Never too old to benefit from learning
16 May 2012
During Adult Learners' Week, which runs till 18 May this year, we pay tribute to colleges, apprenticeships and providers of community and work-based learning that are working hard to help transform lives.
Valuing learner feedback
One example is City Lit located in Covent Garden, central London. The largest adult education centre in Europe, it provides a wide range of learning opportunities to over 30,000 adults annually. With a pressing need to generate income, the college introduced innovative ways to listen and respond to current learners, staff and partners so it could adapt its provision and increase student numbers. This has impressed Ofsted inspectors and contributed to an outstanding leadership and management grade at its previous inspection.
Feedback methods included using confidential evaluation forms, holding student focus group meetings that were attended by senior managers, and training a small group of students as anonymous course reviewers. Facebook and twitter links allow students to talk directly with staff, to pose questions and make suggestions that receive timely responses. Students are also encouraged to post an online review about a course they have completed and evidence suggests that those who read the reviews are more likely to enrol. To maximise students’ responses, the college’s ‘9 ways to tell us what you think’ campaign is well advertised throughout the college and on the website. The college keeps students informed of how management has used the feedback to improve specific courses or other areas of provision.
Investing in staff
Another case study demonstrates how the Veolia Group, a waste management company in Birmingham, provides structured in-house training and qualifications that allows learning and career progression for its employees. It is reaping the benefits through reduced recruitment costs as a result of increased staff loyalty and through winning and retaining contracts with a growing number of local authorities. A Guardian article in May 2011 features the company’s staff cleaning up after the Royal Wedding.
Creating simple reporting and monitoring systems online helped to improve the quality of training and success rates for work-based learners at Inter Training Services Limited. The training provider in Horndean, near Portsmouth specialises in delivering apprenticeship programmes in hairdressing for businesses in Surrey, Berkshire and Hampshire. While trainers and assessors were working hard to keep learners moving through their hairdressing programmes, they were concerned about the low timely success rates. By using the systems to keep track of learners’ progress the company was able to improve their apprenticeship rates by 20% in two years and their overall inspection grade moved from inadequate to good.
Ensuring value for money
St Francis Xavier is a sixth form college in the London borough of Wandsworth. As well as providing high-quality education for 16 to 18-year-olds, the college has offered part-time, short courses for adults for over 10 years. This community education programme was set up to meet the demand from adults who wanted courses for interest and leisure on their doorstep. The programme offers very good value for money to the learner and the college with course fees are set carefully to recover costs. The course offer is reviewed each term and a course only goes ahead if sufficient learners are recruited.
Adult learners are fulsome in their endorsement of the programmes. One learner commented that, ‘The Pilates class is the highlight of my week – I just keep coming back!’ and another learner, speaking of her creative writing course, felt it was ‘encouraging and inspirational, with lots of opportunities to share work with others and gain ideas’.
Benefits of learning
Matthew Coffey, Ofsted’s National Director, Learning and Skills, said, ‘These are just four of many good practice examples featured on our website, which learning and skills providers may find useful to improve the way they work.
‘As well as celebrating the achievements of both learners and providers, Adult Learners Week is a chance for providers to showcase the learning and development opportunities they offer. It is also a good reminder, particularly in the current economic climate, of how gaining new skills or qualifications can have a positive impact on people’s personal and/or professional lives.’
You can find more good practice case studies on the Ofsted website at: www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/goodpractice
To find out more about Adult Learning Week, visit: www.alw.org.uk