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North East Scotland College

2019 Full Inspection Report
Areas for development


Although progress has been made to improve access and support arrangements for all students including those traditionally experiencing barriers to learning, the College should:

  • Ensure that its admissions approaches continue to improve access to learning for specific ‘at-risk’ groups and that the gaps, currently SIMD10 (12% for AY2016-17); BME (2.2% for AY2016-17) and care experienced (1.6% for AY2016-17), between the College’s target enrolments and sector average decrease.
  • Ensure that success outcomes for full-time FE disabled (61.5% for AY2016-17); care experienced (34% for AY2016-17) and full-time HE SIMD10 (66.3% for AY2016-17) learners improve in line with the College’s Outcome Agreement targets and align more closely with sector averages.
  • Review and revise its Access and Inclusion Strategy in order to continue the improvement of outcomes and experiences for specific learners groups e.g. care experienced and disabled learners.

Although progress has been made to improve learner attainment, retention and success rates in AY2017-18, the College should:

  • Improve learner success rates at full-time FE level by carrying out a robust analysis as to why students do not achieve their qualification in Care, Business and Engineering, and to put in place, strong interventions to support students achieving once they reach the end of their course.
  • Curriculum teams should improve learner success rates at full-time FE level using benchmarking data especially where KPI learner success rates are high in other colleges.
  • Curriculum teams should improve their retention rates of full-time FE programmes through early interventions in reducing Early Withdrawal and Further Withdrawal rates.
  • Retention and attainment rates should be improved through more robust and thorough extended support plans that will support the College in meeting its target set by the SFC.
  • Curriculum teams should improve equity of success for all learners by reducing gender under-representation in specific subject areas.
  • Over a 3-year period [AY2014-15 to AY2016-17], success rates for enrolled SIMD students for full-time HE have decreased by 5.7% and below the national average by 2.2%, and requires the College to carry out a detailed analysis of why learners within lower SIMD areas are not achieving.
  • Over a 2-year period [AY2014-15 to AY2015-16], success rates for full-time FE care experienced students decreased by 13.4% and is 17.4% well below the national average for AY2016-17, and required the College to carry out a robust analysis as to why they do not achieve their qualification, and to implement action plans to support students throughout the academic year.

Although progress has been made to improve the use of Labour Market Intelligence (LMI) data and employability skills, the College should:

  • Ensure curriculum teams undertake a more robust approach to analysing LMI that should help improve the curriculum planning process.
  • Ensure curriculum teams improve employability skills within their curriculum areas by exploring all the options that are available through the Work Placement Standards Guidelines produced by the SFC.
  • Ensure that curriculum teams undertake a more robust approach in the use of performance data to support improvements to learner performance rates.

Although progress has been made to introduce more dynamic approaches to teaching, this is yet to show the impact in some areas. The College should therefore:

  • Ensure the learner experience be further improved by encouraging the Students’ Association and class representatives to carry out peer-learning across all curriculum areas.
  • Ensure that the learning and teaching approaches are improved by introducing more dynamic approaches that will improve the learning experience.

Although extensive work and change has been undertaken and implemented to services to support learning the College should:

  • Undertake an evaluation of the review-related, organisational changes implemented for AY2018-19 to establish if student access and support services improvements have been realised.
  • Ensure it continues to build relationships with external agencies in order that learners with more complex needs are supported as fully as possible.
  • Develop a more structured and targeted support approach for those learners exhibiting poor mental health.
  • Raise awareness of safeguarding and child protection through College team meetings.
  • Work with SDS managers to ensure that College ambitions to improve advice, information, support and progression for all learners are realised through closer collaborative working arrangements.

Although the College achieved the core credit target of 135,126 for AY2017-18 there was a shortfall of 1,895 credits against the ESF target of 3,035 therefore:

  • The Senior Management Team and the Regional Board should maintain a strong focus on College credit activity targets to assess risk and to ensure appropriate mitigating action is taken.
  • The volume and proportion of credits delivered to male and female learners on STEM courses is 86.4% [male], and 13.46 [female], and the College should continue to try and close this gap.

Although College targets are realistic and stretching, in some cases not all targets are met each year and therefore:

  • Performance against early withdrawal targets should be improved by curriculum and support teams working closely together in identifying those students at risk quickly after their enrolment.

Although the College has strong relationships with a wide range of external stakeholders this can be improved, therefore:

  • The College should continue to deepen and strengthen relationships with employers through the delivery of the revised Business Development Strategy.
  • The sharing of information by some managers could be improved to ensure all staff are well informed of local, regional and national priorities.

Although good progress has made on the leadership of evaluation leading to improvement, the College should:

  • Engage directly with a number of schools as part of the planning and evaluation process.
  • Ensure a more detailed and robust analysis of processes used for KPI trends in some curriculum teams and compare with national benchmarking data.
  • Ensure some support team self-evaluation reports be more fully developed to reflect, more broadly, deeply and realistically, areas for improvement.
  • Consider developing a ‘live’ dashboard for support data which allows managers to take more immediate action in order to improve outcomes and experiences for students.

Report Recommendations