An independent provider has topped the TES FE Awards for the first time, winning the catergory sponsored by the Education and Training Foundation
By Alan Thomson
If further education and training excels in giving second chances to those who feel let down by the schools system, then ELATT Connected Learning (pictured) provides still more opportunities for those who struggle in mainstream FE.
ELATT, based in east London, became the first independent provider to be named as FE Provider of the Year in the recent TES FE Awards, a category sponsored by the Education and Training Foundation. ELATT also won the award for employer engagement.
Anthony Harmer, ELATT’s chief executive, said the charity specialises in delivering IT courses, English, maths, and ESOL to the long-term unemployed and groups such as asylum seekers. A number also have special educational needs and disabilities.
“For some, larger providers can be intimidating. We are a small organisation and offer a manageable learning environment and a lot of personalised support from our staff,” he said.
“Many students have a high level of needs and we need good continuing professional development for our staff. We try to fit it around staff and most of it is ungraded because we focus on development rather than scoring.”
Anthony, a former college ESOL teacher, believes that ELATT’s personalised approach to learners and staff might be applied to larger learning organisations with the appropriate support from leadership.
“We have a lot of non-accredited courses and so we try to measure things like the improvement in students’ confidence and positivity, and their ability to build relationships, by using surveys and interviews,” he said.
Another category sponsored by ETF was for ‘Best Teaching and Learning Initiative’, which was won by Forth Valley College, based in central Scotland, for its creative teaching initiative (pictured).
Principal Dr Ken Thomson explained how teaching staff were given ‘permission’ to think beyond the standard 40 hours of modular delivery – an approach that has seen creative, crossdepartmental learning flourish.
“Our make-up students helped our timber technology students do presentations on the importance of health and safety in the workplace – some of the effects were straight out of The Walking Dead!” he said.
“We even had sports science students working with construction on warm-up exercises for builders to help cut down on injuries at work.”
The college, which won the Beacon Award for Innovation in Further Education in 2014, felt sufficiently confident in the robustness of its internal and external quality and assessment processes and metrics to able
to give staff the freedom to experiment in their teaching.
“The senior management accepted the risks and that allowed us to go to staff and say let’s do something different, something creative,” he said.
“In another example, our computer science students went for a weather balloon altitude record that included them designing an on-board computer and filming the ascent by drone,” he said.
“Many providers turn out computer science students with good HNDs, but how many have been involved in a project to break a world altitude record?”
Judith Doyle, principal of Gateshead College (pictured above with comedian Shappi Khorsandi), won the FE Leader of the Year category, sponsored by ETF.
Paul McTernan, the complex needs course manager at Barnet and Southgate College, was awarded Teacher of the Year.