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'If you're not careful, you forget about your own'

Lancaster and Morecambe College's faculty of hospitality and catering was among the first pathfinder centres of vocational excellence three years ago.

And one of the lessons learned has been not to take its eye off the ball as other colleges beat a path to its door. "If you're not careful, you do such a lot outside college with other colleges, you forget your own," said Carole Owens, head of the faculty of hospitality, tourism, hairdressing and beauty.

For five months, staff spent every Friday delivering a full day's seminar to other colleges. "We had 75 colleges coming through us to find out how they could achieve a grade 1. That was a mammoth task. Our new principal has been reading everything we did - he said we were either heroic or mad.

"As soon as people knew we were a pathfinder CoVE, the floodgates really opened. We had to give phone and email support.

"We were quite worried because we knew that if we were spending a lot of time with the CoVE team, talking to other colleges and helping them, we might dilute our own provision.

"So we learned very quickly that the way to do it was to set particular half-day sessions for other colleges to join us."

The faculty cut down on extra work with other colleges by using its website to disseminate information.

In the process it has managed to share its good practice internally across other departments via meetings for senior and middle managers. The faculty has also held in-house seminars and met one-to-one with other internal faculties interested in applying for CoVE status.

Staff time was also rearranged so that sharing good practice did not become too much of a drain on resources. And extra funding under the initiative allowed it to take on an extra administration assistant. Now the faculty is coming to an end of its funding as a CoVE.

"I feel that the problem is going to be sustainability in sharing good practice now the money is finished, but people from other colleges are still asking to come and see us," said Ms Owens.

"We will always make time but we may have to look at it a different way. If you want to visit, fine. But we will streamline it in such a way that it's not affecting our quality."

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