HSDC, in Hampshire, is a large further education College offering nearly 40 A-level subjects, as well as vocational courses, including UAL and BTEC qualifications, and Apprenticeships delivered in partnership with leading and local national businesses.
The College is an amalgamation of Havant Sixth Form College, South Downs College, and Alton College which merged in September 2017 and again in September 2019.
Most of the students are in the 16-18 age group however there are also some 14-16-year olds and a growing adult provision. The College prides itself on providing a “good quality education, supportive sense of community, great careers advice and state of the art facilities.”
"BlueSky allows managers to see an overview of staff records across the organisation, giving an overall picture of how continuous professional learning is progressing, where there are gaps, and where individuals may require additional help and support."
Learning and Organisational Business Manager
As a merged College, management at Havant & South Downs College needed to bring uniformity to its processes and procedures across the whole organisation.
Havant had been using BlueSky since 2015, and it was introduced into South Downs in 2016, several months ahead of the merger, to begin the move to a more consistent system.
Due to the nature and size of the teaching staff in the original institutions, each used BlueSky differently. At Havant, which had 160 staff members, managers filled in the continuous professional learning (CPL) activities with objectives, and staff added their own comments subsequently.
At South Downs College, a much bigger organisation of around 500 staff, individuals wrote their own targets and managers signed them off. Upon merger, the College adopted the South Downs model. Anna Rowen, the College's Learning and Organisational Business Manager said: "Now all staff have more freedom and autonomy to establish their own targets and work towards the strategic objectives and aims of the College, and these tie into its improvement plans.
"Staff are more mindful and reflective now, and people feel they have ownership. As a result, they give more consideration to what they're working towards in the coming year."
BlueSky is enabling each member of staff to have ownership of their training and professional development.
Staff write their own objectives, mindful of their individual strengths and training needs, which gives them a focus on what they are working towards over the course of the academic year. Staff understand from this process that they have a contribution to make the College's strategic vision. The BlueSky features also allow managers to flood-fill CPL planners when staff work jointly on aspects of training – for example, around issues of compliance with equality and diversity legislation, where staff all need to upskill their knowledge.
Another feature lets individuals organise conferences and training events outside of the College, without the bureaucracy involved in form-filling and approval by line managers.
It also allows records to be easily kept up to date. BlueSky is also portable which is useful when staff are changing jobs.
BlueSky allows managers to see an overview of staff records across the organisation, giving an overall picture of how continuous professional learning is progressing, where there are gaps, and where individuals may require additional help and support. This also allows College leaders to align individuals' achievements against the strategic plans of the College.
Anna said: "I can run reports and analysis to see who has completed their CPL, and when. If it hasn't been properly completed I can ask individuals to do this, and having this overall picture means I can align the information to the strategic aims of the College."
"Some colleagues were reluctant to get on board with it, initially, because they saw it as a performance management tool, and potentially punitive, rather than supportive. We see it as a positive development and understand that performance can fluctuate, but at the same time we need to ask constantly how we can improve and support each other."
"BlueSky is the tool we use to create the performance management culture. It is not the culture itself."
"Regardless of your role, you start to grasp your own input and BlueSky helps to shape and frame this."
What's next? BlueSky have helped and supported us to ensure we maximise the potential from the tool. We look forward to working with BlueSky to develop the CPL module, and to ensure we embed the impact evaluation function so that we are better placed to measure ROI after staff complete training.
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