Christina Conroy OBE“ If your partners are all the same, you’re not going to be very Chief Executive Adult Enterprise innovative. Matt Atkinson Principal City of Bath College and Chair of Adult Enterprise
IntroductionA provocative maxim that While in the more conservative quarters of Further Education (FE)began to take hold in the thinking there is a desire to reduce the number of qualificationslatter half of the twentieth available and return to traditional ‘core’ subjects, progressivecentury was that ‘the careers thinkers are heading in the opposite direction.for which the educationsector needs to prepare “Since the recession”, says Christina Conroy, Chief Executive ofour young people have yet Adult Enterprise Ltd, “adults have needed a solution to train asto be invented’. Arguably, entrepreneurs”, but the national qualification framework didn’tone of the outcomes of this have anything in place that was suitable for them. “Adults werethinking is the current looking for small units of learning, but the only things availablestrong emphasis on teaching were big courses for youngsters.” By her company’s calculationslearners how to learn, there could be anything up to 12 million adults in the UK wantingbuilding entrepreneurial to run a business or be self employed, all without access to theskills and an independence progressive learning programmes they need to succeed. “Adultof, rather than a dependence learning has been a poor sister in FE for a long time”, stateson, their teachers. Christina Conroy, “and now we’re moving to a completely new era”.How the journey beganWhen Christina Conroy was Principal of Richmond Adult Community College she became consumedwith a passion for progressive innovation; not just for the learners whose needs were not being met, butfor the UK economy as a whole. Christina Conroy also knew that the shake-up required was radicaland challenging, and that she would need a unique set of partners to pull off the transformation. Aswith the building of all effective partnerships, the prerequisite would have to be “trust and sharedvalues”. Each partner should bring a unique standpoint and skillset to the table: “ Christina Conroystates “if your partners are all the same, you’re not going to be very innovative. We wanted partnersthat were not in the FE sector.”The partnershipWhat was key was that Richmond Adult Community College (RACC)each partner recognised the PayPalimpact on their own business Social Enterprise Londonof the lack of entrepreneur-focused provision. With like Open College Network Londonminds assembled, Christina City of Bath Collegewas ready to choreograph Morley Collegea ‘co-created’ solution to HOLEXthe problem, so giving eachpartner intimate buy-in and Tower Hamlets Collegeownership of the initiative, Community Linksthe partners for the project WCLwere: The final enabling partner is Association of Colleges (AoC), which has managed the Collaboration and Shared Services Grant Fund monies provided by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA).
The journey so farThe project team employed Along with the new qualifications framework, the team has alsoa curriculum manager/editor produced:to coordinate ten curriculumwriters and ensure all a comprehensive blended learning curriculum thatcontent was written to a integrates offline and online materialscommon standard, pitched at a centrally hosted learning platform and learnerthe right level, and designed management systemto make the most of blended a train-the-trainer course for teaching staff using thelearning – a mixture of face- blended learning curriculum, including materials andto-face and distance learning lecturer notesapproaches. centrally developed and maintained marketing materials access to a network of specialists in adult enterprise through the social enterprise hub a standardised student record system to enable a destination analysis survey to take place, to allow providers to track their outcomes and compare results across England a business model, and a quality management system, to quickly solve issues and roll solutions out to all participating organisations. The framework starts at Level 2, with ‘First Steps to Enterprise’, then continues at Level 3 with a logical flow of study in discrete awards that follow the pathway of the entrepreneurial journey: Creating a business Launching a business Growing and sustaining a business Creating, launching and growing a social enterprise The scale of the project has increased in line with both the confidence of the developers and the interest from the sector. With nine Level 2 and 3 qualifications now all approved by Ofqual, the rollout and testing of the new curriculum began in earnest in July 2012. “ There’s a downside to charitable status asit can actually limit what you can do.
Shared Services model and legal structureAs with many of the other Many such joint venture companies, when formed to share services,Efficiency and Innovation go on to seek charitable status. However, for Matt Atkinson, thisFund (EIF) and Collaboration decision isn’t clear cut: “There’s a downside to charitable statusand Shared Services Grant as it can actually limit what you can do.” The project team’s aimFund projects, finding the is that Adult Enterprise Ltd will generate surpluses which canright legal model has not be reinvested in the continued development of new materialsbeen easy. “I don’t think to further their mission which is to advance entrepreneurialit’s right to go into these education.projects from day onetalking about vehicles (forcollaboration)”, says MattAtkinson, Principal ofthe City of Bath College.“You need to develop therelationships; you need toget the vision. But you willactually hit the point whereyou say, ‘what vehicle do weneed to sustain this work’.”The team’s chosen model hasbeen to create a joint venturecompany, Adult EnterpriseLtd, limited by guarantee,specifically “as a socialenterprise with a socialpurpose”, states ChristinaConroy, Chief Executive ofAdult Enterprise LtdLeadership “A really effectively led project is about engaging with people”, states Christina Conroy, “ I think where a lot of projects fall down “ is that they hire project managers who don’t understand the people relationships; projects are messy and people are messy.” To ensure I think where the team’s collective eye never lost sight of the outcome, Christina Conroy relinquished her role as Principal of RACC to become the a lot of projects Chief Executive of Adult Enterprise Ltd and to continue managing the project. fall down is that they hire project managers who don’t understand the people relationships.
Outcomes for the projectIt’s never easy to be firm With an energetic programme of roadshows, a new informationabout outcomes for projects website (www.adultenterprise.com), and PayPal’s commitmentthat are still in their to promote the Adult Enterprise brand, the project is attractingimplementation phase, but interest from across the College sector, and the social enterpriseearly signs are good, with began its nationwide roll out in Autumn 2012. By early 2013, 34around £385,000 worth Colleges and Adult Learning Services across the country had joinedof savings made within the partnership to share curriculum and deliver Adult Enterprisethe funding period alone. qualifications.The project estimates thatwith savings on teachingcosts made possible byblended learning, shareddevelopment of thecurriculum, centrally-produced resources, sharedawarding body fees andassessment support, andshared marketing andpromotion, could net savingsanywhere up to £12 millionwhen compared to thepartners going it alone toprovide similar provision.Outcomes for the Sector - Shared Curriculum GuideAll projects funded through New models of leadership and direction for projectAoC have committed to innovationsharing their learning Using the Innovation Codethrough the production of Co-creation of curriculum through partnershipsa series of resources. TheAdult Enterprise Project has Blended learning and ‘flipping’ the classroomproduced a guide to shared Guidelines for subject content writerscurriculum development eLearnificationcovering the areas below. It Creating and supporting a shared learning platformcan be downloaded from theshared services section on Providing a shared learner management systemthe AoC website: Managing a virtual team (www.aoc.co.uk/shared- Brand development in a shared environmentservices/shared-curriculum) Models for generating networks, for sharing and sustainability