From education to employment

Quality improvement

The FE Commissioner has recently written to all chairs and principals of further education colleges setting out his views on the area of quality improvement. This is the third letter that Dr David Collins CBE has sent, the first two dealing with lessons that could be learnt from the interventions undertaken to date in the areas of governance, leadership and financial management.

The Commissioner has highlighted that this area is not an easy question to answer given that the vast majority of staff members in colleges are equally well skilled and qualified. However, he highlights that as Ofsted has already found out when going into colleges, some flourish while others struggle with improving quality.

The FE Commissioner has highlighted ten main factors that he considers are where this area can be described. These are as follows:

1. Clarity: Successful colleges are clear about their purpose and have the needs of local learners and employers at the heart of their operation. The priority is the curriculum suited to local needs, having the right student on the right course and providing levels of teaching and support that will lead to high levels of achievement.

2. Connectivity: Knowing what is going on in the sector with formal and informal networking arrangements ensures quality improves.

3. Confidence: Having the confidence to implement change or ask for help if needed is of critical importance.

4. Complacency: All staff are encouraged to work hard to self-improve and to help others improve without ever being entirely satisfied or complacent.

5. Consistency: Ensuring that high standards are achieved across the board.

6. Cohesion: Having a senior leadership team to give a sense of common purpose and teamwork. This centres on the experience and success of the learner from their application and admission to the college to post college employment or further study.

7. Challenge: Dealing with difficult conversations is something that is clearly never easy, but having that ability to challenge is something that can only drive quality forward.

8. Creativity: Taking measured risks and exploring new ways of doing things.

9. Celebration: Recognising the successes of those throughout the institution and celebrating it.

10. Care: Ensuring that there is sufficient support in place so that all students can be cared for in and around their studies, and staff in and around their work, is fundamental to success.

The FE Commissioner concludes by stating that none of the above are “rocket science”. However, it is surprising how many of the basics are missing in some colleges.

While the FE Commissioner’s letter is to be broadly welcomed, it serves as a timely reminder to all colleges that key areas of success are quality improvement and ensuring that success is measured in a rational and objective manner.

Matthew Kelly is a partner at Thomas Eggar, the law firm

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