Management quality

This report sets out to critically evaluate the notion and management of quality within Further Education and Post-16 education. It looks at the two competing ideas of quality, that of an absolute standard to achieve and that of quality as a behaviour. It suggests that there is tension between the formal political intention and the reality of teaching delivery. By trying to define the quality imperative, the reasons for continual change and development and the effect it has upon practitioners are examined and the implications for management.

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It poses the question of who is best placed to manage quality and change. It concludes that FE provision is deeply regulated and monitored. It also suggests that a bipolar approach to quality is a solution and relies upon efficient links between all parties. On balance imposed quality does have a positive effect upon provision and the implications for professionals that embrace the inspection regime could benefit from it and subsequently the student. Introduction

Since 1995 following the new Labour Government commitment to education, there has been a trend to demonstrate greater accountability in most educational institutions and at all levels within the educational system in England. This emphasis on accountability has fuelled the acceleration for inspections and auditing of educational institutions none more so than in Further Education. A continuing emphasis on issues such as cost reduction and customer service improvement and management of quality within the Further Education sector is evident, as successive governments seek to control and justify public expenditure and increase value for money.

These major changes and the demanding implications of achieving expected performance targets bring with them significant management issues. This report seeks to critically review concepts of quality and its management in the English further education system, more specifically the post 16 sector and the impact of quality imperatives imposed on the sector such as Ofsted inspection and QAA review.

West-Burnham (et al 2002 p, 313) suggest that the first significant text on the place of quality within education can be traced back to Plato’s Republic, where working on a clear well developed paradigm and philosophical model is indicated by a gold standard. Plato states that quality is an absolute that can only be understood by the elite, the “philosophers-kings,” which transcends into actual practice. This suggests that not only can quality be defined but is also aspirational in terms of perfectibility and that aspiration to a utopian state of perfection is achievable.