Reflections on the Adult Education Forum – January 20th 2012

Martin Sepion

Martin Sepion

I thought the day was very good with much food for thought and saw some excellent networking going on. One of the things that always comes out of these events is the realisation by attendees that they are not alone in the challenges they face on a daily basis at work. There are always others who can both empathise and offer practical advice and suggestions.

The presentation that struck me the most was the one on strategy writing from Adult Education College Bexley. In my job as JISC RSC London Adviser, I review many strategies from the HE, FE and ACL education sectors. Very often these have been written by an individual who has been tasked with writing a strategy and the driver is an imposed deadline, e.g. a funding bid requires a strategy in place or the internal quality process requires a new strategy every 4 years. In my view this approach, while it ticks the box and produces a document, does not usually transform the organisation. It does not lead to a strategic change of direction by the organisation. This is because one individual, however dedicated, charismatic or forceful cannot, on their own, change the organisational culture. This can only happen if a wider commitment is achieved across the organisation so that people begin to create a shared vision of the future and develop an agreed way to get there. This is exactly the approach that Adult Education College Bexley have adopted.

Janet Evans from Bexley described how they managed this. They undertook a self review activity called an EPR (e-Progress Review). This involved managers and staff from across the organisation responding to a series of questions which were then collated, analysed and the results fed back to college management. This took the range of divergent views in the organisation and explored the differences. They also undertook staff and student surveys. All key managers from across the college were involved in the process. This collective approach led to collaborative solutions, one of which was the writing of the new college ILT/ e-Learning Strategy. The new strategy was drafted, consulted on, re-written and consulted on further. It was then endorsed by governors, SMT and all managers across the college. The strategy identifies who will do what and by when. Who will enact, who will lead and who will review each element of the strategy. The strategy references other documents such as the college three year plan and specifies which elements of the plan the ILT strategy will deliver. Other strategies, such as the IT strategy and the staff development plan, are cross-referenced so that they are not seen in isolation.

I believe the key to success here are the two points made by Janet below

  • Consult widely and work collaboratively
  • Make the document easy to understand, easy to navigate

A strategy that is consultative and collaborative has the best chance of achieving real change across the organisation. For this to happen it needs to be accessible to all staff in the organisation. Busy tutors and managers need to be able to digest and understand what the strategy is about and feel they have a role to play in the formulation of the strategy. For me this is an exciting document as it has the potential to make a major impact on the experience of the learners of Adult Education College Bexley.

Janet’s presentation
Adult Education College Bexley Website
RSC London EPR guide
ACL Forum Event report