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Life as an educational charity: how NCFE is making a difference

Emma Hoare Emma Hoare Head of Governance at NCFE

You may know NCFE as an awarding organisation, or a leader in technical and vocational education – but did you know that being a registered educational charity is also a fundamental aspect of our identity? Here, Emma Hoare, our Head of Governance, explains more about what makes us a charity, the work we’re doing that is having a social impact, and the benefits that working for a charity can provide. 

Q: What makes NCFE a charity? 

To be registered as a charity, an organisation must be established exclusively for public benefit and have aims that fall into a predefined category that the law says are charitable. Here at NCFE, our aim is the advancement of education – our core purpose is promoting and advancing learning to create a fairer society, and our beneficiaries are our learners. 

As well as being a charity, we’re also a registered company limited by guarantee, which means we don’t have shareholder returns to satisfy, but we do have a Board of Trustees and Directors. You can find out all about our Board Members here. 

Q: What does NCFE do as an educational charity? 

NCFE was first born in 1848 from the belief that no learner should be left behind – a cause which continues to drive our people today. We believe that through shaping smarter learning, we can empower a fairer society, facilitate excellent learning experiences, create opportunities to progress and change lives for the better. We exist to help individuals to realise their true potential – whatever their starting point, and whatever their destination. 

So how do we do this? From world-class qualifications and content to new innovative assessment methodologies, from technology platforms to effective partnerships – we seek to develop and invest in solutions which provide the highest learning quality experiences for all. 

For example, our £1 million Assessment Innovation Fund is helping to break boundaries in assessment through investment to support and pilot new ideas. One such pilot has just been run by The Sheffield College, which has been testing the effects of how virtual reality (VR) can be used effectively in summative and formative assessment. This investment is international, as we’re also supporting projects by the likes of the University of Newcastle, Australia, who have pilot-tested the process of moving from using a grade-based system to digital badges in courses. 

Further investments and partnerships that we’re proud to have established include our work with the unique social impact project Good for ME Good for FE which looks to create a sustainable programme of community action across the UK, our project with the Greater Manchester Learning Provider Network (GMLPN) to increase apprenticeship opportunities for young autistic people, and our Centre of Excellence programme which develops world-class educators in partnership with WorldSkills UK. 

To learn more about our social impact as a charity and an awarding organisation, you can explore our Social Impact Report from 2022. 

Q: How is NCFE governed as a charity? 

We’re governed from a legislative perspective by the Charity Commission for England and Wales. This means we must make specific reporting requirements, adhere to charity law and have governing documents which state how we operate as an organisation.  

Whilst not a legal or regulatory requirement, NCFE Trustees and Executives also adopt the Charity Governance Code as their Corporate Governance Principles. This means we aim to adopt a range of principles and recommended practices for good governance, using this to set high standards.  

Q: What are the benefits of working for a charity? 

Charities have a very clear sense of purpose and aim to make society better, which can bring much stronger motivation and job satisfaction working in the not-for-profit sector.  

They can also bring together people who care deeply about a cause and who feel a connection to the purpose – for us here at NCFE, that means making a difference to learners and ultimately, society.  

This was the case for our People Product Manager, Holly Ferdinando, who explains the importance of working at a charitable organisation with a clear vision: 

Having originally started my HR career in the charity sector by chance, I quickly realised the importance for me personally in working for an organisation whose purpose and values strongly align with my own, and who aims to make a real difference through what they do.   

“Since then, I have specifically sought out roles just within the charity sector, and it was a key reason for applying to work at NCFE. Working at a charity in a support function such as HR has enabled me to meaningfully make a wider contribution to an overall purpose and feel connected to this through my work.” 

Q: How is our culture at NCFE impacted by being a charity? 

By having a clearly defined purpose, our colleagues understand how they can contribute and make a difference through the work they do, and this is something we’re proud of. Our People Services team runs quarterly engagement surveys and one of the most consistently highest-scoring responses is - 'I understand how my work contributes to our core purpose.'

As a charity we want all our people to connect deeply with our purpose and to feel inspired by our vision for the future, which impacts how we set organisational goals and objectives so that colleagues can feel fulfilled and valued by their contributions.  

As such, our culture is underpinned by high standards and expectations, combined with high levels of trust and empowerment, enabled with the right resources to deliver excellence. This is also what led us to our values of 'invested in the learner, involved in the solution and inspired by the impact'.

If you're interested in learning more, our Vision for our People outlines more information about our culture, including our approaches to development and performance, fairness, equality and diversity, and attraction and recruitment.  

To find out more about life at NCFE and explore the current career opportunities that are available, visit our Careers page. 

Having originally started my HR career in the charity sector by chance, I quickly realised the importance for me personally in working for an organisation whose purpose and values strongly align with my own, and who aims to make a real difference through what they do.   

Holly Ferdinando, People Product Manager at NCFE

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