I attended the review session of a Peer Review and Development Group formed by three local authority adult education services:
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire and the WEA’s Southern Region. The group, which has met for well over a year, reported on the developments they had shared around self assessment, observation of teaching & learning and RARPA (Recognising & Recording Progress and Achievement on non-accredited learning).
It has been a very successful piece of work – which covered the period where all four had been inspected by Ofsted. It reinforced the value of honest self assessment and effective observation in driving improvement and there was a genuine and significant effort to respond to comments from Ofsted in each provider’s inspection about RARPA. Alongside that, it was an excellent piece of reflective continuing professional development by the colleagues involved.
However, for me, it also raised questions on the whole direction of self-regulation and the extent to which providers, working honestly to improve, need to be ready to challenge demands made by regulators and inspectors.
The RARPA situation is a particular case that I have written about before. The LSC's original statement on RARPA says that it intends to 'put the experience, aspirations and success of learners at the heart of what we do’. In reality we know that decisions by the Information Authority at the request of Ofsted have made the learner central only in the way a fish is central to the activities of an industrial fishing fleet. If the reductionism of regulators' view of RARPA continues, how can anyone be sure the approach is valued by tutors or learners? Whilst the last couple of years has at last shown we are at the limits of managerialism, ‘outstanding’ practice in RARPA seems now to require more extensive moderation than some GCSEs with none of the 'currency' provided by the qualification. The confirmation that Ofsted will not inspect provision that has no public funding suggests that this is either about driving non-accredited learning out of the hands of people on modest incomes or about finding ways to get through tick-box AKA ‘light touch’ inspections.
The implementation of the Learning Revolution gives us the opportunity to challenge the sorry slide in the direction of RARPA and refocus attention on devising great teaching and learning experiences for adults that they recognise as being of value.