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Chief Executive Officer | National Extension College (The Open School Trust)

The National Extension College’s mission is clear - through providing distance learning opportunities we seek to widen access to learning for thousands of young people and adults who need flexible delivery of excellent and high-quality courses. With an increase in online and distance learning, and greater demand for our education services, we require a new Chief Executive Officer who can support the Council of Trustees to grow the reach and impact of the organisation.

  • Location: Homerton Gardens, Cambridge
  • Salary: £65,000 - £75,000

About the role

The culture of the National Extension College (NEC) is one of friendliness, hard work, informality and respect. We are fortunate to work with staff, authors, tutors, directors and trustees of the very highest calibre. We know that the traditional UK model of education delivery based within schools and colleges doesn’t meet the needs of all, and we are proud to support more than 4,000 students each year to successfully achieve their qualifications and progress into higher education, further training or employment.

Our success is not based on traditional external quality metrics – it is based on students achieving what they set out to achieve.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is the most senior staff member, reporting to the Council of Trustees, and leads all aspects of our organisational strategy, finance, risk, commercial development, and the delivery of transformative education through an expert and committed staff team.

With our current CEO’s long and successful career with the organisation coming to an end, we look forward to a new CEO building on Dr Ros Morpeth’s legacy and developing a new strategy for NEC that will see us enhance our offer to students and customers, and extend our national reach and overall presence in the sector.

Who we’re looking for

Having been saved from administration by the incumbent CEO in 2011, following NEC’s merger with another organisation, our initial focus was one of survival. We have come a long way since that time.

Now in a much stronger position and through having strategically adapted to market demands, we now look to appoint a new CEO who can build a new strategy and see NEC further develop its national impact and grow our market share.

First and foremost, our next CEO must be an educationalist and truly believe in our charitable mission. You will have expert knowledge of digital learning pedagogies, an entrepreneurial mind-set, and the ability to balance business and partnership development with high-quality education and support for our students.

Whilst this may be your first CEO role, we do expect you to have experience of strategic planning and reporting to a non-executive board. Our Council of Trustees are experts in their fields and have high expectations of the new CEO’s ability to manage future risks, take a strategic view of the opportunities available in the sector, and develop business plans and proposals to help inform long-term decision making.

For further information about the role, or to arrange a confidential chat, please contact our lead consultants at Peridot Partners:

Drew Richardson-Walsh | drew@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07739 364 033

Laura Atter | laura@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07985 431 599

Closing date: 12noon, Monday 11th January 2021

Education recruitment with Drew Richardson-Walsh

If you would like to know more about this role please contact Drew Richardson-Walsh

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Welcome from Dr Richard Dorrance, Chair of the Council of Trustees

Dear Candidate,

Thank you for your interest in our Chief Executive Officer role.

The National Extension College (NEC) was founded in 1963 by Michael Young who believed that education was the key to empowerment. He recognised that there were people for whom traditional education routes would never work. We provided distance learning courses for home learners, prisoners, seamen, and others who wanted to improve their skills, increase their knowledge, change jobs or meet the entry requirements to join a university course. In addition, we developed new and more effective types of distance learning courses and we lobbied Government to make it easier for people to acquire a good education through distance learning and supported the establishment of the Open University.

In 2010, the NEC merged with the Learning and Skills Network (LSN) to allow it to expand its charitable work. Sadly the merger was unsuccessful and in 2011 the merged organisation went into administration. A small group of people, led by Dr Ros Morpeth OBE, the former CEO of the NEC who had worked for the College for 27 years till her retirement, took the NEC out of administration, and built the vibrant organisation I chair today. Our name is now the Open School Trust, and we continue to offer our distance learning courses under the brand name of the National Extension College, NEC.

We have a small, enthusiastic and committed team and everyone including the CEO gets involved in all aspects of the charity’s work. The core staff work from a first floor open-plan office in Cambridge close to the station and the city centre. There are other distance learning providers in the UK but what makes us different is that we provide wrap around care for our learners. They are not just our customers, we want them to succeed and we support them throughout their journey. We are very proud of the work we do. The Trust is an incredible organisation to work for, offering a very valuable service to the community.

We have never been publicly funded. This is a deliberate decision which gives us the freedom to provide the best service for our learners without being dictated to by public funding requirements. The Open School Trust is a charity and a company limited by guarantee.

We work closely with several partners, for example the Prisoners Educational Trust and the Open University, and we are currently exploring ways for greater partnership working.

Having put the Open School Trust on firm foundations, Dr Ros Morpeth is retiring as our current CEO. She is highly regarded both within and outside the organisation. The Council of Trustees is therefore looking for a new CEO to take us forward on the next stage of our journey.

We seek a new CEO who is an ambitious, inspirational and visionary leader, able to raise the organisation’s profile and strengthen our development of new technologies so that the Open School Trust continues to be recognised as an outstanding provider of distance learning.

This is an exciting time for us as we continue on our path to provide innovative high-quality distance learning. The delivery of education in the world is changing, prompted by pandemics, the development of new technologies and by learners wanting to be able to learn flexibly at their own pace, and to study subjects/modules for which schools and colleges might not always be able to provide teachers. We want to be part of the solution, influencing the outcome so that all learners are enabled to learn in the best way for them.

Our Board is composed of national experts in course design, the use of new and developing technologies, business management and other areas of expertise. The new Chief Executive will work closely with the Board to develop the Charity’s strategic plan and to continue to grow the Charity’s offer and reach.

We welcome an exceptional people leader who will bring with them substantial experience in the education sector and change management and who has the skills to manage a small organisation where everybody has to be prepared to undertake all aspects of the Trust’s work.

It is a privilege to be a part of the Open School Trust. We are looking for a new CEO who shares the Trust’s ethos and has a passion for providing education to those people for whom the traditional routes to education are closed. As Michael Young said: “education is the key to empowerment.”

If you think this could be you, then please do read on and I look forward to receiving your application.

Best wishes,

Dr Richard Dorrance
Chair of the Council of Trustees

About National Extension College (The Open School Trust)

A pioneer of distance learning, the National Extension College exists to transform lives through education.

Re-established in 2011 by Dr Ros Morpeth OBE, the National Extension College (NEC) is the trading name of The Open School Trust.

Founded in 1963 by Michael Young and Brian Jackson as a forerunner to the Open University, the National Extension College has provided educational opportunities and second-chance learning to over 750,000 people for whom attending regular classes at school or college would not be possible.

For nearly 60 years we have forged a reputation for high-quality learning materials and innovation in distance learning, alongside a deep commitment to providing exceptional support to our students at every stage of their learning journey.

We are a trusted partner to schools, colleges, the armed forces, prison and justice services, trainers, companies and the public sector, and provide them with high-quality materials and learning programmes.

Brightest innovators and leading experts in lifelong learning

As an educational charity committed to providing learning opportunities for everyone at every stage in their lives, we campaign to keep access to lifelong learning open for all. NEC has kept at the forefront of innovation in the education sector – developing new resources, partnerships and initiatives to widen opportunities to learn.

The highest quality resources

Our high-quality learning resources have been carefully designed to provide engaging content that develops interest in the subject.

  • A levels and GCSEs in more than 20 subjects
  • Professional qualifications for teaching and learning, business and management, book-keeping, counselling, childcare and play-work
  • Art and creative writing

The most successful approach to learning

We prepare students for a bright future in an ever-changing world. Our resources provide a proven activity-based approach to learning developed over many years, to support learning needs and develop study skills that prepare students for higher education, further training and employment.

The most dedicated staff and authors

NEC operates with a small core team of staff but works closely with a team of 80 experienced freelance tutors and other development professionals to provide an excellent service.

  • Materials are designed and written by experienced authors who are qualified subject experts and have contributed their knowledge and academic expertise
  • Our excellent tutors also help with authoring and consultancy and bring first-hand experience of students’ needs
  • Our staff are at the centre of what we do. They work to provide a first-class service and are always looking for ways to improve how NEC provides and delivers education

A focus on partnership

We work collaboratively with other organisations to access the latest developments in the world of education and to campaign on issues affecting distance students.

Some of our partners, supporters and allies include:

  • The Open University
  • unionlearn
  • The Prisoners’ Education Trust
  • Prisoner Learning Alliance
  • International Examination Officers Association
  • Workers’ Education Association
  • Universities and Colleges Admissions Service
  • European Association for Distance Learning
  • Campaign for Learning
  • Mathematics Education Innovation
  • The Big Issue
  • Association for Art History

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    Thank you for your interest in this role.

    Please download the Role Description and Person Specification and complete our Equality Monitoring Form

    If you would like to have an informal conversation about the role you can contact our advising consultants at Peridot Partners:

    To apply: Please submit a CV and supporting statement (maximum two sides of A4) that clearly outlines your suitability for the role against the criteria provided in the person specification. Please include your interest and motivation in applying for this position.

    Please ensure that your application and Equality Monitoring Survey is emailed to response@peridotpartners.co.uk inserting “CEO, National Extension Collegeinto the subject field.

    Disabled applicants are invited to contact us in confidence at any point during the recruitment process to discuss steps that could be taken to overcome operational difficulties presented by the job, or if any adjustments or support are required regarding the recruitment process.

    We wish to encourage applications regardless of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins, sex, disability, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marital or civil partner status, pregnancy or maternity, age or religion or belief.

    All applications will be considered solely on merit.


    Closing date for applications: 12noon, Monday 11th January 2021
    Longlist (Stage 1) interviews: w/c Monday 18th January 2021
    Shortlist (Stage 2) interviews: w/c Monday 25th January 2021

    Equal Opportunities Monitoring

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