A London college has turned to a web-based management tool to secure quality assurance during a spate of strategic mergers.
Over the last three years Bromley College has undergone a number of transformations to secure the quality of FE provision in the local area, which has in turn seen it go on to complete mergers with Orpington, Greenwich Community and Bexley colleges to form London South East Colleges.
The move has led to the creation of a college that today caters for more than 20,000 pupils studying for a wide range of vocational courses that lead to BTEC, NVQ, City & Guilds and other specialist qualifications, as well as higher education courses validated by the University of Greenwich and Canterbury Christ Church University.
One of the most important considerations for the authorities and senior leadership team throughout the various mergers was maintaining effective quality assurance – indeed, it’s one of the biggest issues colleges are having to deal with as the FE landscape undergoes a radical shift in the face of the area reviews and other institutional changes.
Through its investment in ‘intelligent’ software provided by online resource specialists MESMA, the college, which employs hundreds of teaching and support staff, has been able to maintain effective self-assessment practices as operational changes and business transformation processes have bitten hard, delivering the requisite standards of improvement planning, and aiding the quality assurance drive across four strategic campuses.
As a result, the college is also better prepared for inspections by Ofsted while the senior management team benefit from real-time access to critical information around its development plan at the touch of a button.
MESMA a management tool that provides access to self-assessment activity and improvement plans, bringing transparency and efficiencies to an otherwise time-intensive process.
A key feature is its ability to deal effectively with the intricacies of the college’s development plan, which outlines the provision for curriculum development, pastoral care, sport, ICT and administration among other aspects, to deliver an easy-to-use resource. This enables personalised accounts to be set up quickly and easily and authorised staff notified automatically about assigned actions and tasks which need to be undertaken.
The software features intuitive properties, guiding people through various curriculum management process, storing supporting documentary evidence to ensure it is readily accessible for both internal purposes as well as external inspections.
Errol Ince, assistant principal for teaching, learning and assessment at London South East Colleges, says MESMA, which is used predominately by curriculum team managers, but is also available to other teaching staff and members of the senior management team, has played an important role in managing quality throughout the merger programme.
“At Bromley College we had been using MESMA for a few years prior to the mergers. There, the technology had been helping staff to track self-assessment paths, assessing the progress of agreed actions and producing grade and data analysis reports among other uses.
“This undoubtedly aided the provision of a curriculum management quality. So, it was clearly important to maintain quality assurance levels as the mergers, latterly with Bexley and Greenwich Community College, started to take place. MESMA has definitely helped here.”
During the mergers, Errol oversaw the deployment of MESMA to support approximately 100 staff located across various sites and monitor the progress of their development plans and self-assessment reports, often logging in remotely via his own secure internet portal. This has enabled him to, and continues to do so, review agreed actions and check that individuals are meeting their targets and making progress.
From the perspective of quality assurance, MESMA allows Errol and his team to quickly identify and evaluate tasks that are performed well and those that can be better undertaken. Plans for improvement can be produced that provide a road map for moving forward,providing clearly identifiable tasks as part of a comprehensive action report.
Errol says that the rapid merger with Greenwich Community College and Bexley Colleges presented some pressing challenges that had to be addressed quickly to also secure quality assurance.
“The College merger took place at pace, so we only had a short time to set-up teams with MESMA access and equip them with the requisite permission levels. This was challenging but thanks to the software’s intuitive, easy-to-use features, we were able to complete everything in under two months; which is quick for a large multi-campus site like ours.”
MESMA’s self-evaluation capabilities are extremely good adds Errol Ince, providing a head start to be fully prepared for Ofsted inspections, while its flexibility enables the team to meet the requirements of running a large campus.
“The easy-to-understand summaries provide a clear view from a management perspective of where the college currently stands, and the direction that curriculum management is heading and quality assurance, at any single moment in time. This gives us greater control and the reassurance that tasks are being properly undertaken and completed on time.
“I can see at a glance the evidence of achievement, actions implemented and the progress of the development plan, either in the college or accessing MESMA from a location elsewhere. Using the system also enables the senior management team to spot any potential problems or concerns and rectify them very quickly and easily.”
The ease-of-use that lies at the heart of the software’s multi-function capabilities can also offer staff an engaging and intuitive tool for up-loading documentary evidence to confirm curriculum delivery and progress. For example, they can upload images and videos as supporting evidence and quality assurance collateral.
Errol Ince has no doubts as to the benefit of using MESMA as a quality assurance management tool during mergers. “It provides direction and guidance at a time of change, helping colleagues navigate the uncertainties and upheavals effectively thanks to well-structured and standardised reports. It can certainly provide a blue print for all to move forward on a level playing field.”
In his mind, MESMA is evolving to become an integral and indispensable part of the college’s management process: “This online resource, with its beneficial tools, is advantageous, providing an affordable and bespoke resource that puts us in control of vital processes, enabling us to have at the press of a button all the important information.”
MESMA was set-up in response to changes implemented by education watchdog Ofsted, which led to schools, colleges and independent providers receiving reduced notice of inspection. It is owned and operated by three directors - Neil Donkin, Carole Loader and Louise Doyle - who between them have more than 30 years’ experience in business and working in with the education sector. More at www.mesma.co.uk