“Having once been a student and a teacher in FE, and being a supplier to education, I felt fairly comfortable with the college environment. But becoming a Governor has definitely added a fourth perspective to my understanding of this fast-paced, pressured and rewarding sector,” Mark began.
In January 2020, Mark was asked to join the governing body of LASEEG (London & South East Education Group, the overarching organisation incorporating London South East Colleges (LSEC) and London South East Academies Trust. Mark’s enthusiasm and inability to say ‘no’ meant he was soon taking on additional responsibilities as a Governor on the LSEC Board, as Chair of the Curriculum and Standards committee, as Link Governor for STEM and as GDPR/Data contact.
“When I was first asked to join LASEEG, I wondered what I could possibly bring to the role, except perhaps my previous experiences with FE. However, it soon became clear that any relevant skill or contact I have would be exploited. But it’s reassuring to know that I have value for the Group!”
Mark’s value was brought home fairly quickly when lockdown hit. “Almost overnight, we were asking many of our staff to take a giant leap in their digital competence in order to respond to the various challenges of delivering quality teaching remotely, and to exploit a range of technologies to plan, deliver and manage that successfully. We needed them all to become instant experts, regardless of previous experience.”
East Sussex College Group and LSEC applied for funding to develop online resources and staff training to upskill staff as quickly as possible, including looking at different planning approaches like blended and flipped learning, using the variety of tools available. The group put together a team to manage this initiative and Mark was asked to help for his experience of digital technologies. “Through my contacts, I was able to get the ETF [the Education & Training Foundation] involved early on, which I am sure contributed to winning the funding and to the smooth running of the project. I felt really useful to be able to make that connection, knowing how crucial the project would be for the experience of both staff and students.”
“From my education and employment background as an engineer, STEM subjects have always been important to me. I was therefore very happy to take on the role of Link Governor for STEM across the group. This has increasingly led to a focus on the Green and Decarbonisation economy, from looking at new qualifications to our ground-breaking new building, which will be one of the ‘greenest’ public buildings to date.”
“As a board of Governors, we are required to have – or to quickly gain – such a wide diversity of knowledge to support decision-making. Thinking about the new building, for example, I have never been involved with Estates planning or management before but the complexities of building viability, the planning process and so on required a fairly steep learning curve. Fortunately, Governors work as a team and we each bring different experiences and knowledge to the table, too.”
Although Mark does describe it as a fantastic experience which he continues to enjoy, he admits the time commitment can be daunting. “I think, in the past, there was a tendency for Governors to be professional people who had retired or semi-retired and therefore perhaps had less demands on their time. I think it’s also probably true that, before lockdown, leaving work for a 5.30pm meeting and getting home around 8pm perhaps had less impact on the life of my young family”
As an experience so far, Mark readily agrees that becoming a Governor has been a very positive one. “Clearly it is a responsible role: as a board, we are held to account by OfSTED and the FE Commissioner for the safe and strategic management of the Group. But the reward for that is to be involved in some really exciting initiatives that could have a significant lasting impact on our students and our wider community. Who wouldn’t feel inspired to give whatever we could to that?”