The chances are that if you come across Abi Lammas in a professional capacity, then you are probably taking steps to improve your organisation.
It’s her job to help providers who are experiencing difficulties or those who simply want to tweak their service with a view to improvement.
Abi is one of nine Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) regional development managers – a job she has held for nearly three years.
“We work to support learning and skills providers in each English region so that they obtain the best advice and support on quality improvement, promoting the whole menu of LSIS programmes and services,” she said.
“We signpost providers to the best sources of help and support. I have a lot of experience working on various LSIS national programmes, including the QCF Readiness Programme and the National Teaching and Learning Programme.”
It’s a role that involves a number of tasks for Abi, ensuring wide variation at the office and out and about.
She could be dealing with nearly a dozen providers every month as they bid to raise standards.
“Part of my role is to support the improvement adviser service,” said Abi.
“I lead the implementation of the improvement and development service within my region.
“This means I work on ensuring providers make full use of the range of improvement services we offer.
“I work with a variety of providers and colleges cover about a third of my workload.”
She added: “On a monthly basis, I probably work closely with seven to ten colleges performing tasks such as diagnosing potential problems before they become substantial, or working closely with improvement partner colleges in order to encourage them to play a greater role in supporting other sector organisations.
I work on ensuring providers make full use of the range of improvement services we offer”
“No two days are the same for me. I could be doing any number of tasks, from meeting with senior college management, to conducting a case review with a failing organisation, to writing presentations.”
The help that Abi and her fellow regional development managers can give providers has even been credited with boosting Ofsted grades.
Their expertise covers a host of provider issues, including teaching, learning & assessment, leadership, management & governance, and organisational performance.
“My advice for all providers with any queries is turn to your LSIS regional development manager,” said Abi.
“For example, ensuring excellent leadership, management and governance is one of LSIS’s priorities for the sector and we can provide the support corporations may need.
“We offer a range of support packages in response to the issues the sector faces.”
Q&A with Abi Lammas, LSIS regional development officer
Are there any common problems you come across among colleges and training providers?
I find that problems tend to rear their heads at the same time because they are triggered by national changes, such as in policy.
If an organisation isn’t prepared for the changes they can be caught out.
Issues in English, maths and ESOL can also be an issue for many organisations.
Finally, lack of aligning operational processes to the college vision and strategy can have a huge impact on the quality of an organisation, often robust processes may be present, but they are not being linked up or implemented correctly.
Are there any problems that appear to be becoming more common among providers, or do you expect there to be?
A common problem now is the need to improve teaching, learning and assessment in light of Ofsted’s new common inspection framework.
Through engaging with the LSIS teaching and learning programme organisations are supported to embed a culture of great teaching and learning which, of course, results in positive outcomes for learners.
Some college corporations may need some guidance on how to respond to the new freedoms and flexibilities that have been introduced to the sector and governing bodies need to feel confident to ask teaching and learning staff challenging questions about quality.
Are there any common successes that could be repeated at other colleges?
Yes, there are a number of them that can be replicated at other colleges.
To replicate success, providers need to have a whole organisational approach, to have ‘buy-in’ from their senior management team, corporation and college, and the ability to build capacity. However, they need to believe in the support they receive from LSIS.
I’d advise any organisation that seeks support from us to invest in the time and vision needed to make the support work.
If you take a whole organisation approach we can make a difference, in fact Skills Funding Agency-funded providers who receive help from us go up on average by one grade at their next Ofsted inspection.
What are the big challenges that colleges face?
There are three challenges for colleges that come to mind. One is that some may feel they need support, but aren’t sure what support they need or where to find it. Another is understanding the implications of policy and how to contextualise it in order to implement it at an organisational level.
And, of course, time and money can always be a big challenge.
I’d advise any organisation to get in touch with their regional development manager to access support from LSIS. We can work with the individual organisation to draw up and develop the best possible solutions from the range of services and support available.
Also, don’t forget to get involved in the networks in the region. These are rich in provider experience and an opportunity for peer support.