From education to employment

Helping colleges improve

Rob Wye is chief executive of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service

This autumn, the early findings of the revised version of How Colleges Improve were made public at a LSIS event in Birmingham. In 2008 the original publication was released, and was designed to stimulate discussion in the FE and Skills sector about how improvement may best be accelerated and how to overcome barriers to change. The revised edition, which LSIS commissioned Ofsted to produce, provides an illuminating insight into the characteristics of good and outstanding colleges, and the characteristics of those that are failing to improve.

One of the overriding messages from the early findings of How Colleges Improve is that the importance and impact of outstanding leadership and management cannot be underestimated. To quote HMI, Mike Davis, “All the elements identified in the report are inextricably linked to the actions and behaviours demonstrated by leaders and managers.” The key features that make colleges good to outstanding are covered in LSIS’s strategic priorities, ensuring that the work we do is focused in the right places. For example, the Leadership College will help build on these themes and ensure that processes are put in place to foster the key leadership qualities needed to deliver excellent leadership and governance.

Ofsted’s early findings state that there are a number of key elements that good or outstanding colleges posses. These include well informed governors who can ask the right questions, information management that is related to learners, and self assessment that is integral to the work of a college, rather than a ‘bolt on’. The findings also state that the best colleges ensure they achieve effective teaching, learning and assessment, and have a curriculum matched to the needs of their learners, as well as employers and their community.

The Ofsted report made three recommendations that LSIS should follow, of which we are already implementing. For example, our support for all colleges, not just those that are underperforming colleges, is illustrated by the fact that SFA funded colleges which have worked with us have increased their Ofsted grade by at least one place. Another Ofsted recommendation, that we support governance and management is one of our three overriding priorities, and resources such as the Excellence Gateway promote the sharing of good practice across the sector.

LSIS welcomes the Ofsted recommendations as they corresponded with our priorities for the sector. We are committed to working with the sector to improve the sector; by collaborating with improvement providers to aid those organisations in need we will continue to deliver support to help our sector thrive.

Rob Wye is chief executive of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service, which aims to accelerate the drive for excellence in the further education and skills sector

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