In FE Week’s recent supplement FE and Skills Inspections: A Review of 2012/13, Lynne Sedgmore CBE described the situation faced by colleges as they react to the Ofsted narrative of a ‘system failure’ in skills. Whilst she admits that there are areas that Ofsted does not evaluate where a college might particularly shine, she emphasises the fact that ultimately, everyone is working towards the same goal:
Those who work in Ofsted are, on a human level, interested in the same things as the rest of us — student success and educational excellence.
Lynne emphasises the need for all members of the discussion to remember that Ofsted inspections and ratings are designed to help colleges become better at what they do. But there are many additional ways of assessing the overall performance of a college, such as student testimonies, industry or sector awards and “genuine engagement with local enterprise partnerships and economic impact studies, which demonstrate a contribution to the local economy and community.”
Colleges are integral to their community and any judgement of their success should also include the extent to which they have contributed to the skills and growth of their locality — as demonstrated in their unique mission.
Where other impact studies measure only the operations of the college (employment and regional college spending), EMSI’s EIS employs a two-fold approach that involves layering an investment analysis and a regional economic impact analysis together. In this way, EMSI are able to build in a skills productivity component to calculate net benefits to students, businesses and the broader community to better reflect the true impact a college has on the community it serves beyond simply treating it as just another big employer in the locality.
Regarding East Berkshire College’s successful Ofsted inspection, Principal Kate Webb said “As an independent assessment [the EIS] added weight to the evidence of the College’s positive impact on the lives of learners and their families.” When combined with the thorough inspection of the teaching and learning process that Ofsted provides, the EIS gives a more complete picture of the value brought by a college to the surrounding community. In other words, it provides evidence to prove what every college principal already knows: a further education institution is integral to the economic health of any region.