From education to employment


New investment in online technology is driving quality improvement at a national training and skills provider, which specialises in delivering accountancy apprenticeships.

First Intuition provides a range of nationally recognised Level 3, 4 and 7 accountancy apprenticeships to more than 1,500 classroom-based learners across its eight UK centres. These include London as well as regional centres in Reading, Bristol, Chelmsford, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester and Maidstone.

The company, which operates within the existing CIF (Common Inspection Framework) but is currently gearing up for the new Ofsted inspection landscape, which is expected to come into force later this year, has adopted Mesma software to evaluate the quality of its teaching, learning and assessmentand support its ambitions for more effective self-assessment and improvement planning. 

The move is already paying dividends for the London office quality and compliance manager Kim Robberts, who has used the technology in the last few months to initiate improvements, which are being shared across the wider organisation.

These include improved benchmarking (discussions around this area are now automatically included at monthly team meetings) and gap analysis to assess and identify differences in performance and determine whether quality and compliance requirements are being met and, if not, what steps should be taken to ensure they are met successfully.

The versatile subscription-based online resource, Mesma allows vital areas around self-assessment processes and the associated improvement activities to be allocated to authorised people within a training environment. Flexible enough to support safeguarding, CPD, inspection notification, communications planning and observation processes, filing systems and evaluative frameworks, it can also be utilised to manage outsourced contractor arrangements linked to quality assurance requirements. 

First Intuition has been using the Evaluate module within Mesma since September 2018, investing in the technology to provide enhanced quality capabilities, enabling Kim Robberts and her London-based team to better evaluate training and learning provision in line with the CIF.

The capacity to undertake self-assessment has been enhanced through an easy-to-use user intuitive interface. The CIF is already contained within Mesma, enabling First Intuition to simply overlay its own processes and link these through to bespoke modules within the system architecture. This in turn is providing better control of important tasks and functions according to Kim Robberts, as her company develops a more consistent approach to quality assurance.

“Colleagues like Mesma. Using the Evaluate function has allowed us to identify improvements and good practices, which can be shared with others in the wider business. It also provides a structure within which we can effectively achieve the relevant self-assessment and improvement planning requirements of the framework.

“The capacity to quickly and easily upload tasks, reports and evidence-rich content to the system daily, is particularly beneficial. This provides a ‘live record’ of achievement and progress simply at the press of a button, saving valuable time and avoiding duplication of effort in the process.

Mesma’s Improve module, which helps organisations build robust quality plans, is used by First Intuition to host its own quality improvement plan. Accessing information through Mesma enables Kim Robberts to set headline objectives while regularly tracking and reviewing the progress of actions assigned to colleagues.

She said: “Having our plan held in a single location [Mesma] ensures quality issues remain paramount and are driven forward consistently across the organisation. What’s more, I can track improvements quicker and easier than using multiple systems. Self-Assessment Reports (SAR) can also be downloaded to create progress reports for sharing with the management team. This all provides added peace-of-mind.”

As it looks to the next 12 months, First Intuition plans to roll out Mesma across all offices – an initiative that could see upwards of 21 people in quality control roles eventually accessing the technology to shape and drive improvement, as the company looks towards the new CIF, which is expected to shift the focus towards learning and training providers offering a broad, rich and deep curriculum, with less emphasis on headline outcomes data. 

“Regardless of what happens, change is on the way, and we are planning for a new-look future inspection landscape. And Mesma will play a big role in helping us to be ready and prepare for our next Ofsted inspection,” said Kim Robberts.“All our regional offices now have Mesma available to them, enabling others with quality responsibilities to actively engage more in the process, share best practice and generally, drive-up standards.” 

She sees Mesma, which also provides mentoring and consultancy to First Intuition as part of a package of support, as a highly beneficial resource, making engagement in the whole quality process far easier, better coordinated and much more effective as user experience ramps-up: “It’s a good tool, which is flexible enough to adapt to constant changes. It challenges the user to drive personal improvement as well as company-wide and keep on top of tasks.

“Similar to many others in the training sector, we see added value technologies like Mesma playing a larger role in shaping and delivering quality in the face of apprenticeship changes and funding,” she added. “We’re adapting and cost-effective, relevant tools like Mesma are already proving vital in helping us to overcome challenges and work smarter, while remaining focused on curriculum.”

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