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CAVTL and Ofsted Joint Project: Illuminating excellent practice in vocational teaching and learning

Illuminating excellent practice in vocational teaching and learning

The Commission on Adult Vocational Teaching and Learning saw some excellent examples of vocational teaching and learning across all sectors of the economy, many of which challenged the initial assumptions of commissioners. As a country, we know how to do this well and have considerable expertise to draw on. Paradoxically, however, commissioners noted that ‘practice is inconsistent because of the requirement to work within a system which continues to seek to specify so much from the centre’.

Following the publication of the Commission’s report It’s about work… the Commission and Ofsted worked together, with the Institute of Education and UK Commission for Employment and Skills to explore and publish examples of excellent practice in vocational teaching and learning. During 2013 applications to participate were invited from colleges, independent learning providers, community and skills providers and employers with examples of excellent vocational teaching, learning and leadership practice. Ten examples were selected and visited by Ofsted inspectors who then prepared the case studies.

 

Background

 

It’s about work…, the summary report of the Commission is the start of a process to raise the esteem of, and empower, VET professionals – teachers and trainers working with vocational learners in colleges, independent learning providers, community and skills providers and employers - to spread and improve the practice and impact of vocational teaching and learning.

The report called on a number of organisations, including Ofsted, to ‘play their respective roles in enabling adult vocational teaching and learning to flourish by addressing [its] recommendations to them’. This project is a joint response to the Commission’s recommendation to Ofsted: 'to consider the distinctive features of vocational teaching and learning identified [by the Commission] as an additional lens through which to review vocational provision'.

The Commission was pleased to be working with Ofsted. It accepts the thirteen characteristics of outstanding provision of all kinds set out in the new Common Inspection Framework, but in addition, defines some characteristics and distinctive features of excellent vocational teaching and learning, based on the importance of provision having a clear line of sight to work.

It’s about work… also agrees with Ofsted’s analysis that ‘it is leadership that drives improvement by creating the culture and ethos needed in order to push up standards’ but additionally argued that in vocational education and training, strong leaders need to combine a ‘relentless focus on improving teaching and learning’ with an externally facing role - an external disposition - to build the two-way street relationships between providers and employers which underpin the best vocational education and training.

It is the characteristics of excellent provision, the distinctive features of vocational pedagogy and the additional dimension of externally-facing leadership that the Commission and Ofsted wished to illuminate through this project – building on the expertise in the sector to make it more visible and replicate it more widely.

 

Approach


Ofsted proposed an innovative approach to this project. Rather than identifying examples from inspection visits, colleges, independent learning providers, community and skills providers and employers were invited to make proposals for examples of their excellent vocational teaching, learning and leadership practice to be visited and written up.

Ten examples were selected to ensure the spread of examples reflected the characteristics and features of excellent vocational teaching, learning and leadership. The examples were chosen to reflect the full range of:

  • colleges, providers and employers
  • vocational areas
  • geographical areas
  • stages and levels (see It’s about work…, page 17).

Participating organisations were visited between August and January 2014 by Ofsted inspectors.  Some were joined by a CAVTL commissioner. Each visit lasted 1 day, and involved discussions with employers, leaders, curriculum managers, practitioners and learners, and provided opportunities to see vocational teaching and learning taking place.

In writing up each of  the final ten case studies included in this project, Ofsted inspectors drew on their extensive knowledge of practice in the sector, from inspections and other survey reports. Commissioners drew on their experience of Commission visits to see the work in situ and the approach of drawing lessons from practice to theory.

Supporting information

The case studies have already proved a valuable resource for training providers and employers looking to embed innovative approaches to their delivery of vocational teaching and learning, and improve learner outcomes.

For more information visit: http://www.et-foundation.co.uk/supporting/support-employers/cavtl-ofsted-case-studies-resource-colleges-training-providers-employers/