Advice about Local Area Reviews
With the fifth wave of Area Reviews in progress now, interviews were held with a group of colleges at different stages of the process. Their advice while obviously targeted at FE Colleges, contains some useful pointers. Below are some key points (slightly amended to be more relevant to the third sector):
1. Play to your strengths
Know your organisation inside and out as those that will emerge the strongest from the area review process are those that recognise the core strengths of their provision, as well as the areas that require development. Step back and critically review what you are good at, and how you can demonstrate it. Challenge your perceptions, and try to think about how your institution would be viewed by an external area review team.
2. Identify positive potential partnerships
Take proactive steps to investigate the institutions you might consider working with in the future, rather than waiting for the area review team to make recommendations. Remember that while you may be aware of large FE Colleges in your area, they may not be aware of you, even if you offer similar or complementary provision. Why not consider initiating conversations about a joint further education offering?
3. Seek out your institution’s champions
Reach out to your organisation’s stakeholders and engage staff, students and carers in discussions about your future, thereby gaining strong ambassadors for your institution. FE Colleges are encouraged to “Make connections with local charities and community organisations to ensure your college has champions who will boost your reputation beyond the college gates”. This can also work in reverse.
4. Build strong relationships with local employers and Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to enhance your reputation locally. Maybe you could ask a local business leader to become a Trustee, or second a member of staff to help your organisation get a better understanding of businesses.
5. Have the facts and figures at your fingertips
Start gathering data so that you can be ready to answer any questions about what you do and your impact. Reliable and up-to-date information such as details of student recruitment, retention figures and success rates (both historical and current) are vital – and can also be used in your own marketing and promotion.
Watch this 3 ½ minute interview with FE Commissioner David Collins at the AoC Annual conference about Area Reviews and Collaboration
In other Area Review news, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) has challenged the government over the lack of workforce engagement. The ATL’s submission to the Sub-Committee’s inquiry into the Area Reviews expressed concern around the lack of clear policy objectives and way the process excludes both other post-16 providers and the workforce. It also explained how the secrecy around the reviews has led to considerable suspicion amongst college staff, a feeling of exclusion and a “culture of fear” of yet another round of job cuts.