FE Colleges satisfying Ofsted & remain sane

Posted by Charlotte Curl on January 3, 2012

FE Colleges satisfying Ofsted & remain sane

Supporting a large body of teaching staff, satisfying Ofsted whilst remaining sane! Is it possible?

The revelation that none of the FE colleges inspected in the last school year were graded outstanding for teaching and learning came as quite a surprise to me. These statistics do not represent the whole picture of FE in England but it does highlight a need to reassess the training and professional development provision in the FE sector.

Another point of concern is the provision of FE teacher training. Whilst the government are offering £20,000 bursaries for first class graduates to teach priority subjects in schools, the FE teaching grant of a mere £400 is being discontinued as of March next year and the fees are going up.

These issues combined present a concerning picture for teaching provision in FE. It’s interesting to note that there is government support of bursaries for school level teachers but a distinct lack of funding at FE, yet Ofsted are hot on both of their heels to raise the bar of attainment and focus on CPD provision and training opportunities.

There are many outstanding teachers in colleges, however according to Ofsted the consistency across the board is lacking. A call for bottom up professional development has been made by the Chief Executive of the Institute for Learning, I think there’s a lot in that.

But how does a Teaching & Learning/CPD Co-ordinator manage 400+ staff, identify and support each one individually? An important challenge for colleges in achieving the more consistent level of teaching that Ofsted demands, is to find a way of disseminating best practice from those outstanding teachers and ensuring that all staff are able to learn and benefit from it. Quite a challenge when colleges have a huge staff body and are split across multiple sites.

Large multi sites challenge any CPD provision even for the most eager teacher. The opportunities to discuss practice, observe others can be difficult and costly. It’s ok allowing teachers to go away and immerse themselves in their own CPD, but without the interaction with their colleagues the best trained teacher will find it difficult to sustain their performance on their own.

The government and society as a whole increasingly expects ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Teaching 30 + students between 4-6 hours every day ensuring every single one is motivated engaged, actively involved in their own learning and doing well is no easy feat. In the absence of support, guidance and opportunities to engage with other professionals – how many people can be expected to do complex tasks at the level required?

Innovating and using technology to aid professional development to tackle these challenges is something that some colleges do fantastically well. Gloucestershire College being one example, where they share practice and drive innovation through the use IRIS Connect. In order to meet Ofsted’s demands, raising levels of attainment for both staff and pupils, at a time of tightened purse strings, Colleges are starting to think outside the traditional box for CPD provision and staff training.

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