When lecturers at Rotherham College of Arts and Technology were offered a briefing on changes to GNVQs being introduced in September, it was not feasible for them all to attend the one-day training event. About 100 staff teach GNVQs across six of the college's seven curriculum schools, so the only solution was for a small number to attend and pass on what they learnt to their colleagues.
Eighteen teachers were chosen to attend the training day, run in the college by Mike Anderson, adviser for staff development at the Further Education Development Agency. They were given details of the revised examination specifications that will be introduced at the same time as the new key-skills qualification.
Then, the teachers reported back to their colleagues at team or divisional meetings . Training materials were photocopied and passed to other staff.
According to Elaine Ward, manager of cross-college provision at Rotherham, each trainee spoke to at least six colleagues. She is convinced this cascade model works and is the most cost-effective way in a large college.
"We only had to provide cover for a small number f staff rather than close the whole college down for the day. There are so many different initiatives that you can't have everybody doing all the training first-hand," she says.
The same principle is applied when staff attend external conferences to hear about other changes to the curriculum. "It's a fairly well-trodden path which seems to work," adds Ms Ward.
There is strong interest in key skills. Twenty-five staff are working towards practitioner awards offered by City and Guilds or Edexcel. They may eventually decide to sit the new qualification.
FEDA has been running its support programme for GNVQ since 1994. More than 5,000 college staff have received training while it is estimated that at least twice this number have called a helpline for advice.
Colleges are invited to apply for up to five days training and extra support, either as individual centres or as part of a consortium. "We emphasise it's a cascade model and that we anticipate people will pass on what they learn," says Nazir Ebrahim, head of the programme. "It means that we can get to large numbers of staff in a customised way."