High’ level of expertise/knowledge in ‘understanding local employer needs and skills gaps’. The Committee acknowledged that it should be mindful of this in its search and governor development plans going forward, in addition to search for estates skills and accountancy qualifications.

12/21. Board Quality Improvement Plan (Appendix -Agenda item 6)

The Committee reviewed progress against targets set out in the Board Quality Improvement Plan (QuIP) for 2020 – 2021 (previously circulated). The Clerk reported that the ETF Board Review and Action Plan and its recommendations, accepted at the last meeting, had now been included in the Plan. The Committee noted that all the actions had either been completed in advance of or to target dates or were on-going to target, with the exception of completing the Learning Walk Programme, due to access restrictions implemented as a result of the Covid 19 pandemic. However, other opportunities for governors to meet students and staff had been presented during the year, including attendance at Student Union Executive meetings. The Board Chair confirmed that he had recently met the staff governors. The Board QuIP would be submitted to the FE Commissioner Team visiting the College on 11 June 2021, as part of the evidence requested prior to the visit.

13/21. Governance Self-Assessment (Appendices 7a & 7b - Agenda item 7)

The Committee reviewed progress against the Governance KPIs (previously circulated) and discussed the Board’s approach to self-assessment for the 2020 – 2021 year.

The Board had participated in extensive assessment during the 2020 – 2021 period. In addition to the self-assessment exercise conducted in the summer of 2020, the ETF Board Review had included a thorough self-assessment questionnaire. The Committee acknowledged that whilst there was a strong argument to suggest this was sufficient for the year, it agreed that the annual committee evaluations provided useful information and assurance on the effectiveness of governance arrangements and should be undertaken this year, particularly as, in an extraordinary year, the Board had moved to exclusively on-line meetings and experienced new ways of working. Assessment going forward should focus on the way the Board functioned most effectively as a team.

Action: Clerk to include committee evaluation on committee agendas

14/21. Draft Calendar of Meetings 2021 – 2022 (Appendix – Agenda item 8)

The Committee was advised that the Draft Calendar (previously circulated) would be submitted to the July Board meeting for approval. It was currently being evaluated by the Senior Leadership team to ensure meeting dates corresponded with the College’s progress grades and financial management reporting cycles.

Action: Draft Calendar of Meetings 2021 – 2022 to be submitted to July Board

15/21. Estates Strategy – Update

The P/CEO reported that the development of the College’s Draft Estates Strategy was being facilitated by Peter Marsh Consulting and included planned consultations with governors, staff and students as appropriate.

16/21. FE Commissioner – Visit to College – 11 June 2021

The P/CEO confirmed that the FE Commissioner Team would return to the College on 11 June 0221, to conduct a follow-up visit to monitor and support progress against the recommendations made in the Diagnostic Assessment report.

The College was looking forward to welcoming the Team, to demonstrate the significant progress made against the recommendations.

17/21. Risk

Further to S&C Min No 07/71, Risk Number 2 (The College cannot attract/retain Governors with an appropriate mix and level of skills required) had been amended to - The College cannot attract/retain Governors with an appropriate mix and level of skills with cognitive and demographic diversity required.

It agreed that there had been sufficient discussion of the other risk issues at the meeting, particularly, the need to focus search activities going forward on maintaining a high level of finance skills on the Board.

The meeting concluded at 6.45 p.m.