My professional world is being dominated at the moment by discussions and complaints about data, mainly that Ofsted cares only about data at inspections.
Those who claim that it is all about the data imply a cold, analytical approach focusing on numbers, percentages and national averages. As a veteran of the further education and training system with experience of seven inspections since the incorporation of colleges in 1993, I know that these views are simply not true.
Our inspections are conducted within a national framework, robust professional dialogue and self-assessment. In any case data is vitally important.
I love the data because just underneath the skin of the top line numbers and percentages we find real people.
Studying the data will often tell a compelling story about the experience of thousands of young people and adults that choose to study with us each year.
Why have over half of the students on a particular course left? Why are they leaving at a particular point in the year demonstrating a similar pattern to two previous cohorts?
Have we done anything about this? Did we listen to the students, act on their complaints, change our teaching approach, provide additional learning support?
Did we spot that our performance on a number of courses in this subject sector area has been consistently below the national average for a number of years?
What’s happening to Tommy who had near perfect attendance in the autumn and spring term and is now showing erratic attendance? And what about Chandra who was in hospital for six weeks and is now back in college?
When Ofsted asks a question such as why are students in this sector subject area not staying with you to finish their programme, the data is their starting point.
The answer cannot be because the students and their parents have low aspirations or they come from deprived backgrounds.
Here at Highbury, we spend time studying the data and improving the experience of our students, supporting them and enabling them to succeed.
This is our mission and our primary purpose in the service of our local communities.