In summer 2023, we sat down with a panel of awarding and end point assessment leaders to explore and discuss what good governance and diverse boards look like in 2023.

Good governance and diversity are key features of a well-run and successful awarding or end-point assessment organisation. In an increasingly competitive environment, it’s important to understand the simple steps that your organisation can take to ensure you remain innovative and responsive to the needs of your learners.

Thank you to our attendees for joining us, and a big thank you to our fantastic Chair and incredible panelists for your insights.

Chair: Alan Woods, VTCT CEO and Co-Chair of the Federation of Awarding Bodies.

Panelists:

  • Lesley Shepperson | Trustee and EDI specialist
  • Carlos Cubillo-Barsi | CEO, OCN London
  • James Stockdale | Responsible Officer and Trustee
  • Sophie Azam | Founder, IgniteQuals
  • Emma Hoare | Head of Governance, NCFE

 

What does an effective board look like?

  1. A transparent and accountable board with a diverse set of experts and mindsets that support, shape and execute the organisation’s vision.
  2. A good, effective working relationship with the executive team and a maintenance of operational boundaries. The right blend between challenge, support and direction.
  3. Good governance and a good board are able to anticipate where the organisation needs to go and support the executive team to get there.

“I’ve had experiences where I’ve questioned: “do the board need to know this?” If you’re asking that question, they probably do need to know.”

James Stockdale, Trustee and Responsible Officer

What are the risks of ignoring effective governance?

Regulators are watching for the purpose of the organisation, but also how you govern yourselves and what impact the board has on your organisational strategy.

Looking at the financial side, you may encounter conflict between the commercial and charitable aspects of your organisation. From a people perspective, the awarding sector is small, and you are likely to have to manage conflicts of interest between the various organisations that your board members are a part of.

Whatever the conflict, your board must take a proactive approach to identify and mitigate any issues that may arise from them.

“I think there are some interesting dichotomies between being a registered charity with charitable objectives and the inherent commercial aspect of the work that we do.”

Carlos Cubillo-Barsi, OCN London

What are the elements of a strong board?

A strong board encourages collaboration between the executives and trustees, and a culture of challenging assumptions and points of view. That’s where diversity can be beneficial – it’s not just about gender and cultural definitions, but also experience and tenure as well.

A strong board thinks about future-proofing through progression and succession. This is where a strong and diverse field of applicants benefits your organisation. Consider co-opting strong applicants into subgroups and committees as a way of looking at building up future capacity, and planning for an ongoing recruitment cycle.

“A lot of us go for experience but it’s a kind of chicken and egg thing isn’t it – how do you get experience without having been on a board?”

Alan Woods OBE, CEO of VTCT and Co-Chair of FAB

How does diversity lead to success?

A successful board constructively challenges each other in a way that leads to a positive outcome. They have moved away from groupthink and no longer think the same way without looking at evidence and critical reasoning.

Diversity is critical – it is everywhere and it touches everything – but it is more than having people with protected characteristics represented on your board. Diverse expertise, mindsets and attitudes bring different value to helping the executive team execute their vision.

We live in an ever-changing world with an increasingly diverse student population. Diversity should run throughout the whole of the organisation. The board needs to reflect those they represent to ensure positive changes to policies and procedures and the directions of the strategy that benefit students.

A board that is concerned with creating space for diversity will create space for the different views and nuance that allow for that ‘Eureka’ moment, and won’t be afraid to say ‘we haven’t thought of that yet’. There is no time that diversity will be ‘complete’. A successful board will always consider whether their efforts are sufficient and review their skills and knowledge to ensure that the door is always open for new people to make a difference.


 

Final advice from our panel

“You must have at least a couple of non-executive directors that are purely independent so that they can give you unbiased advice when needed, certainly around the commercial forces.”

Sofia Azam, IgniteQuals

“Coming from an established organisation, I think for me it’s agree your strategy, undertake a skills gap, and get on the phone to Peridot!”

Carlos Cubillo-Barsi, OCN London

“It is about having the different skill set on that board that can input into the whole mission of the organisation.”

James Stockdale, Responsible Officer and Trustee

“Everything that colleagues have said, but also to look 12 to 24 months ahead, do your planning early!”

Emma Hoare, NCFE

“Make sure that there is diversity in the board, it adds to the richness of the board and the richness of the organisation.”

Lesley Shepperson, EDI Specialist

Our awarding and skills recruitment team are expert in finding ambitious and results-driven professionals who can transform leadership and inspire change in the awarding and skills sector.

We work with ambitious and strategic awarding and skills organisations to recruit the specialists and leaders needed to inspire change for their boards and executive teams.

Please contact us to learn more:

Kristina Preston
Head of Awarding and Skills Appointments
kristina@peridotpartners.co.uk

“Working with a recruitment agency was sort of transformative. I think only being the Chief Exec for 18 months, my understanding was that trustees were selected almost with favour of who knows who, as opposed to any formalised procedure. That casts the net much wider than immediate networks, so we managed to get people from a top four accounting firm, for example, and their input has improved our board tremendously.”

Carlos Cubillo-Barsi, OCN London