Whether you work across different sites, work in a chain or on a peripatetic basis, the question about ensuring quality standards remains an important part of your service. And it’s an important question because all staff who are involved in delivering programmes of study are responsible for maintaining academic standards and providing learners with high-quality teaching.
Paul Joyce, the Deputy Director of Further Education and Skills at Ofsted, says that when the main provider (whether the head of a chain or overarching service, whoever it is, they are responsible for all subcontracted or peripatetic provision) loses sight of what is going on, “it can lead to problems with quality”. He goes on to define quality delivery as “accountable, transparent, and can be monitored and inspected”. Ofsted are clearly taking this element seriously as they have announced new monitoring inspections which will be focused on looking at the relationships between main and peripatetic/subcontracted providers and how they are managed to ensure quality of delivery.
So, the question remains, how can you safeguard against quality issues?
Below are our five safeguards, though they are all interlinked with each other.
1. Effective training and evaluation of needs
Staff should go through an annual (if not more frequent) evaluation of their needs, strengths and weaknesses, so that they have a clear action plan and targets for training, which can then be supplied or acquired as needed. There are many different training methods which can mean that learning styles and needs can be matched to make training more effective for each member of staff. Using evaluation methods prior and after training sessions or the use of training resources can help ensure your staff are given the best quality training themselves.
Staff need training in the policies and procedures of your service/ organisation, as well as regular training to maintain their skills as well as to continue to develop them, including to jog their memories of things they have learnt but forgotten. All teachers have gaps and weaknesses in their repertoires and skill sets, but it is through the effective identification of these that true improvement can be made.
Training around aspects of teaching and learning practices and the Ofsted framework are commonplace, and important, but it could be worth thinking about whether your staff have the skills and knowledge to make judgements about the quality of their teaching and learning provision.
2. Monitoring through data
Data can be an effective measuring tool for quality of teaching and learning provision but also because it can keep track of learner progress and outcomes. If you have competent data monitoring systems and software in place, then you can track how learners are doing in different areas, such as:
- Completion of assessments
This means that you can see the patterns as they begin to develop and can intervene where necessary, such as offer extra support to those struggling with assessments or deadlines, or discuss attendance issues. Such software/ tracking can also highlight the patterns for the staff members themselves. Data monitoring can be a very valid tool for monitoring learner outcomes and identifying problems before it is too late to resolve them.
Data tracking can also alert you if there is a problem. For example, lots of gaps or delays in updating the system could suggest that that member of staff is struggling to use the system or that they may have issues with timing or workload. Once an alert is made, that student or member of staff can be contacted as appropriated and processes put in place to help.
And remember, data includes learner feedback gathered through surveys and reviews, as well as learner work, assessments and information gathering resources. There is a lot of different kinds of data available, which, when collated together, can help give an accurate picture of what is happening in your service/ organisation.
If you don’t have effective data monitoring software or systems in place, then you are relying on the staff being able to tell you what is going on with their learners and classes, which can be inaccurate, narrow and take up valuable time.
3. Monitoring through observations
Observations are a vital monitoring tool because they allow others to actually seewhat is going on within classes and the quality of delivery they are receiving. They are also highly valuable as they can highlight and help identify areas of good practice for dissemination and praise, as well as areas in which improvements can be made. They help staff become more effective because they should receive targeted and constructive feedback, from which an action plan can be drawn.
There are different methods of observations, but the most popular are: formal, peer and a learning walk. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages and they are best used together to elicit different responses and to ensure consistency. They are also most effective if used a professional development tool, as well as a monitoring one, with a focus on improvement quality of delivery and teaching and learning provision. An effective method to consider is for the visiting member of staff (particularly if the observation is more informal, such as a peer-observation or learning walk) to spend some time as an extra learner, partaking of the teaching through active participation for a short time and get a true feel for the quality of teaching and learning the learners are receiving.
Remember, observations of classes is one of the primary methods Ofsted will employ when inspecting your service, especially when judging the quality of teaching, learning and assessment you provide.
4. Collaboration and peer support
As we are all aware, education can be a very busy and stressful career, with lots of demands on your time. By utilising collaboration and peer support methods, some of the safeguarding and monitoring can be delegated to others and encourage teamwork and shared practice. This is especially important in a more peripatetic setting where staff can end up feeling isolated and cut off.
Collaboration and peer support are fantastic methods for developing skills sets and repertoires through shared knowledge and practice. It can boost staff loyalty, productivity and performance, as well as being great for morale and mental health. It can include:
- Peer observations and feedback
- Peer-led learning walks
- Collaboration with staff in similar roles in different areas and environments
- Collaboration with staff in different roles and departments
- Moderation and standardisation
- Shared training sessions
- Evaluation of resources, learner work and schemes of work
As with observations carried out by senior staff, colleagues will need to receive training so that they have the skills and knowledge to make accurate judgements and give useful feedback.
5. The role of managers
Managers and senior leaders, as you may expect, have a very important role to play in safeguarding against any possible quality issues. They need to be ‘on-the-ball’ and to have received effective training as well, in areas such as:
- Understanding Ofsted criteria and their framework
- How to make accurate judgements from observations and evaluation of learner work
- How to give useful and constructive feedback
- How to identify staff needs, strengths and weaknesses,
- Effective interpersonal and communication skills.
They need to be monitoring data and they need to be having meetings with members of staff frequently to stay up-to-date with what is going on and to be able to solve and catch any issues as they arise. They need to be observing staff formally and informally, sharing good practice and putting steps in place to rectify any weaknesses or errors in practice. They need to be looking through learner feedback gained and identifying any issues and they need to be working to ensure all staff are accessing and making the most of their professional development allocation through conferences, bespoke training, webinars, in-house training and opportunities to collaborate with others.
The most important safeguarding measure is time and it is the hardest one to implement.
Staff need time to implement new strategies and procedures, to take on board new ideas and techniques, to modify their practice. They need time for collaboration and peer support to take place, to fit in the training and evaluation they need, and they need time to meet with their line managers.
If time isn’t found for staff to be able to discuss how to improve and put those plans in place, then things are going to stay the same in terms of quality provided and learner outcomes. Overworked teachers can quickly become overwhelmed teachers who lose their enthusiasm and commitment for teaching, and this then leads on to further issues surrounding quality and learner outcomes.