Sutton College of Learning for Adults: one to watch?

Saboohi Famili at Senate HouseWho is going to be the beacon for others to follow? My prediction is Sutton College of Learning for Adults – SCOLA

My job is to support post 16 learning providers in London. I specialise in IT, the management of change and technology enabled pedagogy. It is a great job as I get the chance to visit and work with managers in colleges across London.  I see the work they are doing, pass on good ideas as well as lessons learnt as I travel around the region. I also get to appreciate the challenges they face in each sector and across the capital with its diverse and multifaceted population.

Every now and then you have a day as an RSC adviser where you gain an extra spring in your step and a twinkle in your eye.  Yesterday my colleague Evan Dickerson and I visited Sutton Adult Education Service (SCOLA). We met with the new Principal Saboohi Famili and her key staff, John Faulkner (e-Learning Manager), Vanessa Turner (IT Manager)  and Joanne Barnett (Senior Lecturer) . Saboohi is a very inspirational person and her plans for SCOLA are very exciting. She aims to make the adult learning service the best in London and I believe she will succeed. Her vision is to create a culture of learning not just for service users but throughout the organisation. Saboohi sees all of us (including herself) as learners and aims to create an environment where staff are not afraid to identify and address their own development needs. She wants to create a “culture of trust” among staff. Once staff become absorbed into this new learning culture they will be better able to understand and meet the needs of their learners. She is currently assessing the IT skills of the governing body in order to show how the college can support people at all levels of the organisation.

Saboohi is committed to the effective use of digital technology. She has already created a flexible working environment by creating multi-purpose offices and issuing mobile equipment. She is moving the organisation toward a paperless future. She is determined to use technology to transform both the curriculum offer and the methods of delivery. So expect new and exciting courses at SCOLA alongside the traditional adult education offer but also look out for new ways of delivering courses including blended and distance learning.

The most exciting aspect to all this, from my point of view, is the pedagogical implications of using new technology. Well thought out technology enabled learning changes the way learners learn. In this new world students are given more responsibility and greater resources to facilitate their learning journey. This greater choice makes them more engaged and more likely to succeed. Learners choose what they want to learn and how. They have more choice over the pace and level of their work. They work more collaboratively learning by interacting with their peers and by undertaking reflective activities as part of their development.

SCOLA aims to go beyond recognition by Ofsted and intends to push the boundary as to what contribution adult learning can make in the modern world. So watch this space as, if I am right, SCOLA will become the beacon that others follow in the journey to find the true place of adult learning in the 21st century.

Martin Sepion

The SCOLA Blog