Gazelle’s ‘supportive’ report from the ETF to remain private

An allegedly “supportive” report by the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) on Gazelle will not be made public with both organisations refusing to release the document.

The existence of a report by the ETF on Gazelle’s leadership development programme came to light in an expert piece written for FE Week by Gazelle Colleges Group chair Stella Mbubaegbu, who is also principal at Highbury College — one of Gazelle’s 23 member colleges.

She claimed the report was “supportive” in response to an FE Week story in which the University and College Union questioned the amount of public money being spent on Gazelle with member colleges having dished out more than £3.5m to the organisation.

Gazelle chief executive Fintan Donohue defended the organisation at the time, claiming “enrichment of student experiences and outcomes” was its “overriding goal”.

However, both the ETF, which recently awarded the Gazelle Foundation a £1m learning technology contract , and Gazelle refused to hand out the allegedly “supportive” report.

A Gazelle spokesperson said it was a “matter for the ETF,” while an ETF spokesperson said the report was written for “internal purposes,” and she also refused to comment on whether it was indeed supportive.

She said: “The ETF will publish reports from time to time. We also commission research and evaluations for a range of internal purposes, including informing our own procurement and programme design. Internal and external reports are different types of work. This was a report for internal purposes.”

The Gazelle spokesperson said: “The report has been seen by Gazelle. We are happy that it is very positive about the benefits of the programme to participants, as well as highlighting areas for improvement, and hopeful that it will help shape the conclusions of the wider ETF work around leadership in the sector.”

It comes the same week ETF chief executive David Russell defended the £1m learning technology contract being awarded to the Gazelle Foundation, which was created to take on the not-for-profit activities of the Gazelle Colleges Group.

Mr Russell, who approached FE Week to defend the learning technology contract going to Gazelle, said: “I read the papers. I know there is scepticism in some quarters about Gazelle, who will lead the consortium on this delivery work for us. I understand some teachers and lecturers have asked pointed questions about whether Gazelle deliver on their promises, and about whether they always act in the interests of learners.”

He added: “They [Gazelle and its partners] won the contract because their bid was convincing in the depth of knowledge and understanding it displayed; dynamic and innovative; pedagogy-focused not technology-focused; and above all with learner benefit at its heart.

“This programme will provide support across the education and training sector, including colleges, private training providers and others (it is not aimed at any particular group of providers).

“Gazelle will be assisted by its consortium partners — the Association of Colleges, Association of Employment and Learning Providers , 157 Group, and National Foundation for Educational Research, together with a wider steering group that they are convening to oversee the programme.”

The Gazelle Foundation has also won five other ETF contracts, totalling £168k, for work including strategic consultation on learning companies, and two stages of strategic consultation on vocational education training, technology in teaching and higher level apprenticeships.

It claims to, “develop innovative new learning models and new partnerships with business to deliver an improved outcome for students, their communities and the economy”.

Mr Donohue said: “The ETF’s learning technology programme will give a boost to innovation and the sharing of best practice across the sector.

“By coordinating input from teachers and leaders across all of the education and training sector, employers and the technology industry around the emerging themes for development, Gazelle hopes it can contribute to the success of the programme.

“The Feltag [Further Education Learning Technology Action Group] report makes the challenge for our sector clear. The ETF has a clear vision on what they want from the programme and we are pleased to be working very closely with them to deliver their requirements. We look forward to bringing all our energy and networks together to help the ETF achieve its vision in the year ahead.”