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Quality Assurance

9.1 The quality of educational programmes offered by colleges is evaluated in a number of ways:

  • HMIE carries out a four-year cycle of reviews of colleges. Until 2004, each college had separate subject and college reviews, but from January 2005 the reviews have been carried out by subject review and college review teams working together. Between 2001 and 2004, 96% of all HMIE subject reviews gave a good or very good grade for the teaching and learning process. Review reports are published on behalf of SFEFC. They are available on the HMIE website at www.hmie.gov.uk;
  • internal quality procedures are based on the same SFEFC/ HMIE quality framework as HMIE reviews. College departments use self-evaluation procedures to measure progress on quality issues. Students have the opportunity to state their views on courses through representation on Course Teams and colleges conduct regular internal questionnaires/surveys which record student views on the level of service offered;
  • for courses funded by local enterprise companies, e.g. Modern Apprenticeships, colleges must satisfy the requirements of the Scottish Quality Management System ( SQMS). In a few areas, this is by an SQMS audit which emphasises quality thresholds. For most areas, colleges make use of credit transfer arrangements to obtain exemption from SQMS audits on the basis of good performance in HMIE reviews;
  • the SQA undertakes audits in subject areas using external moderators to visit colleges, meet staff and consider the internal moderation procedures in place. During these visits they will review and discuss the suitability of materials and procedures used for teaching and assessment;
  • the Health and Safety Executive audit colleges to ensure adequate risk assessment has taken place and colleges have appropriate structures for health and safety in place; and
  • programmes offered by colleges which are approved by external bodies must go through a rigorous validation process before they can be delivered and are then subject to regular review, e.g. colleges offering degrees awarded by universities are subject to rigorous university evaluation procedures. Some of the agencies involved in assuring the level of quality in coursework include the Engineering and Marine Trades Association, Community Education Validation and Endorsement, City and Guilds, and the Construction Industry Training Board.

SFEFC/ HMIE External Quality Assurance of School/College Partnership

9.2HM Inspectors undertake an independent review of the quality of provision in colleges on behalf of SFEFC under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Council and HMIE. The Inspectorate is also responsible for undertaking independent inspections of schools and for reviews of education authorities themselves. By its very nature, college provision for school pupils falls within the quality assurance regimes of both sectors. The strength of this, given the common role of HMIE, is that a coherent approach can be taken to evaluation of the contribution of both schools and colleges to the partnership.

9.3HMIE review teams for colleges include HM Inspectors, associate assessors and a lay member. The Subject Review team assesses the quality of the student experience in a number of subject areas in the college. The College Review Team assesses the impact on the student experience of educational leadership and direction, arrangements for access and inclusion, guidance and support, use of resources to support the learner, staff, quality assurance and quality improvement.

9.4 Members of review teams hold discussions with students and college staff. Members of subject review teams observe teaching and assess student progress and achievement. They review information on student performance and assess student achievement. Members of college review teams meet representatives of the Board of Management and hold discussions with local employers, schools and other users of the college. While the emphasis of the reviews is on SFEFC-funded work, Reviewers look also at the local enterprise company and employer-funded provision. This latter area has assumed greater importance since colleges make use of credit transfer arrangements to obtain exemption from aspects of SQMS audits on the basis of good performance at HMIE reviews.

9.5HMIE as SFEFC's agent for quality assurance in further education evaluates the quality of the learning experience of all learners including school pupils who undertake programmes offered by colleges. However, as overall responsibilities for pupils' learning experiences remains with schools, HMIE will also sample partnership links in the context of school inspection, in particular where they are significant and contributing substantially to the delivery of education, or where their absence or deficiencies impact upon the delivery of education. Essentially HM Inspectors apply the tests outlined in the Guidance on Flexibility in the Curriculum ( SEED Circular 3/2001) - is the provision provided through the link well planned, monitored and evaluated and is it resulting in real educational benefits for pupils?

9.6 In all sectors, HMIE promotes self-evaluation by institutions as a key element of quality assurance, complemented by external inspection and review. HMIE's quality frameworks are supported by series of self-evaluation guides focusing on key aspects of provision. By summer 2005, HMIE will publish a self-evaluation guide in its How good is our school? series on school/college partnership.

Private Training Providers and Other Organisations

9.7 Where a private training provider or other organisation is involved in a pupils' learning, the local authority, school or college will ensure through conditions of payment that HMIE can observe teaching and assess student progress and achievement.