Katie Wilden is the Quality and Professional Learning Manager for West Suffolk College, part of the Suffolk Academy Trust. She explains how staff and learners are benefiting from the corporate partnership with the Society for Education and Training (SET) and how it has brought an extra layer of professionalism to everything they do.
As part of the teacher training team, I already knew the importance of embedding the Education and Training Foundation’s (ETF’s) Professional Standards into the teacher training provision at West Suffolk College. When I took on the role of professional learning manager, I was keen to embed these standards across every aspect of the college. I also recognised that within our sector, our team and staff need to be almost dual or tri professional. Along with their subject specialism, staff are required to be digitally trained, highly skilled, and highly professional individuals.
Being a corporate partner has brought the extra layer of professionalism that we needed as a college. It has also been great to build up a relationship with SET and have one main contact we can go to within the organisation. This enabled us to fully understand the partnership and the benefits of SET membership to our staff and learners.
The impact of being a SET Corporate Partner
The biggest impact that the corporate partnership has brought to the college has been a huge awareness and education of what the membership body can do for learners and staff.
As well putting Professional Standards at the forefront of everything we do, we invited staff to complete SET’s online self-assessment so they could see where they started. We then map this to something called ‘My CPD PICNIC’, which is an acronym for:
P = Professional Standards
I = Industry Related
C = Compulsory
N = New Learning
I = Special Interests
C = Core to West Suffolk College
The corporate partnership allows us to support staff to look at every aspect of their PICNIC and make sure they are giving equal time to each of their training needs. They can then look at their CPD PICNIC journey for the year ahead and map their goals and targets to their professional status and Professional Standards.
The second area that we have looked at is our lesson observations, which has been about getting the right vocabulary and professional language across to our staff members, to identify what areas they’re doing well in. In doing this, we can share good practice across the college and look at identifying areas where we need to improve. I think that’s been the highlight for us – our partnership with SET has allowed us to collaborate further, quicker and more effectively. Working in the pandemic has enhanced that, because what it has allowed us to do is to network so much quicker and more inclusively.
Access to dedicated content and resources
Our corporate partnership also gives us access to useful content, resources and links and helps us connect with other SET members via the SET website and its online communities. We have also taken part in several SET and ETF webinars and discussion groups with colleges all over the UK.
Because the SET Conference 2020 was held as a digital event, we were able to increase the number of staff who could attend. We could dip in and out throughout the day and get that ‘live’ experience, but we could also watch it on demand as well. Because we were a corporate partner, we also got a hugely discounted rate, which increased that inclusivity when it came to who was able to go.
As part of our corporate partnership, we also receive regular newsletters which includes information on how many SET members are applying for QTLS and ATS. I find this really useful in terms of me being able to report this back to the organisation and also to understand the buy-in from staff members at the college.
We have had a lot of staff attend webinars and training via the ETF and through this we try to feed back to staff and share good practice. If someone has done a particular training they have endorsed, we will also feature it in our monthly CPD newsletter.
Raising the professional status of Further Education (FE) teachers
In a world where we are often overloaded with information, you can spend quite a lot of time trying to find resources or something relevant to our sector. A lot of journals that come out are sometimes linked to primary and secondary school sectors, and you are trying to almost adapt what you are reading for our sector, whereas when I look at ETF and SET, I know already that it’s representing my sector. I feel like it is helping to raise that professional standard and professional status of FE teachers.
It is also enhancing the work that I am trying to achieve at the college, because I have got the evidence and support behind it. The inTuition journals are great to pick up, flick through and read about what other people are doing in their role.
We have also been involved in some of the research projects as well, such as mentoring training. It has been great to watch the staff blossom and get excited about doing additional work, knowing they inform their practice and their students’ practice, which also then feeds back into the college. Overall, it is so worthwhile to give these additional tools to staff members to do more, and I think that’s really encouraging.
Our future with SET
After 18 successful months as a SET Corporate Partner, we are due to renew our contract. Initially we weren’t sure how staff were going to react to it, but because there has been an overwhelming response from our staff about the benefits of our partnership, we are planning on increasing our membership numbers for this year. I am looking forward to seeing what further benefits we will be able to take up as part of this partnership and I know that we will reap the rewards of the partnership as we have done already.