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Dumfries & Galloway College

2019 Full Inspection Report
What should we improve?

We want to use the college’s Kaleidoscope project, which will be strategically located on the way to the canteen. It will encourage students from different protected backgrounds to feel even more integrated and valued for their diversity, opening up opportunities for discussion and sharing experiences. This combines our need to communicate with students on issues such as equality, diversity, sustainability, ecology, community and knowledge through one cross college team, including the Student Association President and Vice President. Each month a relevant theme, for example, Black History Month, LGBT History Month and Interfaith Month (to include Holocaust Memorial Day) will be set up in a dedicated space in each campus. This will clearly display that the college attracts and benefits from students from all different backgrounds and cultures. This gives a wider perspective to a rural college and encourages the discussion of different cultures and viewpoints to enrich the learning experience.

  • The fair and open access policy for potential students will continue but a more appropriate advice and interview procedure will be implemented. Progression opportunities will be more clearly identified on the website and this will allow applying students to fully understand their journey, be more informed from the outset and improve retention figures linked to students applying to incorrect courses.
  • We want to improve further on the good retention rate of 73% of FT FE students with a declared disability and improve on the 63% success rate from those students. FT HE students have higher statistics at 79% retention with 65% attainment but this could also improve.
  • The college will continue to take measures to improve both mental health awareness and gender issues for students.
  • Admission and interview sessions are being reviewed in order to make sure students are being recruited onto appropriate courses for their level to avoid withdrawals and students transferring to other courses later on. Late starters are also at risk of withdrawing.
  • Several local employers are now approaching the college to recruit our students as they have up to date relevant knowledge and training in the Construction and Engineering areas. This affects our retention rate but provides employment opportunities for students. By leaving courses before they have completed their studies, our PI statistics are affected. In response to this, the college is striving to have closer links to employers, to highlight the importance and added value of the specific vocational learning that takes place in college. Staff also try to stress to students the importance of completing their studies. However, this must be offset against the appeal of making money and the financial impact on those students of accepting that employment offer.
  • Regular meetings are held to understand if targets are being met in order to monitor attainment and retention. This has not had the desired impact. There are further actions being implemented to monitor and improve these statistics.
  • The proportion of FT FE and FT HE students successfully achieving a recognised qualification has decreased from the previous year’s figures.
  • FT FE Attainment is at 60%, which is below our target of 69% and PT FE has an attainment of 70% that is below our target of 82%. PT FE Attainment has slightly decreased from 71% to 70%, however the college recruited more than the target. This shows increase in popularity in this style of PT learning which the college will address.
  • HE PT success is 72%, with target of 80%, but is an increase on last year, and HE FT is 69% with target of 72%. These figures are disappointing as staff and managers worked hard to improve retention and attainment for learners.
  • A lesser percentage of learners attained than were retained on courses, as seen in the table below. This will be addressed in the various plans and additional support that are planned and detailed below and in Quality Indicator 3.1. The college is addressing the issues of FE & HE FT & PT attainment through the measures in the Enhancement Plan. There is still more work to be done.
  • There is a national STEM gender imbalance in some areas and the college is addressing this.
  • Level 4 students continue to be disengaged on some courses. This is disappointing and teaching teams are trying to improve this with a variety of methods. The college will review its level 4 offer across the curriculum.
  • Level 4 students continue to be disengaged on some courses. This is disappointing and teaching teams are trying to improve this in a variety of methods. The college will review its level 4 offer across the curriculum.
  • Another curriculum area for some improvement is the childcare provision, as the college did not reach the childcare targets this year. Therefore, to improve and be more inclusive, for the first time ever we will be running an evening class and day release in Childcare.
  • In some occasional cases, the curriculum needs a greater focus on DYW and more employer engagement is required.
  • The college needs to develop a consistent approach of incorporating essential skills and career management skills in all curriculum areas, and we are working towards improving the way this is evidenced and measured this year.
  • Although there are many good examples of staff teaching Career Management Skills, it is not widely recorded; this could be captured better in order to share good practice for all teaching staff.
  • The college is looking at the retention rates of the Foundation Apprenticeship and will work with industry and schools to address this.
  • A Digital Skills Strategy 2018/2023 is being developed in order to upskill all staff in this area. Staff will feel more confident in the college’s commitment to digital upskilling and training. This will also allow students and staff to have more sophisticated and advanced digital skills which are vital for a region that is very rural and sometimes has challenging transport issues. This will support industry and stakeholders to see the college as a driver for change and progress. An effective digital skills approach will pull together teaching, learning and assessment. It will improve all aspects of the college and will make all our processes stronger to support our key objectives.
  • Sharing best practice between teaching staff has historically sometimes been slow and relied on informal information sharing. To improve this, the Professional Learning and Teaching department have set up “Let’s Talk Teaching” sessions that will run to bring together new and well-established lecturers next academic year. These sessions will cover themes such as:
    • Holistic delivery or combined units into a project
    • SCQF level 4 delivery
    • Graded Unit delivery
    • Core Skills delivery
    • Work Experience
    • Using One Note or Google Drive
    • LearnNet Delivery and Development
  • Areas of CPD will involve developing one minute videos on AdminNet to share amongst staff to help share teaching methods. The effectiveness of this will be evaluated at the end of the year. In addition, staff who had below average development visits will be visited again and a development plan will be worked through with the staff member to ensure improvements in their delivery. The team will also concentrate on new staff and carry out a planned development visit within the first 6 weeks.
  • In order to improve further, the impact of significant staff development will be captured and assessed to identify ways to develop.
  • Improved assessment schedules for all courses are being collated. Although there is excellent practice already happening in most areas around assessment planning, it is not consistent and needs improvement.
  • Some areas would benefit from additional guidance from tutors and greater use of digital analytical data to address retention issues.
  • Care-experienced students’ retention remains low and this is disappointing. The College supports these students with many resources and is continually trying to address this issue.
  • Supported students have good retention, however achievement is low. These are complex issues that need continually addressing on a case-by-case basis.
  • Additionally, interview and advice sessions are to be enhanced in order to place the student on the most suitable course for their abilities. This could improve attainment. We will be reviewing our advice sessions as a result of low attainment and retention in some curriculum areas.
  • To improve well-being amongst students, the new Guidance Coaches will be talking to students about resilience and coping with life stresses as some students may think they have a mental health problem.
  • Learner experience could be improved in some areas by use of digital data by support and teaching staff to address any support and academic issues.
  • UCAS information could be more coherent throughout the college.
  • The sharing of information about learners received from schools, particularly with reference to Christmas leavers, could be improved.
  • In order to evaluate the college’s current progress against the strategic plan of Vision 2020, the Board, the College Leadership team and college staff attended a review to understand successes and areas for improvement. The Student Association also attended. The cross college teams evaluated each strategic outcome. Background evidence was collated to support progress and any actions and suggestions as a result have been collated. These are around issues of enhancing and supporting entrepreneurship, learner confidence for care-experienced students and retention and attainment. To enable continual improvement, these issues will be addressed at Board level during the next academic year with the aim of amending any relevant strategies within Vision 2020.
  • Members of the Dumfries & Galloway College Board of Management have identified a need, as part of their ongoing development, to increase their knowledge of and insight into the core delivery work of the college to support their strategic decision-making. In addition, the college will continue to make best use of the skills and experience that the Board members bring with them.
  • Members of the Dumfries & Galloway College Board of Management have identified a need, as part of their ongoing development to increase their knowledge of and insight into the core delivery work of the college to support their strategic decision-making. They wll be informed further by Curriculum Managers through various methods. This will allow the college to continue to make best use of the skills and experience that the Board members bring with them.
  • Senior phase and DYW is being further supported by key stakeholders coming together to develop a strategy for the region to ensure a consistent approach to curriculum planning with partners.
  • A programme for career development and management training will be offered for all staff to allow career enhancement, which will support the new strategic developments in the college.
  • Some staff have limited or out of date digital skills. Therefore, we have appointed a Professional Development Officer to ensure a strong focus on enhancing staff digital skills in line with future delivery models and requirements. This responds to regional and national priorities and will enable staff to utilise digital technology and skills to teach students to respond to the labour market needs.
  • New Curriculum Representatives from the student body to be in post during this academic year in order to specifically report on any issues arising and identify where change is needed. Quality Indicator 1.4 Evaluation leading to improvement
  • The Leadership team and teaching teams continually address poor PI figures. There is a high withdrawal rate at the beginning of the academic year and then again in February/ March. Meetings with other colleges to discuss this issue have been held, along with feedback from our staff and students. These issues and suggested solutions are discussed at all levels including EMT and the Board. Every student who withdraws has their specific reason for withdrawing recorded on our system to identify patterns and trends. For example, mental health issues have appeared to be one major factor and this is being addressed through the Student Support and Guidance department. All teams, from the Board to teaching teams, are addressing these issues in a systematic way so that a clear and consistent process takes in all factors and facilitates positive change. These changes are evaluated continually and discussed to ensure their effectiveness, from students to Board level. This process is ongoing.
  • During the last 2 years, many changes have taken place in the college. These changes need to be evaluated to further ensure their effectiveness and the impact of these changes will be evaluated against the college’s detailed long term strategy. Leadership management have clearly articulated the direction of these changes and their outcomes against areas of retention and attainment where these are average or below average. These will be reviewed for updates, actions and progress throughout the year.
  • The quality of the self-evaluation reports and action plans is variable and the college will implement an intervention to share best practice to ensure a consistent return of high quality self-evaluations. This will enable areas of good practice to be captured along with areas for improvement and therefore improve learners’ experience.

Report Recommendations