Long awaited ‘tech’ improvement team to finally meet in February

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The establishment of a ‘College Improvement Team (CIT)’ to take the North West Regional College (NWRC) forward though the 2010s and 2020s was considerably delayed by the need to respond to Harry McConnell’s critical report on industrial relations at the ‘tech’ last year.

But the Sentinel has now learned that the proposed CIT is finally to meet in the coming weeks.

Dr Stephen Farry, the Learning Minister, revealed on Friday, January 24, that the failure to establish the team was a “matter of concern.” The delay followed the publication early last year of an 84 page report by Mr McConnell, an equality and human resources consultant.

Dr Farry stated: “The fact that the CIT was not established and therefore not performing its required function in respect of the Action Plan, was a matter of concern.

“As a result, it was agreed with the College to strengthen the accountability arrangements and formally transfer oversight responsibility for those actions, initially assigned to the CIT, to the full Governing Body.”

Mr McConnell had included in his report allegations that staff were working within a “culture of fear” and had suggested it could take up to five years for relations between staff and management to heal.

So following its publication NWRC developed an action plan to address these, and other, concerns. This, a spokesperson for the College told the Sentinel, was why the establishment of the CIT had been delayed.

A spokesperson said both Governors and management were already committed to an overall improvement programme by late 2012 and that the CIT was due to be established in 2013 to oversee this programme. But Mr McConnell’s report required a rapid response.

The spokesperson explained: “Mr McConnell’s recommendations were published in February 2013, at which stage they were accepted by the College’s Governing Body and Senior Management Team.

“The Governing Body then determined that its priority would be putting in place an action plan to implement these recommendations. This action plan was agreed in May 2013 and a Change Manager employed in June 2013.”

Whilst the NWRC busied itself with its response to McConnell, the establishment of the CIT took a back seat, until now.

The spokesperson stated: “The oversight of the McConnell Action Plan rests with the Governing Body until such time as the College Improvement Team gets up and running.

“The CIT is due to meet in February.”

NWRC says several actions have already been taken in line with McConnell’s recommendations and positive outcomes have been realised.

The spokesperson told the Sentinel: “The Action Plan has many strands and comes with an ambitious timescale. All of the actions have clearly identified personnel responsible for their implementation.

“In the first six months progress has been made on most of the actions, and outcomes have been achieved in areas such as HR services, course reviews, the role of Curriculum Managers and various training initiatives.”