Governing of Teaching and Learning: is it still important? Report of the Governing Working Group

Colin Forrest, Jill Westerman (CBE)


This paper has its origin in the Reimagining Further Education 2018 conference which revisited Coffield’s 2008 paper ‘Just Imagine that Teaching and Learning were the first priority.” The authors offered a working group ‘Centring Governing on Teaching and Learning’. Despite heavy promotion by the conference organisers, no one signed up for it. In examining reasons for this, we build on the assumption that the understanding of teaching and learning needs improving at board level.

The paper draws on the narrative of the conference and its working groups in building support for this proposition and suggests three challenges that contribute to the low priority that teaching and learning is given at board discussions. These relate to governance codes, the need to reconceptualise what teaching and learning looks like in an employer-led system, and tensions caused by contested priorities for further education providers.   

The working group model was intended to solicit solutions from the delegates to these challenges. In the concluding section of the paper we propose what these remedies might have been. In adopting an optimistic tone, we suggest that ‘governing’ provides an action-focussed alternative to ‘governance’. This needs to be supported by sense-making activity that develops governor capacity to appreciate the nature of teaching and learning in contemporary further education settings. We suggest that this can be contextualised by including a reflection at all meetings of boards on the impact of discussions on the quality of teaching and learning.

Key words: governing, governance, teaching and learning, further education, governance codes

Full Text:



Association of Employer and Learning Providers (2018) New Code of Good Governance launched for Independent Training Providers. Available at: [accessed 7th August 2018].

Association of College (2015) Code of Good Governance for English Colleges. Available at: [accessed 7th August 2018].

Coffield, F., (2008) Just suppose teaching and learning became the first priority... London: Learning and Skills Network.

Forrest C., at al (2007) ‘The Impact of Learner Voice on Quality Improvement,’ in Collinson, D. (ed) (2007) Leadership and the Learner Voice. CEL [accessed 26th July 2018].

Forrest, C. and Hill R., (2017) The impact of payment of governors in Northern Ireland Colleges on board effectiveness with implications for England. Available at: [accessed 20th July 2018].

Gleeson, D., Hughes, J., O’Leary, M., Smith, R., (2015) ‘The state of professional practice and policy in the English further education system: a view from below,’ Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 20(1), pp.78-95.

Head, B., and Alford, J. (2015) ‘Wicked Problems: Implications for Public Policy and Management,’ Administration & Society Vol. 47(6) pp 711–739.

Kooiman, J. (2003) Governing as Governance. Sage, London.

Ofsted (2016) Further education and skills inspection handbook. Available at: [accessed 25th May 2018].

Policy Consortium and TES (2018) the FE and Skills System: the consequences of policy decisions: lessons for policy makers and stakeholders. Available at: [accessed 20th July 2018].

QA Education (July 2018) Governors for Schools aim to solve issue of board vacancies. Available at [accessed 15th October 2018].

Sodiq, A. and Abbott, I. (2018) ‘Reimagining academic staff governors’ role in further education college governance,’ Research in Post-Compulsory Education, 23(1), pp 138-157.

UK Government (October 2017) Post-16 skills plan and independent report on technical education: policy paper. Available at [accessed 15th October 2018].

UK Government (undated) Further education and skills. Available at: [accessed 19th June 2018].

UK Government (2018a) National leaders of governance for further education: a guide for potential applicants [accessed 26th July 2018]

UK Government (2018b) Chief Inspector sets out vision for new Education Inspection Framework published 11 October 2018. Available at: [accessed 11th October 2019].

West Yorkshire Consortium of Colleges (2017). Landmark Partnership announced with West Yorkshire Colleges [accessed 26th July 2018]


  • There are currently no refbacks.