Quality Assurance: an education perspective

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Quality Assurance: an education perspective

There has never been a more important time to focus on the overused and misunderstood word ‘quality’, especially when it is coupled with the word assurance. Quality Assurance means achieving what you set out to achieve, where the outcomes are those that meet the needs of all stakeholders and where mishaps or failures along the way are not dwelt upon and have been carefully analysed and refocused so that they become successes. Quality assurance is different from quality control and it is this difference that needs to be clearly defined in education.  Let me give you an example,

In Britain in the 1970s we had a car industry

We tended to wait until the end of the production line to check whether the car met the standards required. If something was wrong, it was difficult to see where the mistake had been made and the system of remote supervisors who were not involved in the car making process didn’t help. This was quality control. At the same time in Japan, they were adopting a system called ‘Kaizan’, a system of quality assurance. Team leaders and their teams had a responsibility for checking each part as it was added along the production line, their involvement was recorded. This meant that at the end of the line if there was a problem it could be traced back to where the part was added. This meant that everyone had a responsibility for the quality of the final product.

Something similar can be applied to schools and colleges

if we rely too heavily on summative data at the end of key stage 1,2 and 4 and 5. The principles of a Kaizan or traceability system that underpin this concept in business can be applied to the building of a collaborative and positive school or college structure that ensures the curriculum vision translates into outstanding pedagogy, profound learning opportunities and has an impact on continuous improvement for all.

Quality Assurance is a process

that ensures what is to be delivered or produced achieves a clearly defined set of outcomes. The emphasis is on ‘self-review’ rather than checking by a third party or inspector.  Quality assurance is a well-used term in business and well-documented systems exist that give staff the tools and techniques to monitor their own quality output. Total Quality Management or (TQM) is a term many businesses have now adopted and implies that quality assurance is an integral part of all systems and is, therefore, an essential element of every individual’s performance.

Applying quality assurance  principles to a school or college setting

requires a deliberate focus on defining what constitutes a quality culture for any education setting. There are many benefits to adopting a process driven quality system for education, such as,

  • The imperative to define a set of incremental steps that lead to a collaborative and highly effective system that can be implemented across all teams, departments or phases within a school, a college or across a trust or alliance
  • The need to clearly set out the vision, the rationale and the ambition as to what is expected in terms of curriculum implementation and how it can be achieved so that it can be communicated and interpreted by all
  • Individual leaders and managers are empowered to work with their teams to determine the priorities that will lead to successful outcomes over time
  • All those involved can plot their progress and the progress of others, celebrate success and define where action is needed to make changes to achieve success
  • The process provides a visual picture of where there are issues and problems that need to be addressed along the way and create for those involved clear evidence that actions need to be taken or a change in strategy adopted to steer the process towards completion

Quality Assurance and Learning Cultures

Here at Learning Cultures we have investigated the concept of quality in relation to what OFSTED here in England are looking for, by looking at the international and European perspective and to how business fosters a collaborative approach to ensure the highest possible quality outcomes.

Translated into what is necessary to implement a process of quality assurance for your setting there are a number of steps that need to be in place, these include matching curriculum intent, vision and rationale to implementation and impact consistently and  coherently across the whole organisation and then focusing on how the curriculum is sequenced, how key concepts, knowledge and skills are embedded across all learning: creating a unified approach to assessment linked to formative assessment that fosters progression as well as summative assessment to gather data.  For this to happen the final step must be planned CPD to ensure all staff have the relevant skills and expertise.

Quality Assurance CPD for schools

We have designed a course for senior and middle leaders who are charged with developing a Quality Assurance strategy for their school or college.

We have used our own and others research in the quest for our own high-quality product. We look in detail at the current imperatives linked to the design of a deep and rich curriculum and how that is successfully implemented to ensure impact that leads to high quality learning outcomes for all. We have built the design around 7 quality indicators that define the quality processes that lead to outstanding educational outcomes. These include:-

  1. effective leadership
  2. identifying the needs of all learners
  3. engaging and empowering all staff
  4. a focus on pedagogy and learning
  5. consistency in assessment across all learning
  6. data handling
  7. the involvement of a range of wider stakeholders including learners, parents, Governors and the wider community

A deep focus on seven indicators of quality assurance

We have designed a detailed and in-depth focus on these 7 indicators in the form of a RAG report that allows quality teams to determine what is currently working well, what is work in progress and what needs to change.

This course Quality Assuring Strategies for Outstanding Curriculum Implementation – how the curriculum delivers outstanding pedagogy, seamless learning and progression’, is run as a two part online synchronous training opportunity where leadership teams, Quality Managers and subject leaders can use the resources and materials to build their own system of continuous quality improvement. We include tools to support developing timelines, priority schedules and resources that foster opportunities for professional learning conversations that lead to a collaborative desire to create a culture of continuous improvement.

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