Guest Blog | Lisa Capper | Principal & Director of Education and Skills | Nacro, Independent FE and why this is my best job yet!

Guest Blog | Lisa Capper | Principal & Director of Education and Skills | Nacro, Independent FE and why this is my best job yet!

Lisa Capper is Principal & Director of Education and Skills at Nacro, the Social Justice Charity

FE is one of the most diverse and flexible elements of our education system. Over the years and through numerous skills strategies, FE has contributed to many areas of public policy like no other part of the education sector has.  As an Assistant Director for FE in Whitehall, recruited in to the Skills for Life Unit as Regional Director and later as Assistant Director for FE, I led and worked on many of these initiatives with ministers for over ten years.

FE has supported employers and businesses, through many guises including National Skills Academies and now National Colleges, to get the advanced skills they need to compete and progress. It was FE that rallied employer champions for the Skills for Life campaign that successfully equipped employees, prisoners, and jobseekers with basic skills. I had the privilege of being part of Worldskills London 2011 where FE coached and promoted individuals to become the most skilled in the world in their chosen occupation, and inspired many others through its legacy, the Skills Show. It also showed the UK was open for business in a time of recession. FE has provided innovative skills training for parents accessing the Sure Start programmes which reduced the number of workless households in England.

Across the country, both before and after area reviews, FE is involved in system wide improvements. As a Vice Principal of a College and Executive Director of an Academies Trust, I was involved in turning around schools, leading Alternative Provision for 14-16 at the College, and developing new delivery models. The employer-led Apprenticeship Levy is a good example of the responsiveness of FE; providers like Nacro are busy actively encouraging and helping employers to take up the opportunity.

The FE sector reaches across the economic and social agenda because of its diversity.  Although FE Colleges form the important mainstay of the sector, there are many other valuable providers in FE. The Independent sector, made up of not for profit, private and charitable providers, forms an important part of this mix.

Nacro, the social justice charity, has been in existence for over 50 years. It has been serving disadvantaged young people at our 18 local Education and Skills Centres across England for decades. At Post 16, issues such as family breakdown, offending, abuse, mental health, that have very often put young people in to Alternative Provision at school-age, often remain unresolved and are a persistent barrier to positive progression. Many young people in this situation cannot successfully enrol on to college courses and often find larger institutions, however excellent, daunting. If they find work, it is often only on temporary or zero hour’s contracts and they can fall in to debt, homelessness or worse.

Nacro delivers individualised Study Programmes with a vocationally geared curriculum to around 3000 students per year aged 16-18. It also serves a smaller number of 14-16 year olds in partnership with local schools and where, last year, we achieved zero NEETs. It has a small adult provision.   Nacro education aims to be, first and foremost, inclusive and also offers support from its advice, housing and justice businesses. There are many success stories. One young man in Bolton had been out of statutory schooling for three years before finding Nacro. He left with Level 2 Functional Skills in English and maths is now an Apprentice Bricklayer. Jenny, a care leaver, had been excluded for her last foundation programme. She undertook a successful work placement with Nacro, and finally progressed to an intermediate apprenticeship in Health and Social Care. She now works in a care home for the elderly. Anu, who had suffered organised abuse, learned how to manage her pregnancy and to care for her baby through our specialist programme for young woman and achieved her Level 2 Functional Skills in maths at the same time as well as finding somewhere to live. Nacro has also seen some of its students progress to university.

Nacro prides itself on never giving up. We work with young people in the community and in several custodial and mental health secure settings, where it sometimes feels that these young people have fallen under the radar and where other providers can find it hard to meet complex and discrete individual need. Nacro is light on its feet and flexible in its response.

Like other Independents, Nacro is working hard to be the best whilst continuing to meet the needs of its students and balance the budget. It’s not a glamourous as Whitehall, and certainly not as well funded as other parts of the sector, but it is certainly worth doing. My best job yet.

Organisations wishing to contact Lisa about potential partnership working can contact her on

If you would like to discuss leadership and governor recruitment for your college with Peridot Partners, we’d encourage you to contact Drew Richardson-Walsh at or on 07739 364 033.

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