From education to employment

CE of QIA on “EG” and “IA”


Love them or loathe them, they are littered across our world with reckless abandon and injudicious sensitivity. Like some sort of infestation in the very practice of naming properly and conforming to an impatient society deemed too busy to read three or four words, we are bombarded with the critters. And no finer example can be set than that of our FE sector, what with our LSCs, our EMAs, T2Ts, ALIs and ALPs, to name just five.

Then comes the really interesting part. Not content with reducing a professional institution to a few letters, carefully crafted speeches are then given explaining the essence of these bodies. An example can be found in last week’s inaugural Quality Improvement Agency (QIA) conference held on Wednesday 7th June to Thursday 8th June 2006 at Birmingham’s premier ICC convention centre. Headlining the conference was Andrew Thomson, Chief Executive of the QIA and a remarkably calm and assured, presenter.


“[In terms of the QIA]”¦We need belief in ourselves and in the virtue of self-improvement”, said Mr Thomson. “The QIA can be a catalyst to releasing the “secret” of the 700,000 members in our sector.” It could be said that the providers may already know this secret. But on the event charged, hurtling towards our inevitable final destination: last boarding call on FE Statement Railways ““ next stop, Repeatitconstantly-ville. I have fashioned my own acronym for these conferences, but somehow I don”t think my Editor would approve”¦

“The QIA works when we facilitate and champion excellence and to be the catalyst for improvement,” he continued. In other words, the Chief Executive of the QIA is reassuring us that his agency functions best when working for Improvement as the goal. He continued: “If you have an agency, you must justify its expense. And we must move away from this notion of “not sharing” good ideas”, he continued, basking in his self-affirmed glow of knowledge, wisdom, karma and the art of the obvious. “In education, we still worry about educational competitiveness. The beneficiary is the general public.”

As right as he could prove to be, I was under the impression that staying at that station mentioned earlier could dilute the overall message somewhat. But then, I am from the esteemed United Kingdom School of Cynics and Scepticism. You might know it as the UKSCS; quite popular amongst the fraternity of journalism, I gather.

Real Progress

However, do not be fooled into thinking the conference was a PR and Marketing rep’s dream. Mr. Thomson did unveil key ideas to take his agency into the next era. “There is an awful lot of good work being done. Some of the things we will be doing include an “Excellence Gateway”. This is sharing good practice through the internet from other people in the sector.”

Referencing his earlier remark about educational competitiveness, he said: “This will not work unless people want to share ideas”. And setting the project in a 21st Century focus, he said: “The Excellence Gateway will also work as a “dating agency”. Putting people in touch with those they want to be in touch with.” He also outlined his ideal for “Improvement Advisors”, whereby “we can work with organisations helping each other. We want to support reforms, and at the heart of what we want is to be a research and development engine for the FE sector.”

Remarking on the agency’s achievements to date in these two areas: “The Excellence Gateway is going online and the Improvement Advisors have been set up with over 300 queries dealt with. We have taken over the management of 19 DfES and LSC contracts and we are also about to launch an “Improvement Services Directory”.”

So, however much Mr Thomson explains to us his agency is for improvement, at the heart of the QIA there seems to be a real impetus for progress. But just to ensure the delegates understood what the letters in QIA stand for, here it is, one last time. “I think the QIA is there for a better outcome,” he explains. “The QIA means excellence, improvement and creativity,” he explains again. “People are essential. I think the QIA can be what it sets out to be. Setting out a bright new future.”

Vijay Pattni

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