Applications Feedback 2015/16

City of Wolverhampton College - winner of the AoC Award for College Engagement with Employers
AoC Award for College Engagement with Employers winners City of Wolverhampton College were selected by AoC Charitable Trust President, Baroness Sharp, to receive her Leading Light Award.

Chief Assessor's Annual Report

The Chief Assesor’s report provides a summary of the key features of applications for the awards, identifying areas for improvement in submissions written by colleges, and an overview of the assessment of awards. Please use the links below to navigate to areas of interest.

In the appendix section you will find detailed feedback for applications for each award, designed to aid colleges wishing to apply for future Beacon Awards. The full assesor's report and appendix section are available in PDF format in the 'Downloads' section at the foot of the page.

Profiles of the winning projects (PDF,1.68 MB) are also available, to provide some insight into the type of projects which were successful this year.

1. Overview

2. Quality of Applications

3. Assessment of Awards

4. Evaluation of Assessment by Short-listed Colleges

5. Appendix: Quality of Application for each Award

1. Overview

There were 14 awards offered in 2015, which attracted 149 applications from 86 Colleges: including colleges in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. This included: 133 applications from 72 General FE Colleges: seven applications from six Sixth Form Colleges; one application from one land-based college; eight applications from seven Specialist Colleges.  The average number of applications per award is ten.

Three awards were offered for the first time – AQA Award for the development of transferrable skills, this award replaces the AQA Award for Continued Engagement in Education and/or Training for 16-19 year old Learners; Gateway Qualifications Award for widening participation in learning and; the Pearson Award for the promotion and successful delivery of apprenticeships. The following awards were not offered: JLT Employee Benefits Award for Health and Well-being; Learning Consortium Award for Improvement in Teaching and Learning through Peer Coaching; NAMSS Award for Student Services and the AQA Award mentioned above.

The awards are reviewed annually to ensure they reflect current developments in the curriculum and are relevant to current practice in further education.

2. Quality of Applications

As in previous years, the applications included many imaginative and innovative initiatives adopted by colleges to respond to the needs of their students, communities and local businesses.  The dedication by the colleges, especially those shortlisted for the awards, to enable individuals to realise their aims, through transforming their potential, is inspirational. In many awards, the choice of winning application was particularly difficult. In determining the awards, assessors made clear reference to the extent to which applications met both the Beacon and sponsor’s criteria, the impact on the experience of learners, the success of learners in achieving their aims and the transferability of the initiative to other colleges. The wide range of projects indicates the diversity of initiatives across the sector and the innovative approaches colleges are taking to better meet the needs of their learners.

The standard of the written submissions and their presentation was generally good; the best examples described clearly how the initiative met both the Beacon and the specific sponsor’s criteria. Nearly all submissions were anonymous. It is clear colleges had taken care to remove identifying information, but in a few submissions these were not removed from appendices or testimonials. Submissions that are not anonymous may be returned to the applicants. The best submissions provided explicit evidence of significant improvement in the quality of provision directly impacting on learners with clear indications of high levels of achievement.

Some submissions were poorly structured, did not follow the guidance on how to apply, did not refer explicitly to significant criteria and were not presented well.  The weaker submissions failed to provide sufficient information to identify features that went beyond common practice in FE. Colleges should also be aware that the quality of the presentation of the application is sometimes an important indicator of the capability to successfully promote and disseminate the initiative to other colleges.

Many submissions failed to adequately complete Part 2 of the application, requiring evidence of how the Beacon criteria are satisfied. Assessors commented on the failure of some colleges across all awards to adequately evidence how the application met the Beacon criteria: some colleges copy into the form large paragraphs of text from their main submission; some are too brief or incomplete; many include unnecessary information here and/or do not cover all aspects required by the criteria. A minority of the submissions provided sufficient evidence of how projects promote equality and diversity. The weaker submissions failed to exemplify how the initiative promotes exemplary teaching and learning which delivers identifiable benefits to learners. Whilst college quality assurance was often quoted as meeting the criteria many submissions failed to explain how this has an impact on the initiative and results in significant improvements in the project.

Most submissions were appropriately structured to explicitly address the sponsor's criteria, however many non-shortlisted submissions did not provide sufficient direct evidence to support claims in meeting the criteria. Some submissions provided many quotes from Ofsted reports, which referred to a whole college judgment, but failed to provide evidence relevant to the specific area of the submission corroborating the judgment.

The weaker submissions were found to have the following general shortcomings:

  • Lack of examples to illustrate innovative or exemplary teaching and learning
  • Insufficient evidence of how projects promote equality and diversity
  • Data on learner success and progression unclear or not presented
  • Insufficient evidence of how quality assurance has supported the development of the project

A review of the quality of applications for each award is provided in the appendix.

3. Assessment of Awards

Details of the assessment procedures can be found in the “ Handbook for Assessment (PDF,343.43 KB)”. The assessment arrangements continue to be effective; shortlisted colleges responded positively to the assessment visits and find them helpful. Moderation and quality assurance of assessment takes place at two stages. The first stage ensures shortlisting of the applications has been conducted appropriately and that the shortlisted submissions represent those with the greatest merit.

The second stage of moderation and quality assurance reviews the reports of the visits and assessors' recommendations. It ensures assessment is consistent across awards, that visit reports provide a clear evaluation supported by an appropriate record of the evidence, and that the assessors' recommendations for awards are consistent with the aims of the award and the evaluation.

The assessment visits confirmed and substantiated the statements in the colleges’ submissions and provided further evidence and information in support of their applications. All shortlisted colleges presented strong cases for the award, providing evidence of the provision of exemplary practice that would enhance the quality of FE if adopted by other colleges. The wider sector will benefit as a result of celebrating the achievements.

Colleges reported that the visits were well organised and provided suitable opportunity for them to present key features of their application. The shortlisted applications for many categories of award were considered to be of very high quality and worthy of an award. The winning colleges provided more substantial and explicit evidence of how the application met both the Beacon and sponsor’s criteria, especially in clearly demonstrating how the initiative promoted and enabled innovative or exemplary teaching and learning resulting in high levels of students’ achievement. The most successful colleges recognise that learners are their best advocates. In some awards the shortlisted colleges did not provide sufficient or clear evidence of the impact on learners, including accurate and clear data on achievement. Shortlisted colleges not winning the award are to be congratulated on reaching this stage of the assessment process and encouraged to resubmit a revised application following further development of the initiative.

4. Evaluation of Assessment by Shortlisted Colleges

Colleges are asked to complete an evaluation of assessment which covers the whole of the assessment process but with emphasis on the interaction with assessors during the visit. Of the 27 applications that were shortlisted in 2015, 23 completed an evaluation form. The responses show that colleges found the experience a valuable and positive one: 20 (of 23) identified more gains from the process in helping them improve; two responses indicated a balance and one college did not answer the question.  Evaluation forms completed for the last three years show a consistently positive response with 85% reporting the visit was helpful in supporting development of the project/initiative and no colleges reporting an overall negative experience. Sixth Form colleges and specialist colleges report a higher level, with over 90% responding positively to the assessment arrangements. Nearly all colleges comment positively on the clarity of the arrangements for the visits and the effective and professional management by assessors.

Comments made by colleges are used to support further training of assessors and improvement in the assessment of awards.

5. Appendix: Quality of Application for each Award

Colleges should refer to the prospectus (page 8) for guidance on how to apply for a Beacon Award and how best to structure and organize their submission.

To help colleges in writing applications, the appendix describes the quality of submissions for each award and indicates areas where submissions commonly fail to provide sufficient information to be considered for shortlisting.

Award for Innovation

Appendix I: OCR Award for Innovation in FE

Awards for Teaching and Learning, Curriculum Design and Development

Awards for Leadership and Quality Improvement

Appendix II: CoLRiC Award for the Effective Integration of Libraries/LRCs in Curriculum Delivery Appendix VII: Association of Colleges Award for Outstanding Leadership of Improvement
Appendix III: Edge Award for Practical Teaching and Practical Learning Appendix VIII: City & Guilds Award for Staff Development
Appendix IV: Jisc Award for the Effective use of Technology in FE  
Appendix V: Microlink and AoC Charitable Trust Inclusive Learnng Award  
Appendix VI: Vtct Award for Sport in the Curriculum  

Awards for Responsiveness, Partnership and Impact

Appendix IX: AQA Award for the Development of Transferable Skills
Appendix X: Association of Colleges Award for College Engagement with Employers
Appendix XI: Gateway Qualifications Award for Widening Participation in Learning
Appendix XII: Pearson Award for the Promotion and Delivery of Successful Apprenticeships
Appendix XII: The UCAS Progress Award for Careers Education and Guidance

JR Marriott

Chief Assessor, AoC Beacon Awards

February 2016

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