Training and partnerships
Partnerships, accreditation, and becoming a registered provider
To deliver accredited training, you can either become a registered learning provider yourself, or you could enter into partnership with a registered provider. The latter option may require you to become a registered/accredited centre (which means that you are approved by the qualification’s awarding body to deliver that qualification) – whether you need to do this or not depends on the partnership. The former option – becoming a registered provider – is a significantly involved process, and would only realistically be undertaken by an active training centre with robust processes in place.
Becoming a registered provider
A training provider is an organisation such as a private company or college which delivers and administers accredited courses and training. Becoming an approved or accredited provider enables you to access certain funding opportunities or to be able to offer specific qualifications.
Becoming a registered provider is a lot of work – involving a large amount of red tape. The main drawbacks of doing so are the work involved, and taking on additional risk; the main advantage is the larger chunk of revenue generated by being a registered provider (i.e. direct payment by the SFA).
To be a provider, an organisation needs to have in place:
- Quality system – All registered providers are inspected by Ofsted, or an equivalent (i.e. self-assessment)
- Policies and procedures – A registered provider is effectively tendering for government-funded learning, so, to deliver, it would need to supply the kinds of information asked for in a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) – eg: Finance, Legitimacy and Status, Quality, Ability to deliver, Environmental and Sustainability, Equal Opportunities, Health and Safety, and Insurances.
The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) is the statutory body which administers the funding of accredited courses. In order to be eligible to tender SFA learning (and hence receive direct SFA funding), learning/training providers must be entered on the Register of Training organisations. In order to be included on the Register, organisations are required to pass a Due Diligence Assurance Gateway – which gathers essential information about your organisation. Information about registering as a learning provider is at https://www.gov.uk/skills-funding-register-for-opportunities-to-tender and see guidance on passing the Due Diligence Gateway here.
If you are applying to enter the Register of Training Organisations for the first time, you will need to ensure you are registered with the UK Register of Learning Providers (UKRLP) and have a UK Provider Registration Number (UKPRN).
The UK Register of Learning Providers is an online portal which is used by government departments, agencies, learners, and employers to share key information about learning providers. The UKRLP shares the information held with agencies such as the Skills Funding Agency, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and UCAS.
Once you are a registered provider, you can then apply for learning/training tenders. This involves going through an Invitation to Tender (ITT) process – outlining the specifics of a certain contract.
For general info on tenders and contracts, see: http://www.tendermanagement.co.uk/faq.php
To deliver accredited training, you will need to find someone to accredit your programmes – this is becoming a registered centre (as opposed to a registered provider). See below for more info on becoming a registered centre. Even if you are a registered provider, you will still need to become a registered centre with the body who accredits your courses – though you will probably go about it the other way around!
To administer the delivery of training, you will need to assess the learner’s work. There are 2 mechanisms for conducting assessment (which are sometimes required by specific qualifications): exam, and portfolio.
Most community radio stations delivering this kind of work use portfolio-based assessment – as it captures the work that the learners have done throughout their engagement. Portfolios can usually be mixed-media – e.g. a combination of audio, text, video, etc. Portfolio-based assessment needs verification processes – both Internal Verification (IV) and External Verification (EV). You will need to train staff member(s) to become internal verifiers (and it helps if they have some understanding of education).
For example, City & Guilds guidance is as follows: “While the [City & Guilds] Assessor/Verifier (A/V) units are valued as qualifications for centre staff, they are not currently a requirement for these qualifications. However, staff should hold, or be working towards, teaching/training qualifications and have sufficient experience and/or qualifications for competent delivery and assessment of the unit.”
Becoming a Registered Centre
In order to be able to offer the types of qualifications which would be recognised by the qualifications and credits framework, you will need to register with each of the Awarding Bodies you wish to deliver and gain Centre approval.
Each of the Awarding bodies such as AQA, City and Guilds, NCFE, Edexcel, ASDAN and OCN which offer recognised qualifications have information on their websites which explain the process of becoming a registered centre. They also offer advice and information of what to do next, should you not meet their criteria. There is a cost to become a registered centre and this varies depending on what qualifications you wish to deliver, how many students you will enrol each year, etc. There is an extensive list of recognised awarding bodies available on the Ofqual Website – http://register.ofqual.gov.uk/ – which also has a searchable database which will help you find qualifications suitable for you to deliver.
A few things to consider if you wish to become a registered centre
- Do you have staff qualified to teach the qualification?
- What is the annual cost of becoming a registered centre?
- How will you assess, internally verify (IV), and externally verify (EV) the work?
Many of the courses which have higher guided learning hours (GLH are the number of hours training which must be delivered in order to meet the course outcomes) are linked to recognised qualifications which are more likely to attract funding within Further Education. Offering these courses will require that the staff delivering the training will need to hold a relevant and recognised training qualification.
Accredited qualifications will require the tutor/trainer delivering to hold a higher qualification within the subject area they will teach. For example, if your station were to deliver a level 2 course in creative media, it would be expected that the trainer will hold the minimum of a level 3 course creative media or similar. You may also be required to hold an assessor’s qualification.
Realistically, there is a lot of work required to become a registered centre and to ensure that key standards for delivery are met, this in itself can be a full time job. A way in which many community stations work around this is by making links with local colleges who can act as the registered centre with training being delivered in partnership. Contact your local colleges, and let them know about your facilities, skills and what you can offer to enhance the training that they deliver.
Delivering training in partnership
It may not be realistic, for whatever reason, for smaller organisations to go through the steps of becoming a registered learning provider. One option is to deliver training in partnership with a registered provider – which means that the community radio station doesn’t need to hop through the bureaucratic hoops. Another option would be to set up a consortium model in which one organisation will effectively look after the accreditation side, and other organisations (e.g. the community radio station) will be the training centre for the consortium.
Delivering training in partnership may be the most accessible way for a small to medium sized community radio station to deliver accredited courses and government and local government contracts. Many community radio stations in the UK deliver training in partnership with a local organisation, such as a college. This shifts some of the responsibility of delivering accredited training onto the partner – for example, where a college will take care of administration, assessment and/or getting accreditation. These benefits must be weighed up against the fact that there is less ‘pay-off’ with this approach – you will receive less money by delivering training in partnership than if you were to become a fully accredited learning provider.
See the video below in which Shane Carey of Reprezent talks about the training they deliver in partnership, or through contracts/commissions, to deliver social outcomes.
Partnership: a growing trend
It is becoming more and more common for organisations to work in partnership – whether as contract or sub-contract work. Partnerships bring different organisations together, and enable each organisation to work to its strength. Funders often look more favourably on partnership work, depending on their outcome criteria. Furthermore, much of the government funding available for delivering contracts is only available through strong, strategic partnerships – for example:
- A significant development in the landscape of skills is the creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships, which are regional initiatives to incentivise learning and employability providers, businesses, and other organisations to work together on defining and delivering regional objectives.
- Also worth noting here is the emergence of Community Learning Trusts as the major channel for community learning funding from the government. Community Learning Trusts do not have to be formally constituted as a legal structure, but they do need to show how they are working in partnership with other organisations and bodies in the region, including Local Enterprise Partnerships.
Case Study of successful Radio/college partnership
North Manchester FM
North Manchester FM is a community radio station in North Manchester, serving its local communities. It was granted its community radio licence by Ofcom in 2008, starting broadcasting in 2009, after having done a number of RSL broadcasts over the preceding years. North Manchester FM has a full-time station manager and has recently taken on a business development officer. In addition to the staff, there are 50-60 active volunteers involved in their work (though there are many more involved less actively).
North Manchester FM was set up as an initiative of Manchester College – the principal of Manchester College (Peter Tavener) employed Radio Regen to set up a community radio station in North Manchester. Manchester College has put substantial funds towards initial setup costs (Lou Armer estimates £50-60k), and continues to work in partnership with North Manchester FM.
Manchester College provides the main source of funding for NMFM, though the station is independent of the college; NMFM is a community interested company (CIC), and a subtenant of the College. The station studio is in a campus building of Manchester College (courses run from this campus are mainly around IT and tech).
North Manchester FM deliver training on two of the college’s courses: Public Service Foundation Degree, and Radio Foundation Degree. NMFM take 20% of the cost of the course [need to clarify these details]. The station then offers in-kind support in return (use of studio, etc).
NMFM’s station manager is contracted as a tutor of Manchester College. The line manager in Manchester College is on the board of NMFM.
Each programme has a tutor in College; this is the person responsible for the course. When developing training programme, NMFM are given a brief by the College/tutor, and then coordinate with the tutor (and sometimes curriculum development team) about fulfilling College’s criteria. NMFM develop lesson plans and resources, and deliver the training to College students.
Each programme has its own learning outcomes and expectations – content of NMFM’s training will depend on these. Sometimes are given handbooks from College to develop materials/resources
NMFM don’t take their relationship with the College for granted – they are keen to show the College what they’re getting for their money. Manchester College don’t micromanage the work done by the station; NMFM are mainly “left to get on with it”. However, the partnership requires North Manchester FM to be honest and realistic – “we have to ensure we can deliver what we say we can deliver.”
Students from the College come to North for the hands-on experience. This practical, hands-on resource is NMFM’s USP. Station manager, Lou Armer, says: “Why would people do a level 2 when they could come into a real station to get real world experience?” NMFM’s strategy is to find things they can offer the college which the College couldn’t do themselves
Lou feels it’s worth setting up this partnership – the partnership needs to be (and is) of mutual benefit – e.g. NMFM gets funding from College, and the relationship with NMFM increases the College’s community footprint. Also, partnership allows NMFM to keep up with College initiatives and programmes – e.g. offender learning, apprenticeships.
North Manchester FM values the partnership – but also state that they are “fiercely independent” (and want to maintain that independence). NMFM are currently looking to lessen their dependence on the College – not to weaken partnership, but to seek ways of protecting themselves in case anything were to happen with their partnership contract. As they say, “we’d have died if it wasn’t for the College.” It is currently a period of uncertainty for the College and its funding streams – so NMFM are strengthening their other revenue streams (advertising, etc).
Approaching a potential partner
Before approaching a potential partner, there are a number of points your station should think about:
- Identify possible partners – who are they and what do they do?
- Identify what product/service you are proposing to deliver/sell
- Need to be clear on your capacity – how many people can you train? What can you deliver?
Resources around partnership: http://www.niace.org.uk/community-learning/resources/partnership-engagement
Producing a pitch to a potential partner
You may want to work with other organisations to deliver training – either in partnership, or as a commission or contract. This may require you to pitch your offer to the organisation. Below are some aspects that we think make community radio stations ‘special’ – which you could incorporate into your pitch, alongside your station’s own unique selling points.
Engagement – Community radio engages people that other organisations don’t seem to be able to. You are in a unique position to help organisations (such as colleges) engage with learners who have in some way fallen through the educational net.
Personalised learning pathways – Community radio stations usually pride themselves on working closely with each individual to ensure that the individual is getting the most out of their engagement.
Fast and flexible – Radio is a great medium as it’s quick to get people up and running.
Nurturing environment – Community radio stations are good at creating an environment where people learn to trust each other. This learning environment contrasts with the traditional classroom environment that has put many people off learning.
Diverse – Community radio brings ‘unlikely people’ together – it doesn’t segregate people into groups.
Social environment – A community radio station is a community hub. Volunteers in community radio are a great untapped resource.
Employability skills – The environment/ working nature of the station also provides a range of opportunities for learners to develop employability skills in office work etc.
Stealth learning – People who engage with community radio – whether on a course or volunteering – are often learning without knowing that they are learning.
Fun – Above all else, community radio is a fun thing to do and to be involved with – never underestimate this aspect!
What you’ll need to have in place
In the video below, Shane Carey of Reprezent outlines what you should have in place to deliver effective training.
In order to deliver accredited training with/for a partner, you will need to have in place a number of processes, capacities, and resources:
The capacity to deliver – It sounds obvious, but you need to make sure that you can actually deliver what you say you can. It is often tempting to oversell yourself in an attempt to woo a potential partner, but this is dangerous, and may well undermine the partnership. Think about your staff and whether they have the time, and the training / experience, to deliver your proposed training. Do you need extra staff in place? Do your delivery staff have the relevant qualifications/experience?
Processes and procedures – You’ll need to have clear processes in place for dealing with issues that may arise. If you don’t already have them, you’ll need, at minimum, safeguarding and health and safety policies.
Evaluation approach – This is important for your own purposes, but if dealing with a partner like a college, you’ll need to be able to report back to the partner on progress that your learners have made.
Evidence of track record – It would be highly unlikely for an organisation to give the green light to a partnership or contract without seeing some evidence that the delivery organisation (i.e. your station) has done this kind of work in the past and has carried it out successfully.
Below is a video of Christine Cox talking about the work she does with schools, and what lessons she’s learned from experience.
If you want to work with schools, you should:
- Contact the schools in your area and arrange to meet with the head teacher and/or curriculum leads, and discuss what you do and how you can support the school.
- Offer to deliver assemblies letting young people know about the station, radio and volunteering
- Have lesson plans available showing links to National Curriculum areas
- Check that your staff have CRBs/DBSs allowing them to work within the school setting
- Check the Connect:Transmit website for resources on working with young people and schools
Top tip: One thing that everyone advises, if you want to work with schools, is to find schools that are positive about this kind of work, and can see its benefits. In the video above, Christine Cox talks about either seeing the “lightbulb moment” (where a school head/teacher will see the potential of the work), or seeing their faces switch off, at which point she advises it’s best to walk away.
Large Contracts & Consortium models
Many learning contracts that are delivered by colleges in the UK are worth in the tens of millions of pounds. While this kind of funding may be beyond the wildest dreams of many community radio stations, it may be possible to use partnership models to bid for contracts that would otherwise be beyond your organisation’s capacity. A relatively recent trend is to formalise a partnership into a consortium – a legal entity that allows a group of organisations to collectively bid for large-scale tenders or contracts.
Putting together a consortium is a way of getting around the issue of 2nd level contracting – where a contracted organisation subcontracts out some of the work – which is prohibited by various funds, e.g. the European Social Fund (ESF). A consortium model may also provide a means by which a group of organisations could become an accredited learning provider.
- Think about a list of outcomes your organisation could deliver on behalf of the NHS with, e.g., 3 community radio stations (and other voluntary sector organisations) linked up.
- Think about how a community radio-based consortium could sell this to the Home Office (or other government department), in terms of impact on crime, community cohesion, etc.
Some issues to consider:
- Impact: Need to be able to measure the impact of what you’re doing in order to draw down major funding
- What’s your offer?: Put yourself in funder’s shoes – why should they fund you?
- Match funding: Many large funds require match funding – e.g. ESF contracts require 50% match funding
- Cashflow can be an issue – we have heard of projects which haven’t been paid for their first year in the third year of the project!