Time for some 'heavy lifting'

This is term when we can really make a difference to people's lives. We should now have a clear picture on who is at risk at not completing or passing his or her course. If we can work out what will make a difference to chances of success, we may well indeed make a transformational difference to that person's future. If we can get them to pass the course, it might we provide the opportunity to gain a job they really want; if they get good grades it may well mean they become the first person in their family to go to university. From the data you've sent me there are 90 students who are at risk of not being successful, and I know you are going to do all that you can to give them every chance of success. Nevertheless, the ultimate responsibility for success or failure lies with the student.

I dont think I need to say much more about the importance of your work and the satisfaction you'll get from helping folk be successsful.


Time to focus on students

It's time we changed our focus to learners. Over the last few years we have spent lots of time working on peer observations and focussed on setting aims and objectives, developing lesson plans and schemes of work, questionning skills and many other activities. This work has been vitally important, however it is now time we focussed our attention on working with students to increase their capacity and capability to learn. Now of course, we have been doing much of this work already. However, it is clear from colleagues that whilst we need to ensure we do all that we can to help our students achieve, we need to do even more in ensuring that students accept full responsibility for their learning. If we are to do that, we need to ensure we give them the tools to become the most effective learners they, possibly can be. As such, I intend future staff meetings to focus on building learning power (not my phrase but Guy Claxton's), and look at techniques which helps students become better learners. There is some really exciting things to be done here. So watch this space for more information.

Employer Survey

During the spring term we surveyed employers who had employees enrolled with the college, and 62 employers responded. There are a number of key outcomes:
• 89 per cent of employers agree the College provides high quality learning opportunities
• 90 per cent would recommend the College to others

Since 2006 significant progress has been made on providing feedback to employers with 66 per cent agreeing sufficent feedback is being provided, compared to 57 per cent in 2006. Nevertheless further work is required on the provision of feedback to employers on their employee’s progress and the provision of information prior to enrolment.

Developing Supported Self-Improvement

One of the characteristics of Highlands College is a self-critical culture, which means we are constantly looking to improve. As a result of feedback from colleagues who underwent SSI last week a number of suggestions have been made to improve both process of SSI and the preparation for SSI, these include:

- Ensuring high quality course reviews and action plans
- Visiting English colleges to allow better self-assessment judgements
- Working with the reviewers to ensure a better shared understanding of the local context
- Working with the reviewers to allow more working together in the initial visits, with less emphasis on data gathering
- Continual reflection on how to improve teaching and learning
- But above all - make sure we reduce unnecessary stress, whilst at the same time keeping that edge which is necessary for colleagues to peform at their best

Any additional comments and thoughts would be welcomed


Supported self improvement - the next steps

In a previous post I commented on the excellent work in the faculties of Guidance and Support and Professional Studies. Nevertheless, there are always areas where further work is required to reach a consistent level of excellence across the college as whole . These include:

1 The need to continually monitor attendance and ensure the screen-based registers are accurate
2 The further development of the good work on course reviews and action planning
3 The incorporation of MIS data to improve target-setting for students
4 The demonstration of the impact of learner support on student achievement
5 The sharing of good practice across the college as a whole
6 The need to reflect on what it is like to be an adult learner here at Highlands

Much of what needs to be done has good foundations on which to build. In the next few weeks, I will be looking for opportunities for you to join me to help push forward the work of the College in these areas. Imagine the satisfaction you will get from this work as it impacts upon the student experience and helps transform lives.

Supported Self Improvement Results

Last week saw a team of UK further education professionals work with colleagues in the faculties of Guidance and Support and Professional Studies. The outcome of this collaboration are judgements about the College which everyone who was directly or indirectly involved, can be extremely proud of. Our colleagues found across the 2 faculties:

1 Much good teaching and learning
2 Generally good student achievement
3 High quality accommodation and resources
4 Effective partnerships
5 Highly valued and consistent support for students

Of course there are things which we could continue to improve, and I'll share those later in the week, in the mean time why don't reflect on the above and take time to savour a job well done.