We passed the acid test

21st September 2007 at 01:00
Adam Smith College, created from two institutions with different albeit similar cultures, welcomes its first HMIE review, writes its principal, Craig Thomson

THE CREATION of Adam Smith College provided the opportunity for a fair amount of management rhetoric. Much was said and much implied. We were '"creating a new college" (not merging); we were "drawing on the best systems from the previous colleges and combining them with best practice in the sector" (not simply making do with what we had); and we were "focusing on the learner" (not being driven by management priorities, estates or a range of other issues).

The acid test of how well we achieved these and other objectives came 20 months into the life of the college with its first HMIE review, released at the beginning of this month. It is highly positive.

The complex exercise of creating a new college takes considerable time. However, the report makes reassuring reading. In simple terms, its core message is "so far, so good" (and in many cases so far, so very good).

The review posed some searching questions about how well the college is performing questions about the quality of staff, resources and accommodation; about the effectiveness of systems; and about leadership. It was highly encouraging to receive this vote of confidence: "The college has in place effective learning and teaching processes; learners are progressing well and achieving appropriate outcomes; and the college is managing well and improving the quality of its services for learners."

The report is a testament to the dedication and commitment of the staff and the fact that, in addition to dealing successfully with the changes the merger involved, they have kept their attention on core business.

The essence of any college lies in the student experience. I am delighted that the experience for learners at Adam Smith has been judged good or very good. I am also pleased we have been rated highly for those systems and services that support the learning experience; we were rated "very good" in quality assurance and quality improvement, and the inspectors named nine examples of "sector leading and innovative" practice.

One such area was the Delta programme developing excellence in learning and teaching approaches. Delta's aim is simple to continuously improve the quality of teaching provided and foster a culture of excellence, in recognition that everything we do must be led by the quality of the student experience. Delta is a college-wide initiative that encourages excellence in learning and teaching by focusing on evaluation, identification and sharing of good practice and continuing professional development.

We appointed a college steering group, consisting of key staff from curriculum and supportdevelopment areas, to ensure the principles of Delta were incorporated into every aspect of college life. As a result, these three areas are an integral part of the framework of delivery across all teaching and support areas.

The quality assurance and improvement sections of the review also highlighted the value of on-going self- and external evaluation, sharing of good practice (internally and externally) and maintaining open lines of communication to encourage a shared sense of purpose among all staff at the college.

Two strengths highlighted in the report were: "Staff at all levels and in all areas of the college were committed and enthusiastic about improving the quality of the learner experience and were actively involved in using evaluation and review processes to identify and plan action for improvement;" and "A shared sense of purpose and open communication had resulted in strong teamwork within and across teaching and support teams and with key external partners." Having formed our staff body from two institutions with separate cultures and identities, this endorsement is encouraging.

Through the exceptional work of staff, Adam Smith College, though still in its infancy, has succeeded in having a positive impact on the lives of thousands of students, on the many communities of Fife and on the development of our economy. We take the HMIE statement of confidence in the college as a very positive external comment. We are confident but not complacent. There is much still to be done.

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