The reason stems from two previous initiatives: the London Schools Challenge and a preliminary study ‘London FE Excellence Challenge’ undertaken by AoC London and its partners in 2013-14. The former has been praised as the reason why London’s schools have developed from some of the worst in the country to some of the best. A key aspect of the initiative was the use of expert advisors to drive the quality improvement process. The latter study focused on action research designing and testing whether a similar advisory model could be used in further education.
The outcomes of the action research showed that using an expert advisor can help providers focus their work and deliver tangible outcomes in a short space of time. The independent viewpoint of the advisor was seen as beneficial in pushing the limits of a two-dimensional peer-to-peer work. Overall, the advisory model received very good feedback from the pilot colleges involved in the action research.
The advisory model in OTLA was tailored to respond to the specific requirements of the project. A total of 10 peer advisors were appointed to enable them to contribute substantially to the work of 20 operational projects, which brought together over 60 organisations across the London education and training sector. To ensure consistency across the work of the peer advisors and an effective support system, two excellence advisors were selected to oversee the quality improvement process. The selected peer advisors and excellence advisors all came with extensive experience of working in the education and training sector.
In addition to bringing in external advisors, the project consortium was keen to start developing practitioners involved in the operational project into expert advisors. The operational projects each nominated an associate peer advisor who – with the support of the peer advisors – could lead on the quality improvement process and help sustain the outcomes of the operational projects.
Whether the OTLA advisory model has been helpful in supporting quality improvement in teaching, learning and assessment, in which ways, and how it can be developed further will be assessed by the Institute of Education towards the end of the project.
By Riikka Vihriala, Junior Projects Manager, AoC London