Leading curriculum change ‘from the middle’

EMA’s Bradley Kendrick recently contributed to the Natspec Quality Times and gave some insight to his role at EMA and what he learnt from completing the Natspec SEND Leadership Programme.

Lifted Directly from Quality Times – Issue 7.

“Bradley Kendrick, Senior Tutor at Employ My Ability, explains how the learning he has taken from the Natspec SEND Leadership Programme has empowered him to lead a comprehensive curriculum improvement programme.

I have recently been fortunate enough to complete the Natspec SEND Leadership Programme, which took place across the academic year 2021/2. It has been a really powerful learning experience. Most importantly it has shown me that I can make changes even though I only sit in the middle of the organisation.

The course brought me into face-to-face contact with colleagues from other colleges and felt like a step back to reality after almost two years of working with people at a distance. Alongside the full group sessions, we worked in online action learning sets, small groups of colleagues who could bounce ideas off one another, learn from each other’s experiences and share good practice. We were also assigned a coach to work with through the year on any difficulties, projects or situations that arose and support us with how to deal with them. Initially I thought that coaching would be about helping me improve skills I already had; in reality it was very different. My coach for the programme, Jane, wasn’t there to tell me what to do but instead she provided me with the platform to explore my thought processes and my own journey when it came to solving problems and implementing changes within our education provision.

I started to view things differently. Previously as a tutor my focus was simply what was happening in the classroom and not the bigger picture. The coaching and the action learning sets enabled me to talk through my ideas with others from different environments and hear about their experiences. Having this amazing support network gave me the confidence to lead significant changes at Employ My Ability. I’d had ideas about improvements that might be needed but the leadership programme gave me the impetus to follow through and take action. Already I’ve led the successful implementation of a universal form of standardisation including lesson plans, schemes of work and group profiles and I’ve introduced a peer collaboration programme, none of which was really in place before. I now lead on the writing of courses as well as supporting education and work experience staff to begin writing their own courses.

Going forward into the next academic year we will be changing how we deliver our curriculum and ensuring that what is covered on site is more in line with the skill development that happens on our internal and external work experience placements. We have often discussed as a team how the learning outcomes on accredited courses don’t provide our young adults with what they actually need to gain employment after they leave us. We are now creating our own in-house vocational courses that will ensure the skills covered link to what employers are looking for. We will also be changing the way in which we deliver our own in-house courses. Using the Preparation for Adulthood model, we will be incorporating a number of sessions into one that provides opportunities for students to meet goals that our previous curriculum was not supporting them to achieve. We will now be focusing on the specific areas of learning relevant to our students and identifying the essential practical skills each will need to have the best possible chance of progressing within the course and meeting their outcomes. We will then be able to plan the delivery of Functional Skills to link in with the vocational courses and the new in-house course to ensure the skills are transferable and relevant.

This new way of working has been greatly influenced by feedback from our student council on the curriculum. They have told us what they do and don’t enjoy, and we have been able to use this information to guide the change in our curriculum. They wanted a bigger focus on practical learning in the classroom and a better link between the classroom and the workplace. I think we will be delivering exactly that once the change programme is fully implemented. All of these changes amount to significant quality improvement of our provision. I believe they will ensure that when our young adults begin seeking employment, they will have a wider and more relevant bank of skills, giving them a greater chance of getting work.

As a result of the SEND Leadership Programme, I felt able to lead curriculum improvement from my middle manager position. Whilst it may seem like a cliché, the programme has given me the confidence to make decisions, deal with hurdles that arise and be more reflective in my role.

Find out more about the Natspec SEND leadership programme here.”

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