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What the inspectors saw - Good practice spotted by Ofsted

Outstanding individual target setting: Highbury College

In brief

Staff at Highbury College make "personalised" learning with individual targets a key feature of their teaching in order to challenge and motivate hair and beauty students and help them fulfil their potential.

The project

The personal targets culture is established from the beginning of the course. Students are helped to set their learning goals and are expected to meet them. Group targets on timekeeping, attendance, wearing the correct uniform and bringing in the correct kit for practical sessions reinforce the culture.

In early practical sessions there are general aims for all students. These are then developed into more individual targets.

Three levels of targets are set within lessons: those that everyone in the group will achieve; those that most will achieve; and those that some will achieve. The targets are usually aimed at developing higher skills or practising current skills. This focus is particularly important in a practical subject where demonstrating skills to an employer can be key to getting a job.

Planning is done at the beginning of each session and ensures that everyone knows what they are doing. A three-hour session would be broken down into three, one-hour parts, with students aware of their tasks for each hour. These tasks are illustrated in a series of "bubbles" for each student that are stuck to a window or wall. This helps to give students direction, keep them engaged and ensure a good pace of learning.

Students have an electronic personal learning plan, which they use to continuously record their targets and achievements. Those unable to attend college can access their plans from home and download resources to complete work. Staff can see at a glance who has handed in their homework on time. Students can also upload assignments to the college's virtual learning environment and make podcasts of their work.

Competitions motivate students and consolidate their learning. They also regularly visit schools (to demonstrate face-painting or to do hair and make-up for plays) and care homes (to teach "over-fifties make-up" to residents).

"The personalisation of learning lies at the heart of outstanding teaching," Deborah See, executive director, says. "It ensures that students are engaged and empowered, challenged and motivated to achieve their full potential. Our teachers use a range of strategies, including Assessment for Learning, to support this."

Signs of success

Students develop a work and learning ethic that leads to good progress in practical skills. And learners like the approach. "This is so different from when I was at school," one hairdressing student says. "I have ownership of what I am doing and if I was to waste time there would only be one person to suffer."

What the inspectors said

"Hair and beauty teachers and assessors demonstrate exemplary practice in their use of Assessment for Learning. Students are challenged to make the most of every opportunity to learn. Target-setting is used well to keep learners fully engaged in the learning process at all times."

Read the full Ofsted case study report at bit.lyVQktmI

The School

Name: Highbury College

Location: Portsmouth, Hampshire

Type: Further education college

Age range: 14-plus

Number of students: About 11,000, full- and part-time

Intake: Mixed, with 10 per cent of ethnic minority heritage.

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