There are, I firmly believe three main issues in FE and by that, I mean let's look beyond the obvious constraints and torments of Funding (always with a capital 'F') for a moment.
F.E. and schools for that matter have issues around Ofsted, no matter how many concessions around Lesson Observations are granted.
Staff development or CPD is another. There are still colleges that only deliver a decent CPD programme when they think Ofsted is due. There are those that develop, encourage and train their staff with the dedication of a mother to a child and those in between.
However well trained you are, there is a diminishing return in the number of Senior Post available in any college, even fewer now there is so little cash swilling around in the coffers ... oops F word again.
So, how do you improve your staff, develop into a grade one organisation and still, as a sector provide sufficient opportunities for ambitious and talented staff, whilst improving your delivery to the learners in your local area?
In the current climate, you don't.
But and I admit my mind wanders in M25 traffic jams, I know there is a way.
Much as NIACE recently called for the complete overhaul of long term skills needs, to rebalance the forensic focus on the under 24, I am calling for a complete overhaul of the way FE is inspected, the way FE develops its staff and to develop more opportunities for more staff to experience management opportunities. It would also develop a central role for agencies such as Education and Training Foundation who list their aims as:
- To raise the quality and professionalism of teachers and trainers across the FE and training sector.
- To deliver consistently excellent outcomes for learners and employers
- To support Colleges and training providers of all types in achieving their own improvement objectives
To do this we should:
- Use the ETF to train all FE managers to be skilled in Quality of Learning and Teaching and what it is that makes a college 'Outstanding' - nasty term, should be 'Effective' I think.
- Stop using Ofstd to inspect colleges - just stop. Sack them. Self regulate.
- Every manager in FE should spend a half term in another college, in another geographical area, or area of expertise, to monitor, judge and most importantly, learn from.
- To write a report on that colleges effectiveness
- To take back ideas and knowledge to improve their own college
- Share good practice
- Develop own skills and knowledge
- Mentor and develop the staff beneath them who will replace them whilst they are off and eventually replace them when they move on.
- ETF to monitor and moderate judgements and train the staff
- FE staff would be experienced, valuable and the number of staff involved would help develop those below, as they would be required to step up and take over whilst Line Manger was absent.
- Great CV experience and a real contribution to their own college.
Ok, it might be a little complicated to administer, but the ETF could do it. Colleges could work together collaboratively and we would self regulate, self judge but in an honest, supportive and properly focussed way. The EFT could train them to do so.
Ofsted would be able to focus on Schools and the myriad number of new types of schools.
It would, if carefully developed be so effective for training staff, giving them that valuable opportunity to experience management and other roles. It would enable staff to experience, really experience another environment and see it for how it really is, not just the "let's put on a show for a week" that still exists in some colleges.
There are a number of colleges that still do nothing for their learners and staff between the Ofsted years and only begin to change things in the year before Ofsted is due.
This is wrong; deceitful and shoddy practice.
This idea would defeat them. One half term in another college, would give a truer picture of the provider. The EFT would moderate the reports.
Those who object, I wonder why ... they wouldn't lose out on staffing, they would gain better trained staff and a mile of experience and ideas, so why would they object? Something to hide?
We need to take back our own Quality management and judgements on how and why we do things.
We need to take back and develop our own staff training.
We need to take back and develop our own opportunities, not be limited by judgements.
What say you?