Inspection frequency, duration and intensity may change, but whatever happens, you'll want to keep a handle on how good a deal your learners are getting. You might have some intense scrutiny in the form of internal or external review. If so, you'll want it to be thorough, accurate, and usable. I'm stating the obvious here, I know.

Just sticking with the obvious for another point. Quality review, however you do it, can be expensive. The financial challenge we're experiencing pushes an opportunity to reconsider that spend, exploring how we can save without loss, possibly contemplating the balance of internal and external review.

On the surface, external review looks most expensive. I'd love to delve into the reason I'm only saying 'on the surface' but can't do it justice here. If it's expensive we have to consider its effectiveness and what benefit it brings. It's often that bit more objectivity, those 'fresh' eyes, that we're after. We consider that there's greater 'truth' to the impartial reviewer's findings. Debatable again, but suffice to say that less bias is more likely with an external eye.

So an external eye gets the impartiality thumbs up. However, contemplate the cost of an external eye alongside the importance of really knowing our own provision well (rather than someone just telling us how it is) and outsourcing of review activity starts to become questionable.

So can we have an external eye that doesn't cost quite so much and allows us to own the knowledge of our provision? Of course we can: Enter peer review. Ok, it's probably not new to you. You've engaged in some peer review activity; worked with peer college colleagues and shared some best practice. But perhaps your peer review is a little dusty, left on the shelf a little too long, or some of its features unused.

You know peer review makes sense. It's got huge potential, but sadly it often isn't reached. Are you making the most of peer review or simply going through the motions? Let's see. Does your peer review support you to:

  • Know your provision?
  • Self assess with ease?
  • Improve your practice?
  • Save money?
  • Develop your workforce?
  • Inspire those involved?
  • Spread some love?

Yes I said 'spread some love'. I'm talking about the love of reflecting and improving upon teaching and learning practice. We'll come back to this.

So, how did you do? Does your peer review do all this for you? If not, we're missing huge opportunities, but it could be even worse. Is it possible that you are using precious time and resources only to have a negative impact? Ouch. Let's consider the potential damage:

  • Wasted money / resource (because nothing changes)
  • Killing the culture you're trying so hard to create (spreading the teaching and learning love)

Let's use number 1 as a warm up before we get to the good loving. Quite simply, peer review takes up time. You don't have time to waste. If peer review isn't doing the basics and giving you a fair, thorough and accurate assessment of your provision, you are wasting money. Negative impact.

In case you're still questioning whether your peer review does do its job or not, I want to share something with you so listen up. Whilst self-assessing the quality of learning (and I don't just mean the end of year report writing), I've never ever known anyone volunteer findings from peer review as meaningful evidence. I'm not saying it's not there, but I am questioning how well it's used. Like I said. Wasted money.

Ok so I promised the good loving. Let's explore 'Killing the culture you're trying to create'. If you are (I really hope you are, otherwise see me at break) working hard to develop a culture where all teachers appreciate observation and review activity, using it as a powerful tool for reflection and improvement, you don't want anyone messing this up, right?

And yet we do allow it to happen. All it takes is one external reviewer to make an out of touch comment, to begin to sow a seed of fear or frustration. That one upset teacher on the receiving end of a questionable judgement or poor communication can shout very loudly. It's so easy for that culture of love (openness, honesty, trust, respect) to turn into one of fear. Negative impact. The type that's so hard to repair.

There's huge potential out there to support self-regulation and peer review is just waiting to help us out. If we're serious about developing the right culture we need to take the time to do peer review properly. If you're going to spend anyway, spend wisely, develop key staff, increase dialogue between peer review members, let them know you're vision and ensure they not only understand but can contribute towards it. Even better, perhaps they could share that vision.

Deborah McVey is managing director of Deborah McVey Ltd, providing training, coaching and consultancy support to the learning and skills sector, specialising in improving teaching, learning and assessment. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page