Quality assurance: embedding equality within college practice and processes

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1 Quality assurance: embedding equality within college practice and processes

2 Acknowledgments Written and produced by Equality Challenge Unit. ECU would like to thank the following for contributing to this guidance and for providing case studies: = = Adam Smith College = = Carnegie College = = Cumbernauld College = = Edinburgh s Telford College = = John Wheatley College = = Kilmarnock College = = North Glasgow College = = South Lanarkshire College = = Suzanne Marshall, Scotland s Colleges Further information Barbara Lawson

3 Quality assurance: Embedding equality within college practice and processes Contents Introduction 1 Colleges current practice in embedding equality in quality 4 Quality culture 5 Governance and leadership roles for equality and diversity 5 Self-evaluation and use of equality data 6 Staff development 9 Student engagement 10 High-quality learning, progress and outcomes 14 Colleges progress with embedding equality within quality 17 Conclusion and recommendations 18 Equality Challenge Unit, October 2012 (case studies updated November 2012)

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5 Introduction This report was developed in response to consultation with colleges in Scotland to support them to mainstream and advance equality a requirement of the Equality Act Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) s research for the report was undertaken in nine Scottish colleges through an initial questionnaire, follow-up telephone interviews with staff members with responsibility for quality assurance or equality and diversity, and desk research to review colleges websites and other documentation. The objectives of this report are to: = = review how colleges current practice responds to the recommendations to embed equality and diversity within quality cultures set out in Education Scotland (formerly HMIe) s 2010 Aspect report on equality and diversity in Scotland s colleges = = assist colleges in taking forward effective action to embed equality within quality processes in line with Education Scotland external quality arrangements, Scottish Funding Council (SFC) guidance on these and the requirements of the public sector equality duty (PSED) We recommend that this report is read and used in the context of the new Education Scotland external quality arrangements, SFC guidelines and against the backdrop of the Scottish Government s college reform and regionalisation agenda including outcome agreements with the SFC. Education Scotland s Aspect report Education Scotland (formerly HMIe) (2010) Aspect report on equality and diversity in Scotland s colleges Images/edsc_tcm pdf The quality framework in the Aspect report considered how well colleges ensure that they provide and promote a positive learning and working environment for students based on the principles of equality, fairness and inclusion. It evaluated the effectiveness of colleges approaches to the promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion in their daily operations, in widening access to learning, in the curriculum itself and in the delivery of learning. In doing so it considered how well colleges were meeting the public sector duties in force at that time, prior to the Equality Act These covered the protected characteristics of disability, gender and race. It also considered the level of understanding that students and staff had of those duties. 1

6 Introduction Education Scotland s role was not to examine in detail the extent to which colleges were complying with the duties but to report on steps they had taken to fulfil their statutory obligations. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has the responsibility to enforce compliance with equality law. Education Scotland s External quality arrangements Education Scotland (2012) External quality arrangements for Scotland s colleges Images/External%20quality%20arrangements%201%20 August%202012_tcm pdf The review of quality in Scotland s colleges is based on three key principles: = = high-quality learning student progress and achievement of relevant, high quality outcomes = = student engagement = = quality culture Equality and diversity is explicit in Education Scotland s performance indicators and is embedded within its revised review framework. Equality and diversity is a key element in the college review and annual engagement visit model that was published in August SFC guidance SFC (2012) Council guidance to colleges on quality from August SFC1312.aspx The guidance explains how SFC expects colleges to respond to Education Scotland s new framework. SFC has reaffirmed the importance of the three principles outlined above, endorsing the centrality of quality (and from the messages in these guidelines, the embedding of equality within quality processes) as a key responsibility for each institution. 2 Quality assurance: embedding equality within college practice

7 Introduction Guidance on student engagement The key equality messages in SFC s 2012 guidance is that colleges should: = = diversify their approaches to student engagement = = demonstrate how they use data to improve and enhance quality = = provide evidence of impact in reports submitted to SFC These align with the latest PSED requirement for colleges to publish equality outcomes based on evidence gathered, and report on progress and impact. SFC recognises that some groups of students may find it harder than others to engage with representative, consultative and decision-making structures as part of quality processes, and this is also reflected in equality engagement. Within the guidance, SFC stated that colleges should include the experience of students from protected characteristics groups as part of their own internal review and that colleges should reflect on the extent to which their current processes for engaging with students fully address current and future expectations on diversity and equalities (p 13). This is a shift from their previous guidance which only encouraged colleges to do so. SFC acknowledges that the student voice is diverse and that colleges need to explore new ways of student engagement to ensure that this aspect of their work encompasses diversity to give greater representation of the whole student body. Colleges will be required to reflect on how they can be more proactive in addressing issues of diversity and equality in their engagement with students on quality issues. HMIe (2008) External quality arrangement for Scotland s colleges tcm pdf Annex 2 provides ideas for making a step change in student engagement. October

8 Introduction HMIe (2010) Annual report to SFC on the findings of HMIE evaluative activity in Scotland s colleges during the period 1 August July HMIE_Annual_Report_to_SFC_AY_ _17_Nov_10_ FINAL_%7B %7D.pdf Highlights effective practice and provides recommendations on engaging students from all protected characteristic groups. Colleges current practice in embedding equality in quality The research for this report identified that on the whole colleges understand their statutory obligations to meet the new PSED and have developed policies and schemes that help them meet their obligations and monitoring duties within their quality assurance processes. All colleges have quality assurance and enhancement activities, which offer opportunities for embedding equality and diversity. Some colleges specifically employ Education Scotland s (2012) quality framework. Other colleges have developed their own systems to embed quality within their organisational processes. The following examples of activities are not exhaustive but will provide college practitioners with reference points to affirm their own approaches or present ideas they can adapt or introduce. The examples shared have been broadly categorised for ease of reference by using the three key principles employed by Education Scotland: = = quality culture = = student engagement = = high quality learning, progress and outcomes 4 Quality assurance: embedding equality within college practice

9 Quality culture Governance and leadership roles for equality and diversity Colleges boards of management have a responsibility to ensure that both quality and equality are effectively considered in their organisations. Colleges employ different approaches to allow for local decision making but ensure that they still meet the Education Scotland requirement that colleges should ensure a prompt and full response to existing and future equalities legislation. All colleges involved in the research expressed their commitment to the promotion of equality, diversity and inclusion in their college mission statements and use a number of activities to embed a shared culture of diversity and respect. Evidence of strong strategic leadership of equality, commitment and direction-setting were key factors in communicating this aim. Many colleges have specific quality assurance leads and in some cases, responsibility for college quality-reporting requirements is shared, with specific senior managers feeding into a larger strategic level forum. The majority of colleges from our research involve staff from across a variety of departments in quality review including quality, marketing, learning and teaching, student services, human resources and finance. The majority also consider equality and diversity evidence as part of the quality review process. The principal at Edinburgh s Telford College took over leadership of the college s strategic plan, management structure, quality enhancement and operations in He highlighted equality and diversity as important across student and staff groups. A new and comprehensive approach was used for self-evaluation including consideration of equality data. Making an impact on outcomes for students from protected characteristic groups was seen as a whole college effort. This approach expected the use of equality data and analysis within quality enhancement reports at team and departmental level. Whole management group scrutiny and review of progress in equality and diversity are incorporated into the annual quality enhancement report submitted to SFC. The board reviews this evidence to evaluate the college s effectiveness and sustainable capacity to deliver the PSED. October

10 Quality culture At John Wheatley College, the overall responsibility for equalities sit at board level. Operational management of equality rests with the senior vice-principal, who, as chair of the equality and diversity committee, ensures equality and diversity is considered at all levels in the college. All teams produce annual self-evaluation reports within which they evaluate their service or provision, identify any equalities impacts, and use available equality and diversity information to plan actions and set targets. Equalities reports are considered by relevant board committees before publication. Leaders need to understand that addressing equality challenges through the quality review process is important, and that a strategic approach will help to meet the legal requirements of the Equality Act and to improve the quality of the student experience and outcomes. Self-evaluation and use of equality data Self-evaluation procedures draw from a range of evidence sources including: = = the views of students = = observations of learning and teaching = = findings from external and internal moderation reports = = analysis of performance indicators relating to student retention, attainment and progression = = reflections gathered by individuals and members of academic and support teams 6 Quality assurance: embedding equality within college practice

11 Quality culture Many of the colleges produce programme review reports on a regular basis, and programme teams focus on student progress and outcomes and produce relevant action plans for improvement and enhancement. The Education Scotland quality framework expects colleges to include all students in this process. At programme level, provision and use of relevant and meaningful equality data as part of such processes has often proved challenging in the past. The colleges we visited have taken active steps to address this. Through systems, support and teaching departments working together, Cumbernauld College created an analytical tool to improve student achievement, attainment and retention. The tool allows the college to monitor performance levels and attainment by faculty, course and class level, and age, disability, ethnicity and gender. The tool has allowed course teams to respond and make relevant adjustments or provide additional support if the tool shows relative disadvantage because of the student having one of these protected characteristics. There is a dedicated space on South Lanarkshire College s staff web portal to collect equality and diversity data. This is examined three times a year at programme level by course leaders and delivery staff. Staff evaluate student attainment by equalities and take action at programme level to address concerns. Self-evaluation is coherent from course team level through to the board of management. Curriculum reports are required three times a year and feed into faculty reports. In addition to having a student representative in its cross-college equality group, students are also asked questions in relation to equality and diversity at focus group meetings and sparqs training (www.sparqs.ac.uk) for class representatives. October

12 Quality culture Kilmarnock College undertakes an annual review to ensure that equality and diversity is woven into teaching and assessment practices by encouraging a system of peer review that supports teaching staff. The college developed an evaluative process that is depicted visually as a wheel guided by six principles: innovation; flexibility; supportive; reflective; successful; engaging. Each segment details relevant and specific criteria used as a basis for the self-evaluation process. A scoring mechanism allows teams to score themselves for each area identified and enables curriculum teams to agree actions for improvement. The college provides a programme of workshops on equality and diversity to ensure staff have the knowledge and understanding to undertake the process. This process encourages broader ownership, increases engagement in self-evaluation and has created an environment to enable the development of student-focused groups to formalise structured feedback from students. Adam Smith College has an equality impact assessment system that is embedded in the quality review process for their existing policies and procedures. The quality directorate has software that prompts policy owners to undertake a review, at which point the impact assessment pro-forma and guidance notes are circulated for completion. This template includes all the protected characteristics. 8 Quality assurance: embedding equality within college practice

13 Quality culture Staff development Education Scotland s Aspect report on equality and diversity in Scotland s colleges 2010 highlighted staff development as being of great significance in both the actions that colleges should take to embed equality and diversity within a college s quality culture, and also within areas for development, especially structured post-initial training embedding equalities legislation in continuing professional development. All colleges in the research responded to say that on the whole, there is mandatory training for all teaching and support staff. Some colleges develop their own training and others use online training. The following examples illustrate where direct staff engagement in equality has improved by using interactive development initiatives, building on online awareness raising. Edinburgh s Telford College created a new staff development initiative called the professional development academy which incorporated training for equality and diversity. This group of eight staff undertook training with an external consultant. Together they designed and developed a staff training programme. The college has piloted a first phase with the two objectives of developing staff confidence in understanding policy (and using this to challenge appropriately) and enhancing skills to advance equality in practice through their roles. Feedback has been positive and it is hoped that this approach will help the college to mainstream equality and to further embed equality as part of its quality improvement activity. To help to share the college s vision and equality values effectively across the student body at Adam Smith College, tailored equality and diversity training is delivered to the student association president and coordinator. October

14 Student engagement Colleges have used a variety of mechanisms to gather information about their staff and students. This includes student satisfaction surveys, commendations, complaints, staff grievances and exit interviews with staff and students to gather equality information on the impact of decisions, functions, work practices, policies and procedures on people with particular protected characteristics. The types of information gleaned from this approach provides relevant source evidence to set equality outcomes. The following sections present practice related to Education Scotland s Aspect report student engagement recommendations. Promote diversity to students and staff taking care to include groups and characteristics that may not be prevalent in the local area All the colleges involved in this project include equality and diversity messages on their website to welcome applications from prospective students from protected characteristic groups. They all use their physical environments to promote the values of inclusion and diversity, including the use of marketing screens to highlight their message and incorporating positive imagery in communications. Ensure that programmes are well suited to students prior experiences and attainment, in order to maximise participation and success The research demonstrated that all colleges have systems in place to consider the barriers to student access and have implemented various actions to reduce the barriers to learning. Flexible engagement models are used to encourage a greater diversity of students across different needs and circumstances including part-time, full-time, flexible timetables, community learning centres and evening classes. In addition to engaging with current students, colleges are also mindful of how they engage with their wider community, for example, what their external marketing materials and application processes communicate about their college environment. To help break down barriers of perceived access to and inclusion in college life, many colleges undertake specific targeted activity to communicate to underrepresented groups, including making marketing materials available in accessible formats and using positive images in external and internal publications. 10 Quality assurance: embedding equality within college practice

15 Student engagement Carnegie College has an overall strategic outcome to ensure that the support needs of students are identified and addressed. All communications are reviewed for bias by the assistant principal responsible for access and inclusion and by the diversity co-ordinator. The college materials are reviewed in light of the changing demographics to reflect the main community languages and to ensure inclusion within the wider community. Students in all the colleges interviewed are encouraged to discuss their particular support needs with a member of staff in order that their needs are identified and adequately supported. Regular communications and consultation with students with protected characteristics allows colleges to consider inclusion and equality as part of their wider strategy to address the needs of all students, and improve the quality of the student experience and student learning outcomes. North Glasgow College has implemented a number of strategies to increase student access and improve the student experience. These incorporated a core skills strategy, student retention and achievement strategy and an inclusiveness strategy. Combining these strategies with close community stakeholder interactions enables college provision to be extended to disadvantaged students and asylum seekers. College programmes have been made accessible through a greater variety of modes of delivery, including communitybased classes. The college has equipped 12 community locations with computer equipment to enable communitybased students to access college programmes and materials from locations that suit their personal circumstances. Colleges offer learning development tutors and other support staff who provide high-quality support to students throughout their studies, particularly in the development of essential and core skills. Deploying such frontline staff is critical to embedding equality and diversity in the ways in which colleges support students from protected characteristic groups. October

16 Student engagement Colleges offer a variety of mechanisms ensuring support and guidance for all students beyond the admissions stage, including additional support for students considered at risk of isolation due to being in a minority, for example, a female student in a maledominated subject or vice versa. This support extends to the care and provision offered where a college may have a large international student community. Student support services have in some circumstances developed interventions to improve orientation and inclusion into the college culture through a number of techniques, including a buddying programme which considers broader adjustments to life in college and in Scotland. All colleges use individual learning plans or personal learning and support plans to help students identify and achieve their learning priorities and provide support to students on an individual basis. These plans are used to measure student progress and the development of essential skills. Where students require additional support, the plans help to track the appropriateness of the additional support measures. John Wheatley College has a collaborative approach to supporting students, facilitation via online individual learning plans which external agencies (eg schools and social work day services) have access to. This approach enables the college to more effectively address students additional support needs. Monitor for equality and diversity at programme level through systematic analysis A number of the colleges have developed software packages that allow staff at programme level to analyse equality data for some of the protected characteristics for applications, enrolments, student satisfaction, retention and achievement. This allows staff in colleges to see equality-relevant information at the touch of a button and respond in a timely and effective manner to any issues that are highlighted. Trends resulting from the analysis of data over a number of years are reported to appropriate committees for feedback and planning, and in college annual equality progress reports. 12 Quality assurance: embedding equality within college practice

17 Student engagement Carnegie College has taken steps to enhance support to students in gender-imbalanced subjects, including holding monthly mentoring and support meetings. Students within these subjects also work with local schools to promote careers in subjects where there is a gender imbalance. Both quantitative and qualitative information are important for colleges to support students from protected characteristic groups effectively and to ensure maximum participation and achievement on programmes. The majority of colleges collect and analyse data in relation to age, gender, disability and ethnicity, and some have begun to plan how they will gather information on additional protected characteristics, such as religion or belief and sexual orientation, as well as other factors relevant to government and college policy, such as the number of looked-after young people or those leaving care. This is a priority for both setting and monitoring college equality outcomes in the near future, and will require action within the new regional college structures. ECU s equality statistical report will assist colleges in Scotland to compare the progress of their students with the national equality challenges across the sector. ECU (2012) Equality in colleges in Scotland: statistical report October

18 High-quality learning, progress and outcomes All colleges interviewed have a range of processes to ensure that equality and diversity is part of the curriculum experience. These processes allow them to consider the needs of individual students and the best approaches to best meet those needs. The majority of colleges have a learning and teaching strategy which provides the framework for promoting high-quality learning through curriculum design, delivery, assessment and student support. Annual curriculum and portfolio reviews include analysis of student data in the majority of colleges, and equality and diversity checklists and internal review or audits ensure it is kept at the forefront of staff thinking in terms of preparation of materials, analysis of programme delivery and impact on students. The equality and diversity strategy group at Carnegie College reviews a sample of the online teaching materials for audit, assessing it in line with the key outcomes identified in their equality scheme: = = increase the quantity and range of assistive technology = = ensure that teaching and learning materials are equality proofed = = build the capacity of staff to address any issues related to equality and diversity = = address unacceptable language, behaviour and practice = = address gender imbalances in specific programmes or subject areas This ensures the college considers equality and diversity within their curriculum and teaching approaches in line with the wider college strategic plans. The quality enhancement group at South Lanarkshire College has implemented a systematic and comprehensive strategy aligned to Education Scotland s quality framework to encourage staff to improve on the quality and impact of learning, teaching and assessment practice. 14 Quality assurance: embedding equality within college practice

19 High-quality learning, progress and outcomes Each lesson is evaluated using three sources of evidence: = = feedback from students = = a review of the teaching approaches of the lesson based on the observations of a trained college reviewer = = a professional dialogue with the member of teaching staff Many colleges are using the curriculum audit tool designed by the Quality and equality of learning and teaching materials (QELTM) project, an SFC-funded, collaborative project that ran from 2004 to The project was concerned with the development of a set of guidelines and procedures for equality, diversity and inclusiveness in the writing of learning and teaching materials. Colleges have adapted and updated these guidelines to keep up with new legislation and initiatives. Other colleges have developed their own guidelines and selfevaluation checklists for the review of learning and teaching materials. Edinburgh s Telford College s quality improvement unit, comprising both teaching and quality staff, runs an online staff development programme to support staff and raise awareness of their responsibilities for implementing QELTM guidelines. This is followed up by internal audit and supported by learning resources. The unit also organises audits of teaching materials for QELTM, homing in on specific areas highlighted by an analysis of retention statistics and student satisfaction surveys. Kilmarnock College uses a virtual learning environment to help to promote equality and diversity. Their service also allows students the flexibility to undertake learning on courses at times and places that are more suited to their lifestyles and personal circumstances. Many colleges employ varied technologies to support staff and students with a disability to improve the experiences of students and the quality of courses delivered. Some colleges have staff trained in BRITE (Beattie Resources for Inclusiveness in Technology and Education who use this October

20 High-quality learning, progress and outcomes expertise in assistive technologies to work with students who have additional support needs. Building in the use of assistive technologies provides opportunities for students to effectively engage with learning in an interactive way both on campus and at a distance through access to online materials. John Wheatley College developed a guide for teachers that outlines how to produce accessible teaching materials and provides links to various external support agencies. The curriculum development process ensures that staff must consider how materials promote and support equality, citizenship and essential skills development. As part of the self-evaluation process for teaching and learning teams, staff consider student development in a variety of areas, and in particular the three college learning themes of equality and diversity, health and wellbeing, and sustainability. To build equality and diversity into teaching approaches, a number of colleges use models of peer or critical friend observation in the classroom. This helps staff to reflect on equality and diversity and communication methods in their teaching and allows for a review of the effectiveness of learning and teaching practices. In addition to identifying and sharing good practice, this approach is also used to design staff training to support development needs. Teaching approaches that promote equality and diversity in number-based and technical subjects is still an area that needs development in most of the colleges although some work has begun. Carnegie College has developed an innovative and integrated programme for students on intermediate construction programmes focusing on problem-solving activities in relation to accessibility. 16 Quality assurance: embedding equality within college practice

21 Colleges progress with embedding equality within quality Colleges have made good progress since 2010 in implementing equality and diversity more systematically within quality assurance mechanisms. There remains a commitment to deliver continuous improvement in equality and quality outcomes for all students and to maintain a culture of high-quality learning and student engagement. This report shows that there is current good practice taking place in relation to ensuring equality considerations are included in self-evaluation and quality-reporting arrangements. Many colleges have seen improvements in practice and a change in institutional culture as staff and student awareness and confidence increase in response to evidence that their college is responding to issues of equality and diversity. Equality and diversity is most successfully embedded within college quality assurance and enhancement processes through a combination of senior leadership commitment and mechanisms that involve as well as support staff and students to experience inclusive and positive environments. The strong leadership of equality and diversity champions within colleges has brought results, however, there is a recognisable need to increase their capacity in colleges at a time of educational and sector change and economic challenges. October

22 Conclusion and recommendations Quality through equality outcomes Colleges are in the process of developing a set of equality outcomes to enable them to better perform the PSED. Strategic planning To ensure these outcomes feed into quality strategy processes and practice, colleges should embed their equality outcomes in their strategic planning arrangements. This can be achieved through various methods. The example below demonstrates a method that uses existing structures. Three IDEA (inclusion, diversity and equality and access) groups have been established by Adam Smith College to consider disability issues; gender and sexual orientation; race and religion or belief. These groups feed into the college diversity committee which supports the strategic planning and development of specific equality outcomes in curriculum performance review, teaching and learning review, learning materials checklist, equality impact assessments and data monitoring. An analysis of the equalities data shows that gender stereotyping is an issue, with male dominance in engineering and more women concentrated in education and care subjects. This approach has allowed the college to respond and consider various approaches to redress the balance of students in gender-segregated subjects, including breaking down barriers of perception and targeted marketing campaigns. Self-evaluation Self-evaluation processes should be enhanced so that colleges scrutinise the equality data they have (and take action to extend this data to include all protected characteristic groups) in order to establish their equality outcomes and action planning. 18 Quality assurance: embedding equality within college practice

23 Conclusion and recommendations Engagement Equality outcomes will be achieved through significant changes or reasonable adjustment to service delivery that means learning and teaching staff and support service staff engaging more effectively with students from protected characteristic groups so that they all become co-creators in their learning and active participants in the life and work of the regional colleges. Reflective questions = = Do you know where there are equality gaps in your college? = = Are you taking external change factors into account? = = How do you know what you are doing will make a difference to students with protected characteristics (what will it look like, how will you measure impact)? More information on setting outcomes can be found in the ECU (2012) The public sector equality duty: specific duties for Scotland. Sharing practice There is already a great deal of good practice within colleges. A peer-support network with the opportunity to engage in practice-sharing forums including workshops, webinars and learning and training could help promote good practice throughout the sector. Systemic change Education Scotland and SFC highlight systemic change in quality arrangements as key to success. Colleges are demonstrating that their quality improvement processes and related reporting can work for equality, but more work needs to be done to fully embed it and reach greater consistency as a regionally structured sector. October

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25 Equality Challenge Unit ECU works to further and support equality and diversity for staff and students in higher education across all four nations of the UK, and in colleges in Scotland. ECU works closely with colleges and universities to seek to ensure that staff and students are not unfairly excluded, marginalised or disadvantaged because of age, disability, gender identity, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity status, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, or through any combination of these characteristics or other unfair treatment. Providing a central source of expertise, research, advice and leadership, we support institutions in building a culture that provides equality of both opportunity and outcome, promotes good relations, values the benefits of diversity and provides a model of equality for the wider UK society.

26 7th floor, Queen s House 55/56 Lincoln s Inn Fields London, WC2A 3LJ T F E Equality Challenge Unit 2012 ECU s publications are produced free of charge to the UK HE sector and also for colleges in Scotland. Information can be reproduced as long as it is accurate, the source is identified and it will not be used for profit. Alternative formats are available: E Company limited by guarantee. Registered in England and Wales, no Registered charity no

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