International publications and information can be drawn upon to assist with improving RTO quality. This is what the UK’s Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (or Ofsted) says about how the Further Education colleges they regulate can improve and sustain high performance.
An oldie but a goodie!
OK, this publication from the UK goes back a fair way, to 2012 in fact. But that doesn’t mean that the messages are not relevant today. The aim of this Ofsted review was “to promote and accelerate improvement in the college sector” drawing on a range of the inspectorate’s reports and visits to about 18 providers. (Also think about Ofsted and its regulatory reviews as sort of like ASQA on steroids!)
The report has a similar focus to VDC News article in September this year which draws on a large body of Australian work conducted in the mid-late 2000s that looked at how VET provider capability could be enhanced.
The report points out that:
“The importance and impact of outstanding leadership and management cannot be underestimated. All the elements this report identifies are inextricably linked to the actions and behaviour of leaders and managers, and the example they set.”
So, that’s key message 1. It’s about the quality of leadership and management and the culture leaders and managers create and nurture at their RTO, supported by their Boards if they have one.
Key message 2 is that “effective staff training [is] vital in helping staff and colleges to respond successfully to changes in government policy and making good use of their own expertise in routinely sharing good practice across departments.” In addition,
“The best continuing professional development [is] linked to sound and productive performance management; it recognised and promoted improvement while also dealing effectively with poor performance.”
This was the same message from the Australian research highlighted above. It found that performance management often wasn’t as well done as it could be.
Key message 3: You need to gather and use good data and information. As the paper noted:
“The spur to action [is] good management information, particularly relating to learners’ performance. Good management information [is] clear, accurate, authentic, available and timely. The improving and high-performing colleges use such information effectively to challenge, motivate and make changes.”
What doesn’t help!
So, what leads to colleges being underperformers? Ofsted found that “there were often several interrelated reasons and common features. These included:
“weak governance, a lack of direction and urgency from senior leaders in tackling underperformance, an acceptance of the ordinary and a lack of self-criticism, no sharing of good practice, ineffective teaching and learning, too strong a focus on budgetary control to the detriment of curriculum development [and finally,] the deletion of courses without apparent rationale.”
Other factors include complacency, poor communication, no ownership of decisions, poorly managed staff changes, and all this could be coupled with a “defensive and inward-looking approach.”
Key characteristics of the best preforming institutions have senior management teams that are decisive with a clear vision and direction for the college and have strong governance and accountability. RTOs self-assess and use management information and data well. In addition, “the views of learners and employers [are] used effectively to improve teaching and learning, and not simply to improve support or general facilities.”
Finally, “good continuing professional development (CPD) [is] linked to effective performance management [and] … sharing good practice across departments and areas [is] expected.” There’s lots of real gems in this paper so please read it!!