As one of the largest colleges in the UK, Coleg Cambria has seven sites, 1,600 staff, 6000 full time students and approximately 25,000 part time students. Serving three local authority areas in North Wales, the College is required to meet Welsh Government priorities, respond to Estyn – the Welsh inspection body – and be ready for a short notice inspection at all times.
Estyn’s Common Inspection Framework is made up of two phases – the first focuses on standards, provision and leadership in learning areas; the second on those key questions across the whole college.
To determine which learning areas will be inspected in phase one, Estyn consider a range of criteria including learner numbers on courses, successful completion against national benchmarks, range of courses within each subject sector area and the level of those courses they provide. The learning area’s self-assessment is key to this phase of the inspection.
So we asked Coleg Cambria how their deployment of Active Dashboards had helped them prepare their self-assessment:
“We use Active Dashboards throughout the entire self-assessment process from course level all the way to the final delivery document to the welsh government.” said Clywd Jones, Quality Manager for Coleg Cambria. “Active Dashboards will ‘talk’ to any database, any spreadsheet and pull all of the information together so it doesn’t matter if the information is in the system in HR, or in our student record system or our finance system we can get picture of performance either by department, curriculum area or the college as a whole”, he added.
For Coleg Cambria, the introduction of Active Dashboards was about being open, transparent and sharing accurate information. “To drive up standards and meet our aspirational targets what we wanted staff to do was to share good practice”.
So what effect did this have on their curriculum areas?
“When we are self- assessing our learner success we’re able to drill-down into different types of learner profiles” said Paula Wood, Executive Director for Curriculum, and Services to People. “When I was looking at the decile areas where learners reside I was able to drill down to identify where the learners were and how successful they were. The profile wasn’t quite right for the assessment reporting I needed. So I was able to talk to our quality department and we changed the way that the data was reported. I’m now able to really drill down into the minute detail to identify where the learners reside; how successful they are from the different areas and also trends in performance and trends in enrolments as well. So the information available is adaptable, flexible but Active Dashboards also allows me to cut the data in many different ways for our reporting needs”.
Active Dashboards has had a big impact on improving learner success within the College’s hair and beauty curriculum area. The College has been able to use the data and Active Dashboards to hone in on learner numbers, enrolments, current performance and successful completion which enabled them to bring about improvement in attainment and retention. “Since we’ve been using Active Dashboards we’ve brought about a successful improvement of 13 percentage points in overall learner success. This now sees hair and beauty at Coleg Cambria ranked at the top of the first quartile of all colleges in Wales. Active Dashboards was fundamental to that quality improvement.” Paula added.
In terms of the CIF key question of outcomes for phase one of an inspection, we asked Paula how Active Dashboards had impacted this area.
“Recent Minister priorities to identify and improve learner success from lower decile areas in North East Wales was a key moment for us using Active Dashboards” she said. They needed to identify who the learners were, where they lived and to monitor their performance on courses.
“We were able to pull all of this data into Active Dashboards and bring it to our attention on a daily basis. We were able to really focus on and meet this Welsh national priority and identify how well these learners were achieving from these areas of North East Wales. As a result of using Active Dashboards and as a result of having this information available we’ve been able to immerse ourselves in it, support quality improvement and ensure that the learners from the lower decile areas in North East Wales are very, very successful”. She explained.
So what were the overall benefits of using Active Dashboards to prepare for an inspection?
“With Active Dashboards, the data we have allows us to be ready. England and Wales has a common inspection framework so that allows us to be prepared if the inspection regime changed. We can literally prepare for a welsh inspection but also prepared for an English inspection at the same time. The data is replicated in exactly the same was as an Estyn inspector would look at the information prior to coming into a college. So if you’re given a short notice inspection: if your staff and your managers are already seeing that data in its preparation format over a longer period of time then the conversation regarding what is going on in their particular area is not a surprise. You make your staff aware of how an inspector is going to inspect and share the information in exactly the same way” Clwyd explained. “Our staff have their own dashboard which allows them to see what they need to do to do their job. Everybody is pushing in the same direction in terms of the aspirational targets – and not just at a governor level or senior post holder level: they are disseminated across the entire organisation. And driving forward those standards and improvements is a shared vision for the entire institution”.