From education to employment

Making an impact on the sector

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

In May LSIS received the results of an internal audit which was conducted to establish the impact we are having on the sector.  What was clear from the review was there were three primary areas that were benefitting from LSIS’s support: improving the quality of the sector; improving the skills and capability of professionals in the sector; and helping providers improve outcomes for their learners.

To illustrate the first of these benefits we can look at the recent drop in college Ofsted inspection grades. In 2009-2010, about a quarter of colleges that were previously judged to be good or outstanding saw their grade decline. Obviously this is a worrying trend for the sector, however, support provided by LSIS is helping to tackle this.  Colleges and providers that were helped by LSIS, improved on average by one grade at their next Ofsted inspection.

Hertford Regional College is an illustration of how such support can help. The appointment of a new principal and senior management team brought about the desire for improved success, and work with LSIS Improvement Adviser Service commenced. A multi-faceted approach was planned including the development of a new self assessment report, much more self-critical than previous reports, and targets for improvement of reports produced by Management Information Systems (MIS) to make sure they supported managers in the drive for improvement.

In the next (September 2010) Ofsted monitoring visit it was noted that there was improved link between self assessment and improvement plans because of clearer identification of areas for improvement and appropriate actions. In addition, it was noted that the rigour of monitoring these action plans had increased over the last year, particularly where concerns about the rate of improvement existed. Following this, the college’s principal, Andy Forbes, told LSIS : “Almost all our key performance indicators are now moving in the right direction. We still have some work to do, but we’re now confident we can move not just from satisfactory to good, but from good to outstanding.”

The second tangible benefit of LSIS’s work that was highlighted in our audit is the support of the development of the sector’s professionals. Continuous Professional Development (CPD) is something we are committed to supporting, and for example we have found that 93% of providers who received functional skills support from LSIS are now implementing the advice and guidance to improve their functional skills offer. We have also established that more than 90% of sector professionals that LSIS has supported in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) have improved the quality of their teaching. We are also supporting senior staff: in March, LSIS set out its three priorities for 2012-2013, one of which is to forge excellent leadership and management. We are doing this by providing training for aspiring principals and of those we have helped, more than half have achieved a senior leadership role. In addition, 92% of student governors are applying learning gained from LSIS support, as they undertake their role

On May 30th, Ofsted announced its new inspection regime: from September this year, providers will need to demonstrate outstanding teaching, learning and assessment to be judged outstanding overall (although, not all teaching needs to be outstanding). This reinforces the message to providers that they need to focus on the learner experience and success, and this is the third area that our audit highlighted demonstrable success. For example, LSIS is providing funding to maintain the central coordination and support functions of the national Community Learning Champions support programme. To date 37,000 people have moved into paid employment and 22,000 people have moved on into education or training after participating in the LSIS supported Community Learning Champions scheme.

Although we are proud of these achievements, LSIS will never be complacent. We will build on these successes to move to our next stage of refreshed provision which we will be introducing from September 2012 onwards.

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

Read other FE News articles by Rob Wye:

Continuing our focus on learning

Skills Commission inquiry into specialisation

LSIS Annual Governance Conference round-up

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