From education to employment

Quality Improvement Agency and Centre of Excellence in Leadership to creat new organisation in April

Chief Executive Andrew Thomson today signalled the Quality Improvement Agencys (QIA) support for bringing together QIA and the Centre of Excellence in Leadership (CEL) to create a new sector-led organisation that will provide a centre of expertise in improvement leadership and innovation for the further education system.

John Denham, Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) announced that the new organisation would be formed during his speech to the Association of Colleges Conference.

Drawing attention to QIAs achievements over the past 18 months, Andrew Thomson explained how, together with CELs achievements, the necessary foundations

He also called on all in the further education system to give their views on the consultation document that is being launched by DIUS, QIA and CEL to help determine the future shape and direction of the new organisation in the coming weeks.

Andrew Thomson said: “The new organisation will build on the success of QIA and CEL, bringing support for quality improvement and leadership together, and transfer to the further education system the power to decide on priorities and resourcing. The aim is a continually self-improving, self-regulating system and this new organisation will be a really powerful driver for that.”

Significant progress achieved by QIA over the past 18 months will give the new organisation a strong start in fulfilling key elements of its remit:


* to raise standards and enable individual providers to become world class. In the past eighteen months, QIA has worked to ensure everyone working in the further education system has had access to the best possible help and expertise. It has brought clarity and greater understanding to a complex range of quality improvement programmes and services, and been a credible, single source of expertise.


* to serve key policy priorities. One of QIAs key achievements has been its leadership of the National Improvement Strategy (produced with national partners including DIUS, CEL, LSC, ALI, Ofsted, LLUK, Becta, SSDA and Jobcentre Plus), an integrated improvement plan for further education. The three main aims of the strategy are that all learners have equal access to high-quality teaching and learning; that training provision meets employers business needs; and to ensure continuous improvement in the further education system.


* to embed a culture of excellence across the whole FE system so that is becomes the best learning system in the world. QIA programmes and services are having an impact on almost every college and provider in England. Those working with QIA report improved teaching and learning, better focus on learners needs and higher standards of delivery. Comments also show that QIA programmes are more flexible and responsive than previous support, and produce higher levels of satisfaction.

The new organisation is likely to be primarily involved in strategic commissioning rather than the delivery of services – an area where QIA has a great deal of experience. Through its commissioning role QIA has eliminated duplication and overlap of quality improvement services, making it easier for colleges and providers to get the quality improvement help and expertise they need through, in its first year, bringing seven inherited national programmes and six major new programmes into one single portfolio of support.

Andrew Thomson continued: “QIA has pioneered ways to support innovation and transfer effective practice in the quest for excellence – this will be at the heart of the new organisation. The key development is that the new body will be directed much more by the needs of colleges and providers, as they will steer it. This is a development that should command widespread support.”

The Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Gordon Brown MP, in the foreword to QIAs first annual review, said: “I congratulate Andrew Thomson and the whole team at the Quality Improvement Agency for having achieved so much in their first year of operation. It shows how a small, focused, professional organisation can have a major impact in a short time. QIAs work is critical to the drive for a world-class further education system, where high standards and quality improvement have to be integral not optional extras.”

Sir Geoffrey Holland, chair of QIA, said: “A great deal has been achieved by QIA in raising the profile of quality improvement and in supporting and developing the further education system. However, there is a need to build on this good work at a time when the Leitch reforms will mean major changes in the system and colleges and providers will want to become more self-regulating. The creation of this new organisation presents us with an opportunity to push further forward with this challenging agenda.”

The creation of the new organisation was welcomed by Dame Ruth Silver, principal of Lewisham College, who said: “There is real promise in this union towards a new organisation. Ill be delighted if its agenda is future facing, a new definition of quality in a demand led world, building upon QIAs and CELs records of success.”

The new organisation will be set up by April next year but in the meantime it will be business as usual for QIA, which will continue to operate as normal.

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