From education to employment

The crucial role of quality delivery in further education

Kerry Boffey

Kerry Boffey, quality advisor to five providers judged Outstanding in 2023, emphasises that achieving high quality provision shouldn’t just be for inspection purposes. Instead it’s a strategic 4-5 year journey. 

In our world of further education, the pursuit of quality is not a mere switch to be turned on or off solely for the purpose of inspection. Instead it is an enduring commitment, a strategic journey guided by highly effective leadership, meticulous planning, operational excellence and an unwavering focus on maintaining high standards year after year. This relentless pursuit of quality results in the delivery of programmes that leave a lasting impact on learners, benefiting not only individuals but also industries, businesses, and communities.

In advising five providers which have been judged Outstanding by Ofsted so far this year, I have found again that the key to securing an Outstanding grade or a solid grade 2 is not a stroke of luck or last-minute preparation; it’s a testament to the provider’s commitment to sustained excellence. Such providers are equipped with highly effective leadership strategies and well thought-out provisions that reflect a clear intent. These organisations operate with a laser focus on quality, consistently delivering high-quality programmes that stand the test of time.

High quality apprenticeships, impactful Skills Bootcamps and far reaching AEB provisions aren’t just buzzwords

High quality apprenticeships, impactful Skills Bootcamps and far reaching AEB provisions aren’t just buzzwords; they’re vital contributors to the growth and development of industries and businesses. Skilled and knowledgeable apprentices and learners emerging from these programmes fuel economic growth and innovation. In addition, communities reap the rewards of good-quality further education provision by having access to a well-developed and more qualified workforce and individuals who can contribute effectively to society.

The Fellowship of Inspection Nominees (FIN) is founded on the principle of helping providers deliver good quality, not quick fixes for inspection or papering over the cracks. We want providers to deliver high quality that impacts on learners – and we have the skills and knowledge to support that.

FIN aims to instil confidence in the nominee and quality directors regarding their delivery, rather than encouraging a frantic, last-minute approach to inspection preparation. Being part of this collaborative community transcends individual benefits; it elevates standards across the entire sector through the sharing of best practices and the development of innovative ideas.

The resources provided by FIN serve as the bedrock for improving quality. Self-evaluation checklists, templates and an extensive library of infographics related to governance, the Education Inspection Framework (EIF) and safeguarding, empower education providers to self-assess and align with the latest inspection focus. Furthermore, webinars and continuing professional development (CPD) offerings enhance skills and knowledge in line with current inspection priorities.

Quality is the best inspection preparation

Membership and consistent engagement with FIN enable providers to enhance their quality and formulate robust inspection plans. One of the core principles driving FIN’s work is encapsulated in the motto: “Quality is the best inspection preparation”. This underscores the idea that inspection readiness should not be a mad scramble, but a natural byproduct of a long-term commitment to delivering excellence.

Delivering high quality education isn’t about a whirlwind of intense preparation in the months leading up to an inspection; it’s a strategic, four or five year journey. It involves a meticulous, forensic approach to data collection and analysis, which, in turn, drives continuous improvement. This approach focuses on maintaining high standards, improving learner retention rates and maximising outcomes for learners.

We are often asked when inspection preparation should start. There is no time to lose, so start looking ahead from this moment onwards.  Use the experiences of others or your own inspection experience and the learning to put in long-term strategies to maintain good practice, work through recommendations and further improve provision.

No magic wand

There is no magic wand to guarantee success in further education; quick fixes are temporary and unsustainable. Instead, it’s far more prudent to build a solid foundation of best practices. This approach not only withstands challenges but also positions providers optimally to leverage an Ofsted inspection as an opportunity to showcase their sustained high quality delivery, thereby positively impacting and maximising outcomes for learners.

In conclusion, quality delivery in further education is not a fleeting aspiration but a steadfast commitment. This month FIN members heard first-hand from the team at Hawk Training who recently celebrated their achievement, maintaining their Outstanding grade. Hawk talked openly about their quality journey and how they benefitted from the FIN tools, resources and support along their road towards continuous improvement.

By putting quality at the heart of the business, the fruits of this labour are seen in the lasting impact on learners, the growth of industries, and the well-being of communities, demonstrating that quality education is an investment with enduring benefits.

By Kerry Boffey, Fellowship of Inspection Nominees (FIN)

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