Executive Summary Report – Peer Review – Highlands College, Jersey
This summary paper is presented to the Minister of Children, Young People, Education and Skills Department, Jersey (CYPES). It provides high level feedback on the progress made by Highlands College Jersey (HCJ) and offers a stakeholder perspective on the colleges progress towards strategic goals. Perspectives are shared from stakeholder meetings held with members of the peer review team1 in March 2023.
Peer Review Key Findings
Student achievement at 88% and positive destinations at 93%, are high and above comparable UK benchmarks2, strong financial management is in place, and the college serves all stakeholders well. Staff have good relationships with their students and respond positively to continuous quality improvement, they possess the skills and attributes that are valued by students, and they are supported by leaders, in their professional and industry development. Student satisfaction rates at the college are high and students benefit from good pastoral support and enrichment. Staff at HCJ have made strong progress in recent years, raising the quality of education and training to good by implementing the ‘Highlands Approach’, relationships with employers are proactive and the impact of this is seen in apprenticeship achievements, which are excellent at over 90%.
A high and growing number of employers and community stakeholders are involved in the development and delivery of programmes at the college, this demonstrates the desire to develop young people, ensuring they have fulfilling futures and rewarding careers, to sustain the islands economy. Leaders are continuing to develop the creative teaching strategies that will deliver outstanding teaching and learning, create inspirational learning environments and rollout the delivery of the future skills framework. In addition, they will need to consider the sustainability of HCJ in its ‘widest’ sense, to include the sustainability of an education and training offer that continues to be up to date for the future of all stakeholders’ needs, within both a financially and environmentally sustainable campus. Views shared in stakeholder meetings1 signposted actions and opportunities for HCJs journey to be an outstanding college of the future, these are summarised below:
1. Sustainable – Learning environments and technology
Management of the college buildings is hampered by high maintenance and running costs which, the management continue to invest in. It is well understood that the third HCJ strategic ambition, ‘to achieve financial sustainability and a new campus’, will be difficult to achieve in a challenging economic environment, where competing demands are at play for the public purse. The Minister and CYPES are committed to the development of an efficient and inspirational college footprint, and one which is both financially and environmentally sustainable, so too are other stakeholders.
1 see Peer Review, April 2023 detailed report
2 see UK National Achievement Rate tables, 2021/22 release March 2023
The review team identified that spaces used to deliver high quality education and training at the college are variable, with a few learning environments requiring improvement. Restrictions of the buildings lead to some classrooms being smaller than required for the number of students within the group. The requirements of the physical estate are influenced by advancements in education and training, this includes delivering curriculum change, meeting environmental and technological needs. Leaders and staff at HCJ continue to strive towards the ambition of a new campus, in the meantime they continue to work towards the developmental plan for the current college site and must continue to invest in existing learning environments.
The extension of funding up to the age of 19 and a recognition of support for SEN students to the age of 25 by CYPES, has been welcomed by stakeholders as a positive step to support a more equal and inclusive access to education and training. There is a need to expand adult skills training and although HCJ is well versed in blended learning, reviewers found that delivery now makes up a small proportion of student’s programmes. Leaders are now working proactively with Guernsey to develop blended learning opportunities and should continue to explore blended learning for all stakeholders, including some adult groups who wish to have flexible access to education and training.
2. Sustainable – Funding models
CYPES has begun to address some of the challenges associated with 16-18 funding, to ensure HCJ students receive a more equitable funding per capita in line with those of the same age at other providers on the Island. The college (its staff and sites) is seen by stakeholders as the protagonist for providing solutions to the Jersey skills shortages. HCJ provided an exceptional response to deliver fiscal stimulus programmes in 2021/22 and the impact of this was outstanding at a 96% achievement rate. HCJ leaders and employers are currently exploring ways to demonstrate a return on investment for skills provision, this is encouraged and together with improvements in labour market intelligence, will guide future curriculum intent for adults. Expansion of adult skills provision however, requires a sustainable funding model to be in place.
Short term funding may plug skills gaps, but this inhibits the procurement of cutting-edge technology and, timely staff recruitment that enables HCJ to be agile and responsive to the Islands skills needs. The review team noted two other challenges faced by HCJ, the funding for apprenticeships and the funding of higher education, in both cases the funding is lower than the cost. Those studying higher education are funded at lower rates than the UK and because of higher staffing costs, this puts a strain on what HCJ can provide to ensure those who stay on Island receive an equitable experience. Both qualification types were recognised by stakeholders as critical for the Island to grow its own talent.
3. Sustainable – Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours
The many strengths of vocational and technical education at HCJ were clear to the review team but the University College Jersey brand and offer is underdeveloped. There are opportunities to deliver a greater range of professional and higher technical qualifications and to grow HE recruitment. In partnership with the island’s employers, models for expansion of HE should also be explored, where a part-time credit-based offer will underpin lifelong, flexible learning. The college has already begun to explore pan-island relationships and the development of qualifications for joint delivery, this aims to include technological innovation beyond current methods, such as immersive technology which will provide learning experiences that are inspirational and sustainable. This development may require technical partners from the UK or further afield, plus employers who will direct up to date content requirements.
Curriculum mapping across the islands to identify strengths and gaps in provision might be undertaken, this will pinpoint future work matched to skills needs for both islands. Working alongside researchers and awarding bodies, the new innovative Jersey International Future Skills Programme has been introduced, conceptually this will, through personalised, project and enquiry-based approaches, develop individuals for lifelong learning beyond that of qualifications. Reviewers visited lessons and the programme has started well. Employers said they are keen to know more about this programme and a potential next step is adaptation for a workplace or adult audience. The future skills programme may also aid the imminent Jersey’s Digital Economy Strategy.
Staff at the college should be complimented on their achievements of the strategic plan to date, and for their dedication to ensure the very best for students. Discussions in the review revolved around sustainability, where many actions will require partnerships and support from the government and the community the college serves.