5th September 1997 at 01:00
An #233lite of super colleges could emerge as further education joins schools + in the forefront of the inspectorate's drive to push up standards in as public + a way as possible.In a move reminiscent of the previous government's + pre-election announcement that it would award a quality mark to top-performing + schools, an idea which shows no signs of being embraced by its successor, the + FE report reveals that HMI intends reviving the proposal by publicly + recognising high-quality colleges.In his foreword to the 17-page report, + Douglas Osler, the senior chief inspector, announced that he intended to change+ HMI approaches to FE inspections, based on colleges' experience of + self-evaluation."Our new approaches will require colleges to produce action + plans for quality improvement," Mr Osler states. "Advised and assisted by HMI, + colleges will systematically address any weaknesses revealed by + inspection.These approaches will lead eventually to the accreditati on or + recognition of colleges of high quality."Mr Osler said the next Standards and + Quality report in FE would be published in three years "by which time the + self-evaluation and quality improvement process should be well advanced".HMI + visited all 45 FE colleges in Scotland during 1995 and 1996. Almost 1,300 + teaching sessions were observed, of which 81 per cent were judged to be good or+ very good, 18 per cent fair and 1 per cent unsatisfactory.The report analyses + strengths and weaknesses in the seven main areas of college activity - + programme design, student achievement, learning and teaching, support + services, marketing, resources, management and quality assurance.The inspectors+ found programmes were relevant and well-designed, with students able to take + up courses on their own terms. But employers were not sufficiently involved, + the report adds.Student achievement in FE has been rising, but success rates + need to be analysed more thoroughly and corrective action taken where + necessary. National data on student performance has now been standardised and + colleges will in future be able to compare their results.Teaching was said to + be suitably varied and assessment effective, although the quality of materials + left a lot to be desired.HMI also scrutinised student support, which, while + continuously improving,was found wanting, particularly in pre-exit guidance, + which was often "only fair", and in guidance to part-time students, which was + limited.The inspectors were critical of the state of college accommodation. + Some of the poorest buildings were often old schools that colleges had + inherited, there was cramped staff accommodation in most colleges, the standard+ of student amenities was simply "fair", and some specialist facilities did not+ conform to current employment practice.The section on management and quality + assurance presents a picture of general effectiveness. The colleges' refrain + that they have delivered the Government's agenda by putting more bums on seats + and reducing costs is given HMI endorsement. The report's message for FE is to + keep on refining and developing existing management techniques.