First snapshot of quality in education and training boards

13–12–2021

In February 2020, QQI announced plans to conduct the first-ever comprehensive quality review of the further education and training provided by Ireland’s 16 education and training boards (ETBs).  This programme of reviews evaluates the effectiveness of the quality of further education and training within ETBs and aims to encourage a quality culture that prioritises learner experience and outcomes.

Phase 1 completed

Phase 1 of the review cycle has now been completed, with 5 ETBs each having undergone a review conducted by an independent teams of national and international members convened by QQI. The quality review reports for Limerick and Clare ETB, Laois and Offaly ETB, Mayo, Sligo and Leitrim ETB, Donegal ETB and Cork ETB have now been published.

All five review teams had special praise for the enthusiasm and commitment of staff within the ETBs – for their strong focus on learners, particularly the special support of marginalised and disadvantaged groups, and in providing alternative pathways for learners. The responsiveness of the EBTs during the COVID crisis and relationship-building with industry and local community stakeholders were all commended, with an overall view that there is much good practice to build on within the ETBs.

Dr Padraig Walsh, CEO of QQI, highlighted the importance of the ETB review process and welcomed the engagement by the 5 ETBs with a process that is intended to drive continual improvements for the benefit of learners:

“These initial statutory reviews are a critical milestone for the sector involving review teams of national and international experts as well as representatives of learners and the world of work. It is an opportunity for individual ETBs to establish plans for continuous improvement of their quality assurance infrastructure, policies, procedures and teaching, learning and support services. 

The feedback from staff and stakeholders highlight that the quality review process has added significant value.  The recommendations of the review reports, along with the follow-up implementation plans and progress reports will all have a positive impact in moving the ETBs from exclusively programme-based quality assurance to institutional level oversight of quality assurance.”

Recommendations

Despite this being only the first phase of review of the sixteen ETBs, some key common key recommendations are already emerging across the sector:

  • A recurring theme, to be addressed with some urgency, is the system’s capacity for new programme design and development, and review of existing programmes. While there is evidence of some degree of responsiveness to local and industry needs, limited programme development or review has raised concerns in respect of the currency of programme portfolios.
  • While progress has been made in developing ETB-wide quality assurance (QA) policies and procedures, this work should be accelerated with the creation of a comprehensive QA system at ETB level. Legacy culture and practices can have a negative impact on collaboration and engagement within individual ETBs
  • ETBs’ engagement with learners and other external stakeholders should be systematic, enhanced and broadened.  Engagement tends to be variable across the sector and learner groups.
  • While there are good and positive relationships between learners and teaching staff, implementation of learner feedback mechanisms, supports and access, transfer and progression pathways can be inconsistent.  Measures should be taken to improve equity of experience and opportunities for learners across all ETB centres.
  • A more strategic and systematic approach should be taken to identifying and meeting professional development needs.  The existing community of practice approach in some ETBs could be extended with greater impact.
  • Data from existing platforms such as the Programme Learner Support System could be used more meaningfully to support strategic decision-making.  Integrating the learner voice within governance systems, systematic approaches to learner surveys, improved internal and external communications, access to public information, and benchmarking within and across ETBs are all measures that can help ensure consistency of experience for learners.
  • Underdevelopment of monitoring and self-evaluation was noted as an area of concern requiring an ETB-wide policy and process to underpin internal monitoring.  This was identified in initial institutional self-evaluation reports and confirmed by reports the expert review team reports.

Phase 2 of the review cycle has already commenced with expert review teams virtually visiting the following ETBs during November and December: Cavan and Monaghan ETB, Waterford and Wexford ETB, Kerry ETB and Kilkenny and Carlow ETB.

Click here to read the reports from phase 1 of the education and training board quality reviews.