Borders College 16 May 2014 A report by HM Inspectors

Borders College
16 May 2014
A report by HM Inspectors
on behalf of the
Scottish Funding Council
Summary report
The external review process
HM Inspectors undertake an independent review of the quality of provision in Scotland’s
colleges on behalf of the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council (SFC)
under a service level agreement between the council and Education Scotland. External
review teams include HM Inspectors, associate assessors and a student team member.
During external reviews, members of the review teams observe learning and teaching
and hold discussions with learners, staff and stakeholders. They consider information
on learner attainment and evaluate learner progress and outcomes. They meet with
members of the Board of Management and obtain feedback from community groups,
partners and employers who work with the college.
The purpose of this report is to convey the main outcomes arising from the external
review, to acknowledge the college’s strengths and to provide a clear agenda for future
action to improve and enhance quality.
This external review results in judgements of effective or limited effectiveness or not
effective that express the external review team’s overall evaluation of high quality
learning, learner engagement and quality culture.
The report also uses the following terms to describe
numbers and proportions:
almost all
less than half
over 90%
up to 15%
This report is Crown Copyright.
You may re-use this publication (not including agency logos) free of charge in any
format for research, private study or internal circulation within an organisation. You
must re-use it accurately and not use it in a misleading context. The material must be
acknowledged as Crown Copyright and you must give the title of the source
For any other use of this material please apply for a Click-Use Licence for core material
or by writing to: HMSO Licensing, St Clements House, 2-16 Colegate, Norwich,
Fax: 01603 723000
E-mail: [email protected]
1. Introduction
The external review
2. The college and its context
3. Outcomes of external review
Judgement of Effectiveness
Section A:
Section B:
Section C:
Section D:
Section E:
Overarching judgement
Supporting statements
Areas of positive practice
Areas for development
Main point for action
4. Signposting excellent practice
5. What is an overarching judgement?
6. What happens next?
7. Further information
8. How can you contact us?
Glossary of terms
The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework
1. Introduction
The external review
The external review by Education Scotland took place during the week beginning
3 March 2014.
We examined learning and teaching and other important activities that impact on the
quality of the learner experience. We evaluated these against the three key principles
of high quality learning, learner engagement and quality culture, using the 13 reference
quality indicators outlined in External quality arrangements for Scotland’s colleges,
updated August 2013. We also included QI 2.2 Relevance of programmes and services
to learner needs to support our evaluations. We used information from previous visits to
the college to decide the scope of the review.
We found examples of excellence which we describe in this report on page 6 and 7.
The external review team talked with learners, staff at all levels in the college, members
of the Board of Management, employers, external agencies and other users of the
2. The college and its context
In carrying out the external review of Borders College, Education Scotland took the
following college context fully into account.
Borders College is a small, rural college serving the Scottish Borders Region which
covers an area of 1,800 square miles with a population of around 113,000.
The college is the single provider of Further Education (FE) in the region and also
provides a range of higher education programmes directly or in partnership with other
institutions. The college operates across the Scottish Borders Region. Its main campus
is the Scottish Borders Campus in Galashiels, which it shares with Heriot-Watt
University. There are smaller campuses at Newtown St Boswells and Hawick and an
outreach centre in Jedburgh. The college also offers community-based programmes in
Peebles, Duns and Eyemouth.
In academic year 2013-14, the college enrolled around 1,235 full-time learners and
expects to have enrolled around 4,000 part-time learners by the end of the year.
Around 80% of the college’s funded activity is focused on full-time learners, most of
whom are young people under the age of 25 undertaking FE level programmes. The
college has seen a significant increase in learners aged 16-19 since 2010-11. These
learners made up 38% of the student population in 2012-13. Higher Education (HE)
represents 9% of the college’s funded activity.
Economic growth in the South of Scotland has lagged behind Scotland and the UK over
the past decade and growth has been driven by public services, retail, tourism and
related activities. Youth unemployment has increased significantly since 2008 although
it remains below the Scottish average. Through its FE curriculum, the college works in
partnership with the Borders Community Planning Partnership with the aim of making
the Scottish Borders a more attractive place to live and work, and to arrest the outward
migration of its young people.
The college provides a broad curriculum in FE, both in terms of vocational areas and
levels. The current college full-time FE portfolio covers programmes in art and design;
business management and administration; care; computing and information and
communications technology (ICT); construction; engineering; hairdressing and beauty
therapy; hospitality; land-based; special programmes; and sport and leisure. The
college offers full-time HE programmes in art and design; business management and
administration; care; computing and ICT; engineering; hairdressing and beauty therapy;
land-based; and sport and leisure. The college also provides a wide range of short
programmes for employers and employees, as well as apprenticeship programmes and
other work-based vocational qualifications.
In 2012-13 the college’s contracted level of activity from the Scottish Funding Council
(SFC) was 33,590 weighted student units of measurement (WSUM). The college’s
revenue budget for 2013-14 is £10.8 million, of which 75.5% is grant-in-aid from SFC.
3. Outcomes of External Review
Judgement of Effectiveness
Section A: Overarching judgement
Borders College has in place effective arrangements to maintain and enhance the
quality of its provision and outcomes for learners and other stakeholders.
This judgement means that, in relation to quality assurance and enhancement, the
college is led well, has sufficiently robust arrangements to address any identified
minor weaknesses, and is likely to continue to improve the quality of its services for
learners and other stakeholders.
Section B: Supporting statements
Learner progress and outcomes
The majority of learners complete their programmes and gain relevant qualifications.
In some subject areas success rates are amongst the best in the sector. However,
a few programmes are performing well below the national sector performance levels.
Successful completion rates for learners on full-time FE programmes remain
significantly above national sector performance level. However, although high,
successful completion rates for full-time FE and HE learners have declined over a
three-year period. Successful completion rates for part-time learners have also
fallen. The range of programmes offered meets well the needs of learners, the
wider Borders area and employers. Programmes support well transition from school
and there are very good articulation routes to HE in specific subject areas. Most
full-time learners progress into further study or employment. Learners develop their
core and essential skills well and achieve more widely through a range of other
relevant activities.
Learning and teaching processes
College programmes take good account of learner needs and a suitably wide range
of programmes supports the local economy well. Learners develop employability
skills and almost all learners undertake work placements. Almost all learners are
committed to their studies and enthusiastic about their learning. They show
independence in their learning and work well in groups. Teaching staff plan lessons
well and use their vocational and professional knowledge effectively. Positive
relationships between staff and learners contribute to a purposeful climate for
learning. Most teaching staff use an appropriate range of teaching approaches,
although in a few theory lessons, teaching approaches fail to engage all learners.
Teaching staff plan assessment well and almost all learners receive helpful
feedback on their performance. Learners make the transition to college through
effective induction activities. Most teaching staff engage positively in internal review
and self-evaluation and respond to learner feedback, taking appropriate actions to
improve the learner experience.
Learner engagement
In most lessons learners are actively engaged in enhancing and influencing
their learning experiences. Learners benefit from a toolkit of approaches used
by teaching staff to gather learners’ views and receive feedback for
improvement. Well-established Faculty Councils, chaired by an elected learner
representative, empower learners to make their views heard and shape
improvement within the college. Learners enhance their learning through
enterprise-related activities and many learners participate in personal
development and volunteering opportunities. Learners raise funds for a range
of charitable causes through fundraising activities. The college celebrates
learner achievement well. However, the college’s Students Association has a
low profile with learners.
Leadership and Quality Culture
The college works productively and extensively with local partners. It has mature,
well-developed strategic planning and quality review processes that work well for
learners, community partners and wider stakeholders. The principal and senior
managers provide strong and effective leadership. Strategies and arrangements
for leading learning and teaching are well-considered and encourage programme
teams to take responsibility for further enhancing the experience for learners. Staff
are well supported by comprehensive arrangements for continuing professional
development (CPD). Services that support learners are led well and deliver a range
of appropriate support. All staff are highly committed to an organisational culture of
quality improvement and reflective practice. The college’s programme of internal
reviews provides a very effective tool to examine specific programmes or services
and provide effective recommendations for improvement.
Section C:
Areas of positive practice
Successful completion rates for learners on full-time FE programmes have
remained high and significantly above the national sector average for the last three
years. In full-time FE and full-time HE, further withdrawal rates have improved over
three years and are now in line with or slightly better than the national sector level.
The college provides a wide range of programmes in different modes of delivery,
meeting well the challenge of providing accessible and appropriate provision to a
large rural area.
Through the Business Development Unit and faculties, the college responds
quickly and appropriately to employers, learners in work and those who are
unemployed. The college also enhances the employability of many full-time
learners by providing short certificated industry-recognised courses within
full-time programmes.
The majority of learners complete their programme successfully, gain
certificated awards and progress into further learning or employment. Learners
develop core and essential skills well, particularly employability skills developed
through placements developed in partnership with employers.
Successful completion rates are amongst the highest in the sector in a few
subject areas.
Well-designed and certificated programmes for learners with learning difficulties
ensure high rates of progress in to mainstream programmes for these learners.
Teaching staff are appropriately qualified and almost all use their vocational
expertise and professional knowledge effectively to plan and deliver lessons
Teaching staff engage well in self-evaluation and internal review of programmes.
Effective action planning for improvement within programme teams leads to
improvements for learners.
The college is committed to learner engagement and has very effective
arrangements to ensure learner views are represented well in the work and life of
the college, particularly through learner-led Faculty Councils.
The college is well led and its strategic drivers are mapped appropriately to SFC
priorities, local needs and Scottish Government national performance outcomes.
The college works very effectively in partnership with its stakeholders to achieve
these objectives.
Proactive and effective support services work very well collectively and in
collaboration with teaching teams in order to support learners on all college
The college has a strong quality culture that is led and informed well by learners and
other stakeholders. All staff are highly committed to this organisational culture of
quality improvement and reflective practice.
Managers support programme teams well to improve retention and attainment
through rigorous internal review. Staff teams are aware of declining attainment
trends in some areas and have introduced local initiatives to bring about
Section D: Areas for development
Full-time FE success rates have declined for the second year in a row.
Success rates on part-time FE and part-time HE programmes have fallen over a
three-year period, with increasing partial success and further withdrawals in
part-time programmes contributing to this decline.
In theory lessons, teaching staff do not always use a sufficiently wide range of
teaching approaches and questioning to engage all learners.
The Students Association has a low profile in the college.
Section E: Main point for action
The college should ensure the effectiveness of actions to improve
performance of those programmes with low success outcomes.
4. Signposting excellent practice
During the Education Scotland external review, the college submitted examples of what
it considered to be excellent practice and the review team also identified examples
worthy of dissemination.
During the Education Scotland external review, the college submitted examples of what
it considered to be excellent practice and the review team also identified examples
worthy of dissemination.
4.1 Enhance
Enhance is the college’s approach to CPD for qualified teaching staff. The college
introduced Enhance in 2009 to improve skills in evaluating learning and teaching and in
professional dialogue and reflection. It contains a toolkit to review learning and teaching
with learners and receive constructive feedback. Each member of teaching staff has an
Enhance portfolio and is allocated to a group of three (Tercets) to work together for the
duration of each 12 months Enhance period. Members have the opportunity to be
observed teaching by the other two and reflect on the lessons with their colleagues.
Teaching staff build a folio of structured and unstructured CPD reflections on practice
and on their work with students in evaluating their teaching practice.
The college reviews Enhance annually, following staff feedback. Its initial impact
formalised CPD entitlement for lecturing staff but also recognised the value of informal
CPD in professional development. Teaching staff value the peer support which allows
them to observe others’ techniques and share good practice such as adjusting teaching
to prepare learners better for university; demonstrating hairdressing techniques to
left-handed students; and improving understanding of the different construction trades.
Teaching staff have also benefited from sharing approaches when working with
individual learners with barriers to learning. The Enhance portfolio provides a good
basis for meaningful discussion during annual individual staff reviews with line
Enhance provides lecturers with a wide range of effective techniques to use with
learners to check understanding. For example Graffiti Boards are used extensively in
hairdressing and beauty therapy as a simple way of gaining feedback on lessons,
helping shape learning and teaching.
4.2 Faculty Councils
Faculty Councils are learner-led meetings that give learners a strong voice in the
curriculum. They have evolved into very influential committees for learning, teaching
and programme design within faculties. Faculty Council members are class
representatives and together they elect a chair of the council, always a learner. Faculty
Council members have a responsibility to gather and present the views of fellow
learners and feed back to them after the meeting. Faculty managers are required to
report to the councils on particular matters including faculty self-evaluation and
development plans, for learners’ comment. The minutes of the meetings are posted on
the college’s website and members can see progress with the issues raised. For
example, the Access Faculty Council sought an anti-bullying campaign that enabled
other learners to see beyond disability and other attributes that could be targets for
bullying. With college support, learners designed powerful posters that challenged
people to think about what they say and how they feel. The main focus of the Faculty
Councils is the curriculum where they have a significant influence. In construction, they
proved particularly useful in helping to devise a range of full-time programmes when the
number of apprenticeships declined.
There are now six Faculty Councils which meet three times a year. Their meetings are
attended by either a member of the quality staff or the Students Association Support
Officer to ensure that the learner-focused, learner-led ethos of the meetings is
4.3 Reducing the risk of exclusion through developing and delivering a range of
SCQF Credit Rated programmes
The College has made significant use of SCQF credit rating and levelling to add value to
awards devised in collaboration with partner organisations. The college approach
ensures that the awards are nationally recognised and are available for use by other
organisations through the SCQF database.
The awards are used to address circumstances where there is a high risk of exclusion
or to promote work and life skills for people with learning disabilities. They have been
developed where there has been no nationally available alternative. An example of a
programme developed to promote work skills for people with learning disabilities is
Ready for Retail SCQF Levels 1 & 2. This was designed to enable learners to develop
the skills and experience to work in a retail environment with the ultimate aim of
securing employment. This programme is offered in conjunction with a major retailer
and other employers and consists of units that candidates and their assessors/trainers
can easily follow. Since its introduction 20 of the 27 learners have found voluntary or
paid work. Other programmes developed for those with learning difficulties include the
Tenancy Award SCQF Level 3 and Introduction to the Role of the Health Care
Champion SCQF level 2. These programmes are delivered jointly with Social Work or
community service providers and have been successful in developing the confidence
and independent living skills of the learners.
The college has also credit rated a programme to support school pupils at risk of
disengagement from education. Developing Individual Performance in Sport SCQF
Level 5 is delivered by secondary schools and offers an alternative to mainstream
sports awards. The programme focuses on skills pupils have developed as a football or
rugby player and improves their understanding of sporting skill and how this develops.
One school who used this with pupils at high risk of not achieving five or more
qualifications at SCQF Level 5 reported a pass rate of 75% and high pupil engagement
with improved self-reflection.
5. What is an overarching judgement?
Education Scotland uses an overarching judgement of Effectiveness to express the
findings of the review team. The judgement of effectiveness takes into account all the
evidence gathered through the eternal review. Such judgements express outcomes as:
limited effectiveness; or
not effective.
This judgement is further detailed by supporting statements which substantiate the
judgement of effectiveness. Education Scotland evaluates and reports according to the
three key principles. In this report, the principles and supporting statements relate to:
Key principle 1 – High quality learning (supporting statements numbers 1 and 2)
Key principle 2 – Learner engagement (supporting statement number 3)
Key principle 3 – Quality culture (supporting statement number 4)
Judgements of effectiveness and supporting statements provide stakeholders with
assurances, or otherwise, about the quality of a college’s provision. These judgements
are based on trends and track record of a college, the findings at the time of the
external review, and the college’s capacity to continue improving.
A judgement of effective indicates that the college has in place effective
arrangements to maintain and enhance the quality of its provision and outcomes for
learners and other stakeholders. This judgement means that, in relation to quality
assurance and enhancement, the college is led well, has sufficiently robust
arrangements to address any minor weakness, and is likely to continue to improve the
quality of its services for learners and other stakeholders.
A judgement of limited effectiveness indicates that the effectiveness of the college’s
arrangements to maintain and enhance the quality of its provision and outcomes for
learners and other stakeholders is limited. This judgement means that there are some
strengths in the college’s arrangements for quality enhancement. However, there are
weaknesses in arrangements for high quality learning and/or learner engagement
and/or quality culture. If not addressed, the importance of these weaknesses will
continue to limit the effectiveness of the college’s arrangements.
A judgement of not effective indicates that the college’s arrangements to maintain and
enhance the quality of its provision and outcomes for learners and other stakeholders
are not effective. This judgement means that there are significant weaknesses in the
arrangements for high quality learning and/or learner engagement and/or quality culture.
There is a high probability that, without significant and comprehensive action, with
external monitoring and support, the college will fail to improve current low-quality
provision and outcomes to an acceptable level. Education Scotland does not have
evidence that the college has the capacity and commitment to identify and implement
effective and comprehensive action.
Scottish Funding Council response to judgements
If the overarching judgement is effective, the Council will expect the college to engage
with Education Scotland in follow-up activity, as appropriate, and, one year after the
publication of the review reports, to provide a report, endorsed by its governing body
(see Council guidance to colleges on quality from August 2012, paragraphs 62-66
SFC/13/2012 setting out its response to the review.)
If the overarching judgement is of limited effectiveness or is not effective, the Council
will require the institution to prepare and fulfil an action plan to address the
shortcomings identified (see paragraph 67 of guidance). Education Scotland will
provide advice to SFC on the adequacy of the action plan and on how it is being
implemented. SFC, taking into account any advice from Education Scotland, will
normally require a formal follow-up review at an appropriate time, usually within no more
than two years.
6. What happens next?
Education Scotland will continue to monitor progress during annual engagement visits to
the college.
There will be feedback to the learners at the college.
One year on from this report, the college will produce a report setting out what it has
done to address the main points for action and/or areas for development in the report
and other quality assurance and enhancement activities. There will be a link to this
report from Education Scotland’s website.
Dr Janet Davidson
HM Inspector
7. Further information
The review and judgements relate to the college as a whole and do not provide
information about individual programmes of study or subjects. For further information
on these or any other queries, contact the college or look on its website
For further information about Education Scotland, the external review methodologies, or
other information about reviews, see
For further information about the Scottish Funding Council, see –
8. How can you contact us?
This report has been produced as a web-only publication and is available on our
website at
views/BordersCollege.asp. If you would like to receive this report in a different format,
for example, in a translation please contact the administration team on 01506 600381.
If you want to give us feedback or make a complaint about our work, please contact us
by telephone on 0141 282 5000, or e-mail: [email protected] or
write to us addressing your letter to The Complaints Manager, Denholm House,
Almondvale Business Park, Livingston, EH54 6GA.
Text phone users can contact us on 01506 600236. This is a service for deaf users.
Please do not use this number for voice calls as the line will not connect you to a
member of staff.
Readability Survey
Alternatively if you are reading this report in hard copy please type the following address
into your web browser.
Crown Copyright 2014
Education Scotland
Appendix 1
Glossary of terms
Continuing Professional Development
Further Education
Higher Education
Information and Communications Technology
Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework
Scottish Funding Council
weighted student unit of measurement
Appendix 2
The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework
The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework brings together all Scottish
mainstream qualifications into a single unified framework. The framework includes:
degree provision, HNC and HND, SQA National Qualifications, and SVQs. There are
12 levels ranging from Access 1 at SCQF level 1 to Doctoral degree at SCQF level 12.
Each qualification whether a unit, group of units or larger group award has also been
allocated a number of SCQF credits. Each credit represents 10 notional hours of
required learning. Doctoral degrees based on a thesis are an exception to this.
Other learning may be credit rated and included in the framework provided it leads to a
clear set of learning outcomes and has quality-assured learner assessment. All of
Scotland’s colleges were awarded SCQF Credit Rating powers in January 2007.