What is the key to ACE success?

Strong leadership and high levels of scrutiny are key factors in why ACE services are rated so highly by Ofsted, research finds

Kate Parker

Adult and community education, ACE, FETL, Further education trust for leadership, Dame Ruth Silver

Having consistent government policy and a strong leadership team are two of the key factors in the success of adult community education (ACE) providers, according to new research.  

Around 600,000 learners are trained in ACE annually, and, according to the research by the Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL), 88 per cent of them were rated good or outstanding by Ofsted in 2018.

To try to allow the education sector to learn from this success, FETL, together with adult education body HOLEX, is today publishing a review trying to shed light on what exactly made ACE services a quality leader.  

Considering ACE services provided in 53 councils, and  in-depth interviews, the research highlights four key areas: 

  1. Having a consistent government policy approach for community learning that has allowed services to develop and embed good practice;

  2. the enhanced scrutiny role of local authorities elected members and related governance boards;

  3. the actions and behaviour of leaders and managers, and the example they set;

  4. the small size of many of the services – which allows them to be agile – and in turn supports the local structure and ensures individual student needs are met. 

It also found that the determination and drive of SLTs in making sure their visions and values became the culture and ethos of their staff was a driver to success. 

“Not for the first time, adult community education points the way ahead,” said Dame Ruth Silver, president of FETL. 

“Adult community education is one of the most resilient and creative parts of the education system. It has survived swinging cuts to its public support, yet it continues to make its vital contribution to the social, civic and economic wellbeing of our communities, retaining its values and mission in spite of changing policy agendas and the hollowing out of local authority funding over the past decade.”

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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