Tertiary - Colleges blow own trumpets as battle for places gets tough

18th February 2011 at 00:00
Active promotion of inspection success is the order of the day as competition moves up a gear

As competition for further education places hots up, colleges are becoming keener than ever to proclaim their achievements.

South Lanarkshire College is understood to have irked a few others by boasting (for the second time) that it is the best FE establishment in Scotland, following an inspection. The HMIE report concluded it was so good that there was nothing it could do to become better - no "points for action", in the jargon - and six aspects of "excellent practice" and "sector-leading and innovative practice" were singled out for praise (TESS, 28 January).

Now, two other colleges have seized on the results of their inspections to give themselves a pat on the back. Cumbernauld College says HMIE has shown total confidence in its learning, teaching and management "with not a caveat in sight". It was found to have five examples of cutting-edge practice

And Oatridge College is also impressed with itself, after passing all the four HMIE "confidence" tests and having two programmes which are leading the way.

A statement from Cumbernauld declares modestly: "What is less easy is to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes Cumbernauld College unique in the sector. There is no doubt that this is a college which continually pushes at boundaries."

Not to be outdone by South Lanarkshire, Cumbernauld says its FE attainment levels are the highest among its peers in the country. The inspectors, it adds, recognised "its highly effective and empowering leadership, the mutual respect between staff and learners, its successful relationships with local schools and businesses - the list of strengths goes on and on."

Principal Martin McGuire said: "I would urge everyone with an interest in education to take the time to read this unparalleled report."

Brian Kerr, the student president, reached for what he thought was the ultimate superlative when he said: "If Carlsberg did colleges, it would probably do Cumbernauld."

South Lanarkshire will no doubt continue to boast it is the best in the business since Cumbernauld and Oatridge were handed one action point each - to "continue to improve retention rates" in the case of Cumbernauld, while Oatridge is urged to ensure lecturers do more for "equality and diversity" in their teaching.

David James, principal of Oatridge, which is based in West Lothian, said he was "delighted that our efforts to become a centre of excellence for land-based education, training and enterprise have again been recognised".


At the cutting edge


l a sector-leading initiative involves local schools providing class representatives who take part in the college's self-evaluation processes; it was found to have improved not only schoolcollege links but also learning within the college

l an "introduction to childcare" programme demonstrates excellence by involving students in drama activities to build their confidence and personal skills

l excellence in a "public art project" brings together students in art and design and welding and fabrication

l a "More Choices More Chances hub" has been set up, along with North Lanarkshire Council, for school-leavers who are not heading for a positive destination; it has shown excellence in providing learning opportunities for staff as well as the students

l a "pre-university challenge" highlighted excellence in preparing Higher candidates for their exams.


l excellence was found in the preparation of learners to make them more aware of the needs of industry, with particular attention being paid to the "3Ps" - project management, people and practical skills

-l the work of the Scottish National Equestrian Centre works excellently with the college's curriculum team on equine studies.

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