Case study - Swindon Borough Council

Swindon Borough Council and the High Futures through Swindon Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP) identified a need for a highly skilled and competitive workforce to help employers grow their organisations and benefit the local economy.


Swindon is a growth town with an economy which ranks amongst the top five UK cities for performance. There are 25,400 businesses across the SWLEP, with 22% and 78% in Swindon and Wiltshire respectively. It is host to a number of high-value sectors, ranging from manufacturing to communication technologies, with innovation being common characteristic across all of these sectors.


Against this backdrop, research undertaken by Swindon Borough Council (SBC) revealed that local employers across all sectors were particularly interested in having access to flexible leadership and management training to help develop a competitive local workforce to drive forward organisational and economic growth. A bespoke programme of leadership training was commissioned by SBC to help achieve this.

Our solution:

Our solution involved the creation of the Swindon Leadership Academy. As an approved ILM centre, we designed a programme with an ILM Level 5 Award in Leadership and Management in response to SBC’s specification for Swindon’s Leadership Academy. The programme was developed in close collaboration with the council and consists of a one full-day and five half-day workshops comprising a ‘core’ element, and additional flexible session options that are personalised to the cohort. The programme is underpinned with coaching and mentoring from industry specialists, organised by the council and was delivered over nine months.

Participants also benefitted from additional optional activities to enhance the learning experience including a ‘Leadership Exchange’. This involves participants inviting another leader to observe them in their work and provide feedback to support reflection and development. The roles are then reciprocated. Participants also received executive coaching and mentoring from a talented pool of external leaders connected with SBC’s Human Resources and Organisational Development Team. Action learning sets also formed a crucial part of the learning journey and encouraged participants to engage in peer coaching and work through individual and current work challenges.

This programme structure provides the flexibility to help tailor each programme to the cohort’s individual needs. We are now in the implementation phase and working closely with commissioners to identify the most appropriate syllabus for subsequent cohorts, refining module options using the 360-degree appraisal approach.


Following the first iteration, the programme was independently evaluated by Bath Spa University. The taught sessions were very well-received and enabled participants to gain practical skills. All participants felt that they had developed leadership skills and that they had improved communication skills. Furthermore, they reported greater awareness and knowledge of how to develop teams and felt that they were taking greater ownership of plans and actions. The second cohort commenced their learning journey in early 2019 and are now being mentored by participants from the first cohort.

The success of this programme was highlighted when Swindon Borough Council was shortlisted for a PPMA/Guardian award for Excellence in Senior Leadership Development in 2018. The programme has made the shortlist for two awards in 2019 including ‘Best Leadership/Management Development Initiative’ and ‘Best Cross Sector/Effective Partnership Working’.

“The programme has been instrumental in generating a positive swell of leadership talent which supports the council to achieve its aims of being as modern, effective and efficient as we can. The programme has created some great mentors and ambassadors for change and enabled us to draw on their insights, knowledge and support as we continue to drive through our vision, priorities and pledges for Swindon.”

Helena Taylor-Knox, SBC’s Organisational Development Lead

Want to find out more?

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