The impact of the Whole College Approach

by Diane Dalby at Nottingham College and Ross Coupland – Project Lead for CfEM at Stamford College

The Whole College Approach (WCA) is a way of bringing about organisational change to improve the effectiveness of mathematics provision in Further Education colleges. The CfEM Whole College Approach programme aims to support colleges as they explore areas for improvement and develop plans to address weaknesses that are tailored to their unique college context. Fundamental to the approach is the formation of a core team with representation from both vocational and mathematics staff, both teachers and managers, alongside a senior leader.

In 2021/22, ten colleges participated in a pilot of the Whole College Approach, supported by a programme provided by the University of Nottingham of self-assessment tasks, professional development and guidance from a ‘critical friend’. College teams explored how they might move from a fragmented to a more collaborative approach, in which staff in different roles across the college became actively engaged in tackling issues such as student engagement and attendance with mathematics. These teams examined both systems and culture within their colleges, with an emphasis on the need to consider different perspectives, work collaboratively and identify connected issues in order to address organisational problems with mathematics that are typically complex.

The story below from one of these colleges shows how they were able to bring about substantial changes through this approach. 

Stamford College’s participation in the Whole College Approach (WCA) represented an exciting opportunity to integrate our CfEM values with new and varied departments throughout the college.

We were able to engage different members throughout the college structure from an executive director and project director, to MIS, the Business and IT department, the maths team, study mentors and coordinators.

As part of agreeing the direction of the project, we all met to share and discuss ideas and expectations. Immediately from the start it was a refreshing approach. Everyone involved had an equal voice in the discussion and planning phase. It was fascinating to listen to everyone’s perspective of priorities throughout an academic year changes and how it can be so different across the teams.

The goal was to create a centralised report that collated student information from various existing data sources. The report could then be used as a single point of reference to ensure everyone involved with a student had current, relevant and up-to-date data such as attendance, enrolment and level of study for maths and vocational course.

Over the academic year the report has evolved as feedback has been gathered through team meetings and ongoing reflection. All involved have had an opportunity to reflect on the project and feedback areas for development on a regular basis.

For example, our report writer explained how straightforward it would be to access the latest GCSE data from the November 2021 sitting and import from one data warehouse to our live report. This was successfully implemented to allow the report to be updated live throughout each term.

Such modification continues and we plan to scale up our project with other departments next academic year, while still working with the Business and IT department as advanced users.

As mentioned, working in any department has its own demands and challenges throughout an academic year, which can easily be forgotten when your own team are facing a testing time. The WCA project has encouraged a culture of conversation and understanding, where all members of the team play their part to support learners to achieve and progress and I look forward to building on a successful, collaborative first year as part of the WCA initiative.

Ross Coupland
Project Lead for CfEM at Stamford College, part of the Inspire Education Group.

Diane Dalby
Nottingham College

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