Isle of Wight College: Our journey in undertaking the T Level OTNA

Benjamin Sheridan, Assistant Principal – Curriculum at the Isle of Wight College, details the Organisational Training Needs Analysis (OTNA) process the college is currently undertaking as part of the ETF’s T Level Professional Development Offer. In this blog, he and three colleagues write about their experience so far and explain how the OTNA has helped them prepare for T Level delivery.

At the Isle of Wight College, we are preparing to launch T Levels in September 2022. This flagship qualification is important in improving the offer in Further Education. For us, as the only Island provider, it means we must ensure that young people are able to access a broad offer that is of high quality and prepares young people for work. The ambition and commitment from us to our learners means we will be delivering five T Level routes with seven different T Levels, and a transition program in September 2022. Our ETF Area Relationship and Development Lead, Zoë Card, is helping us realise this vision by conducting a detailed OTNA.

The OTNA process has been very useful to date. Conducted at top-college level and then by department, it has really helped us process and think about the route forward to providing T Levels. It encourages discussion and reflection on many aspects of delivery and has helped the curriculum teams to really think about the course content, provided by awarding organisations, and how this would be implemented in reality. The direction provided by an OTNA helps you align your priorities and once you receive your action plan after the review, it highlights what you do well and which areas you really need to concentrate on moving forwards.

The action plan enables me, as Assistant Principal, to identify cross-college development needs that the college can then provide training for in an effective and efficient manner. It allows the departments to concentrate on their individual needs and really promotes the additional help they can access to achieve their goals. One such example is the Industry Insights programme; many of our staff are exploring the opportunities to work in industry to ensure their skills and knowledge are updated, and therefore relevant, in order to prepare learners for the next step in their career path.

Additionally, it empowers you to explore how you will plan the curriculum to design effective delivery models. Providing Route Specific Training for the teams and encouraging them to network with providers who started delivery before them are helping us to better understand the reality of delivering T Levels. The confidence gained from undertaking the OTNA really helps to ease any concerns about rolling out T Levels.

At the beginning of the academic year the college asked if anyone in the team would like to become a T Level Champion. As Champions, these individuals are helping to lead on the development of their T Level route, representing their wider team and having a say on how the future looks for their curriculum. These staff members were not remunerated and volunteered to undertake this task on their own accord. Eight Champions stepped up to the challenge and it has been those excellent few that have really led the charge in improving, developing, and exploring the T Levels they will eventually deliver.

Initially sheepish, staff were set the task of ensuring they knew their new T Levels inside out. They helped lay out our initial implementation plan, created schemes of learning and had input on the capital expenditure the college is applying for. They lead at the OTNA meetings and it is clear that since conducting the process, their confidence has increased significantly. Staff have reported on their experience detailed below:

Cheryl Sheath, Admissions Manager and Curriculum Planning: “The OTNA has been extremely helpful in ensuring that we understand the amount of support that is available to us as a college in preparation to deliver the T Levels. It has made the college T Level delivery teams honestly consider all aspects of their understanding, experience, and readiness to deliver T Levels. Zoë has been extremely supportive in making sure that we have assessed ourselves appropriately against the criteria and has made the process very enjoyable.

Paul Buckland, Head of Department – Enrichment, Enterprise and Schools: “Staff in Health and Social Care, Business, and Childcare are highly motivated and energised following the launch and consultation of the forthcoming T Levels. Our recent local meetings have given them a good insight to the benefits both to learners and staff on the new curriculum model. Staff value the additional CPD opportunities this will bring and believe the academic level, combined with substantial work experience, will better prepare learners for the world of work. T Levels are also recognised as high-quality education by employers.”

Joe Murdoch, T Level Champion – Education and Childcare: “The OTNA provided the opportunity to help evaluate our readiness to deliver T Levels with a fresh perspective; the discussion allowed for reflection on our current delivery model and clearly identified what steps are to be taken to ensure we are prepared for the shift in curriculum delivery. The additional training opportunities provide a platform to build upon the existing skills of the team from an industrial and academic perspective. With this training and refined focus, the department will be better equipped to support employers and provide the best vocational experience for learners. The analysis was invaluable in helping define our vision for delivering T Levels.”

The ability to apply what we have learnt through discussion and conversations with Zoë has significantly helped in increasing staff confidence. I would highly recommend undertaking the OTNA process as it equips staff with a clear pathway to develop their skills, meeting the high standards expected of practitioners that deliver T Levels. 

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