College looks to tech to deliver SAR process

Online solution developed by Newcastle-under-Lyme College in collaboration with Compass Computer Consultants

Just over four  years ago, Newcastle-under-Lyme College decided to review how self assessment reports (SARs) were written. By relying on Word templates and print outs of statistics from MIS, the SAR was typically written when results were being finalised between September and October (often the busiest period for staff), which then led to an action plan being devised. Inconsistencies arising from staff edits and various copies circulating at the same time created confusion, and it was not uncommon for staff to attend meetings with out-of-date versions of the same SAR.

Even when the SAR was finally completed it was too late to implement an action plan based on the findings. Invariably, the late SAR(s) would be left gathering dust in a drawer, having zero effect on shaping future strategy.

The College, which has 4,000 students and 300 staff, developed its own in-house system to streamline this process and overcome some of the obstacles that can arise including staff using varying sets of data and different criteria to Ofsted. The system was also intended to reduce time-consuming administration associated with paper-based processes.

Compass Computer Consultants, a leading provider of FE software, partnered with the College to develop an online SARs system. The ProSAR system can be fully customised to meet the needs of any college, with different data, questions and reports.

ProSAR was launched by Compass in 2014 and is a web-based application, which runs on college intranets to allow staff, such as heads of departments, to evaluate the effectiveness of the courses they manage. The solution is aimed at making the self-assessment process, which is key for Ofsted inspections, easier, quicker and more effective.

Compass enhanced the system to enable colleges to configure it to their specific needs with the ability to refine the questions for different members of staff. A customisable dashboard was also created to provide an instant graphical view of key performance indicators.

Martin Lawrie, Head of Learning and Quality Systems from Newcastle-Under-Lyme College, said: “With ProSAR in place, we will have access to a centralised online system which is fully compliant with Ofsted criteria. This ensures there is only ever one ‘version of the truth’. Those completing self-assessments are also reassured that they are using centrally validated data to make better informed decisions based on the College Inspection Framework.”

ProSAR  provides intuitive reporting capabilities to display a teacher’s predicted success rate earlier in the academic year, rather than waiting for exam results, which gives the College more time to implement action plans before the next academic year starts.

In addition managers can monitor the self-assessment process and compare performance against action plans to assist them with improving the quality of teaching and overcome barriers to learning.

Lawrie adds, “ProSAR will undoubtedly save us time by creating an easy and effective online process which eliminates unnecessary paperwork. Implementing the ProSAR system will help us to maintain and improve our success rates and will also be a vital contribution in preparing for future Ofsted inspections.”

The College also uses three other Compass solutions which help them to record and analyse lesson observations, monitor students’ progress and analyse the College’s success, retention and achievement.

Compass is an Advanced Computer Software Group company. For further information please visit: