The Strategic College Improvement Fund (SCIF) is a Department for Education (DfE) funded peer support improvement programme. An applicant college which has been judged by Ofsted as ‘requires improvement’ (grade 3) or ‘inadequate’ (grade 4), works in partnership with a higher performing partner college to bring about quality improvement. The total number of colleges now participating is fifty.
The DfE has commissioned a process evaluation to review pilot SCIF processes and identify lessons learned. AoC has commented on this evaluation and has offered a sector view of the impact of SCIF and made some suggestions about the future of college self-improvement peer networks. The AoC commentary on the process evaluation is available here.
The SCIF model of peer-led self-improvement has overwhelming support from applicant and partner colleges. They welcomed the focus on sector self-improvement, the encouragement of collaboration and the sharing of good practice and resources. They also valued the opportunity for flexibility of delivery, which allowed for emerging or changing priorities and maximised the value and benefit for improvement activities.
The factors which were seen as underpinning successful SCIF partnerships included: two-way trust and transparency based on commitment and willingness to share, empathy and understanding between college teams, the opportunity to visit, observe and discuss practice and a ‘critical friend’ peer-to-peer approach to sharing ideas and practice.
The Association of Colleges supports peer-led sector improvement and welcomed the creation of the SCIF. We have supported applicant and partner colleges through every stage of the process and would encourage all remaining eligible colleges to bid for the final round of the SCIF.
Peer-led improvement programmes are a rich source of evidence about what works and can be of great value to our sector. Prime examples would be TeachToo and the Outstanding Teaching, Learning and Assessment (OTLA) programmes delivered by AoC and the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) working in partnership.
The process evaluation shows how powerful this model of improvement can be and AoC will continue to work with the DfE and colleges to develop and review the SCIF and help to evaluate its impact.
AoC would want all colleges to be able to benefit from the sharing of successful practice through pogrammes like the SCIF programme. Any college which identifies areas for improvement should be able to participate in a quality improvement peer network and the emerging learning should be shared widely in the sector. Relatively small sustained investment in quality improvement networks could help to permanently narrow performance gaps between colleges, and to deliver long-term sector-wide improvement.