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Sussex Training Consortium

Impact Report: Transforming leadership with blended learning at Sussex Training Consortium

Endorsed programmes drive Local Authority Leadership Development – in partnership with the Sussex Training Consortium

The Sussex Training Consortium (STC) provides targeted, relevant, high quality training for all staff working in 12 Districts and Boroughs across East & West Sussex. It aims to ensure that any learning and development they offer the authorities is not off-the-shelf, but targeted, and relevant to the people working for them.

In 2015, the Consortium felt their offerings needed to be updated and undertook a Training Needs Analysis across the 12 councils. This was particularly timely as the local government context was changing dramatically, and this in turn meant a shift in what was required their from managers and leaders. Unfortunately, learning to navigate this level of change was not being effectively addressed in the existing training.

The Challenge

The nature of local government was changing in a big way. Traditional ways of working were no longer delivering the outcomes needed. Faced with doing more (or even the same) for less, staff in the Consortium’s councils had to find ways to deliver shared services, collaborate, and form partnerships beyond anything they had done before. Citizens were now ‘customers’ – with both increasing needs and increasing demands. Value for money had never been more important.

In this context managers and leaders were obliged to take a new approach – to become comfortable operating in an ever-changing environment, and confident to work in ambiguity. Overall, to be more strategic. And STC wanted to support leaders in this, so that they could ensure high performance, and help their teams to work in more effective ways.

Finally, previous development programmes at the 12 Councils had also delivered an ILM qualification as an adjunct of the learning. Participants benefitted enormously from this, but it took time and energy – precious resources in 2015. The Consortium needed the same rigour, only this time it needed to be integral to the learning.

The Brief

After a competitive selection process, =mc were appointed in 2016 to develop the middle managers’ programme. We were asked to design a bespoke programme, that would inspire participants to develop as the leaders of tomorrow, committed to careers in public service. It had to be high quality, and to engage participants in self-directed learning so that they could embed their learning in their work. In short, the programme needed to deliver transformational change for those that attended – it’s impact had to be much wider than just the classroom.

Laura Clarke, Partnership Manager at STC identified five key outcomes for the training:

  • Develop strategic thinking, political insight and commercial realism
  • Combine creativity and innovation to become an agent for change
  • Develop self-awareness, resilience and emotional intelligence for effective leadership
  • Develop teams and get the most from people
  • Improve communication skills in order to get messages across and influence others

What we did:

To address both the key outcomes and the wider context in which we were working, we created an Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) Endorsed Programme, called Leadership for the Future. This is not the same as a formal qualification – which would be time consuming and demanding for participants. Instead, skills and accreditation gained on Leadership for the Future were quality assured by the ILM. It ran in both 2016 and 2017, and participants who completed the full programme received an ILM Endorsed Award.


The ILM Endorsed Award bears the kitemark of quality reserved for bespoke leadership and management training. The recognition it provides helps training stand out in the marketplace and brings the prestige of ILM to employers and participants alike. ILM endorsement provides participants with student membership to the ILM and with recognition.


Importantly, when someone is enrolled on an ILM Endorsed programme, they have to commit to more than attending classroom sessions. To gain their Award, participants on the Leadership for the Future programme needed to complete structured learning assignments which demonstrated that they had applied what they had learned to real-work situations. In order to do this, they each identified a project to which they could apply their learning, that they would manage throughout the programme. Additionally, ILM Assessment meant that their submission was independently verified by an external assessor, working on behalf of the ILM. So the ILM Endorsement added value in three ways:

  • It provided quality assurance through external recognition and verification
  • It demonstrated learning transfer through evidence of applied learning to real work projects
  • It encouraged self-directed learning through student membership and reflective practice

And that’s not all. In order to secure a place on the programme (which had limited numbers per cohort), participants had to apply individually and to have supporting sponsorship from their line manager. The comments written in their application and final course forms from their line manager ensured that participants were held to account for their learning and putting into practice the tools, techniques and insights gained on the programme.


The programme also encouraged collaboration and a shared understanding of the role of a leader in a local government environment through peer-mentoring, an important feature of the course. Participants attended from across the 12 Councils, meeting with people from outside their usual network, and this was eye-opening for them. In the first session everyone was paired up with a peer-mentor or learning buddy. They were all expected to meet with their buddy frequently throughout the programme.

We structured Leadership for the Future round three pillars of leadership: Inspiring Leader, Strategic Leader and Resilient Leader.

STC Leadership for the Future

Ahead of the modules, participants attended a Launch Event, where they met their peers, identified learning needs and completed a pre-course questionnaire. When the modules were finished, participants completed a submission for the ILM Assessment, which included reflective practice logs, a repeat questionnaire, reports on learning and line manager approval. Each person received an individual report on their submission. Following this, they attended a Review Event, where they received their ILM certificates, reviewed their learning and discussed continued ways to develop. 


First and foremost, every participant who attended passed their ILM assessment. This was a huge credit to the hard work and commitment they put into the course. They were very positive about the experience as a whole, with an overall satisfaction rated of 95%. In their feedback people talked about:

  • The contracting process at the Launch event that meant each module genuinely addressed their individual aims and outcomes
  • Gaining tools and techniques to apply to their work
  • The interactive and practical style of the training
  • Opportunities for self-analysis and reflection

Their assessments involved reflective practice. This really helped participants in the following ways:

  • Helped to ensure the ideas from the programme were transferred to the workplace
  • Ensured that key techniques and tools stuck – by forcing a commitment to action
  • Improved communication and influence within their teams – which in turn delivered performance improvements
  • Gave them greater confidence – and they felt able to address more challenging areas of leadership
  • Demonstrated service improvements – as a direct result of performance gains

It was vital to STC that the programme was relevant to local authorities, and not a generic management programme. Keeping with this driver, at the Review session participants were asked to articulate what they thought was required of them in terms of leadership in a local government context. These are the themes that emerged:

  • Change: leading in local government means there is a constantly changing landscape, requiring engaging leadership that can inspire teams
  • Competencies: leaders need resilience, strategic thinking and communication skills
  • Service Focus: leaders need to be agile and understand that the rationale for change is not driven by purely commercial means. Leaders need to be service-focused.
  • Collaboration: leaders need to be confident and comfortable to work with others, sharing knowledge outside their service area to support a service-focus culture

Participant Feedback

Earlier in 2018 we contacted Leadership for the Future Alumni to find out how they now perceived the benefits of the programme some 12-18 months on. They were hugely positive. This is what three of them had to say:

Donna – Senior Customer Services Officer:

I manage a large team, with big personalities, varied competencies and, at times, challenging behaviours. I wanted to go on the programme, having heard positive things about it from my own manager who had been the year before. I know it sounds corny but my manager and me, having both now completed the course, are very much ‘on the same page’ and so present a united front in our approach, communication and planning. I would not hesitate to recommend this programme to any one of my colleagues who manage teams, big or small.

The overriding lesson for me is that there is a clear difference between managing and leading – and in my role I need to be skilled at both. The programme has helped me immensely and now learning is a continuous, dynamic process. I have personally experienced significant successes in influencing behaviour, managing performance, motivating long serving team members and inducting and developing many new team members since I completed the programme.

The ILM Assessment was a big deal too and I really needed to commit to it. I was worried about the time it would take. In local authorities, we are all up against it for time and resource – but I found in the end that attending the course wasn’t a problem nor was planning in time for the assignments, time with my manager etc. I also really enjoyed meeting others and working as buddies. However, it could be a struggle to meet my buddies between the formal sessions.

Overall, l enjoyed this programme and gained so much from it. The delivery, content and support was second to none. As someone quite new to leadership, I was quite intimidated at first, but Yvette and Charlie from =mc made no distinction regarding seniority and made me feel both welcome and comfortable. Superbly run, I loved it.

Joanna – Senior Specialist Advisor

When I started the course, I was getting ready to step into senior management. The course was a great foundation for that. It was full of useful information on how to deal with all kinds of situations I hadn’t come across before – from agile management, to change management, to dealing with conflict. It was also a really useful platform to develop networking opportunities and share experiences. I would recommend the course to any new and existing managers even to use as a refresher as it is a fast-paced, interactive and interesting learning experience.

During the course, it was important that I invested the time to complete all the modules so that I could gain a greater understanding of accountability/responsibility. I also found it useful to manage a project from start to finish for my ILM Assessment, dealing with the many challenges encountered along the way. Having a buddy from another authority was a great way to measure my progress and to discuss any potential problems. It was also really helpful to then feedback to the group as a whole at the workshops and listen to other ideas and experiences about how to deal with workplace issues. I learned a great deal from the other people in my cohort.

And since the course an important outcome for me is that I gained more confidence in general and it helped me pursue a higher management career path. Now, two years on, I am still using what I learned on the course. I was promoted from a first-line manager into senior management at the end of the course and since then have been through an authority restructure and I’m continuing to develop new shared services with a neighbouring authority. The change management part of the course has been especially helpful to understand employees’ reactions in relation to the change curve.

Charles Field, Head of Parking Services

Charles Field

What next?

As you’d expect, L&D budgets are restricted in local authorities, and it is important the Leadership for the Future programme continues to add value. So in 2018 we are reviewing the content for future cohorts and developing additional online support. We are looking forward to supporting more of Sussex’s Leaders soon.

We are very grateful to all the support we have had from Chris Williams and Heather Dalton at the ILM.

Find out more

The approach taken with this programme can be adapted for your organisation. We can provide ready-made ILM Development programmes or create a bespoke Endorsed programme which addresses the unique challenges you face. Contact us online or call us on 020 7978 1516 to discuss your needs.

Find out more about STC here: Or if you work in one of the 12 Councils and have a question about the programme, email Yvette Gyles, Assistant Director at =mc:

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Yvette Gyles

About Yvette Gyles

Yvette specialises in leadership, personal effectiveness, change and innovation. Before joining =mc, she worked in HR for several years in both the private and charity sector as an HR...