Brent Adult and Community Education Services (BACES) had a problem with its English for Speakers of other Languages (ESOL) provision. Learners often arrived late and disrupted the sessions - or even worse, learners' attendance was so poor that it affected their progression on the programme and made it much less likely that they would achieve. Brent decided to take a strong line on punctuality and non-attendance, introducing a whole range of measures to tackle the problem. And what BACES did could easily be adapted by most training providers, in whatever the context they work.

The good practice in detail

ESOL Students We all know the importance of introducing a learning session well - to “Rev people up and get them ready for learning,” as Sir Christopher Frayling puts it (ArtsWork documentary, ALI 2006). So if learners are late their learning experience is never going to be as rich as it could be. More importantly, persistent lateness and/or absence is either an indication of unmet support needs or a poor attitude to the learning programme overall - both of which can trigger a downward spiral to almost certain underachievement. So what is it that BACES have come up with to reverse their learners' spiral?

Firstly, it recognised that attendance and punctuality on its ESOL courses were poor, and well below national averages. Then working in partnership with Hillingdon Adult Education Service (where the idea and policy originated) BACES started to look at how improvements could be made.

Why not download the Q-box Action Plan for this example and make notes as you read.

Q-BOXHow do you rev your learners up and get them ready for learning? Do your learners really miss anything important if they are 10 minutes late? How can you make the beginnings of your lessons unmissable?

How it works

Staff put together a very useful overview for what they saw as important and the ways in which they wanted to operate an attendance and punctuality procedure. This overview concludes with a review of how the procedure is implemented and what to look out for when operating such a procedure.

Want to win a prize? BACES realised that it was central to the success of the initiative that staff applied the procedures fairly and consistently. To help with this aspect, ‘golden rules' for staff were drawn up on how the scheme should work. Clear guidelines for attendance and punctuality and a useful punctuality flow chart form a structured framework in which to operate the procedures. Tutors and administration staff also benefit from standardised forms and letters to help them apply the system efficiently:

The process is not meant to be an oppressive regime, but to encourage good patterns of behaviour. BACES fosters healthy competition between individuals and groups by offering prizes, certificates and recognition of good attendance in newsletter and website pieces.

From the outset, BACES was clear that learners who are not attending regularly or whose punctually is detrimental to those learners who want to achieve will not be kept on its books. And the bottom line is that the introduction of this approach to improved punctuality and attendance has had a positive impact on the learners' experience. By withdrawing poor attendees and latecomers who do not make sufficient effort to improve, BACES has given a clear message to those who are left studying. The following case study shows how learners' have responded to the new initiative.

Q-BOXHow do you ensure that all your staff give out the same messages about attendance and punctuality? Is your system transparent to both staff and learners? Are your alert systems easy to use? Are your learners clear about the implications of poor attendance and punctuality? How do you reward learners for their good attendance and timekeeping? What aspects of this case study could you use to improve your provision?

Uploaded - July 2008

What could you do next to improve your provision?

Answering all of the italicised questions in the Q boxes above will help you begin to health-check your current practice. Download all of the linked documents, compare them with your own or adapt them for your own use. Write a short action plan to get you from where you are now (what is good and what needs improving) to where you want to be.

The Building Better Practice (BBP) web resource is a great place to start if you want to benchmark yourself against other providers. It will show you the most common inspection strengths and weaknesses for each issue or topic, an analysis of the good practice found on inspection and a series of health-check questions to help you establish how you compare to others. Look specifically at how you could use BBP to improve your learners' achievement and standards and to consider equal opportunities in the monitoring of retention, achievement and success rates.

Actions for Quality Improvement (AQI) is a set of activities with resources around which you can run staff development sessions with your teams. The activities cover all aspects of the learner's journey and will help your staff embed quality improvement in the heart of your provision. Look specifically at how you could use AQI to improve your learners' achievement.

If you need more help, ideas and resources for the process of self assessment then look at the Learner-Centred Self Assessment (LCSA) materials. This is a web-based or hard-copy resource to help you generate a rich source of evidence for your self-assessment report through professional discussion rather than the completion of lengthy forms.

9 Data Projects to Improve Your Provision is a set of projects which help you use data to explore all aspects of the learner's journey for improvement themes.

The Self-Assessment Surgery Projects have proved very popular at the Preparing for Inspection events. They will help you determine whether or not your SAR is fit for purpose.

Interpreting the Common Inspection Framework (CIF) is essential guidance on how to interpret the CIF for your remit and is now contained in the appendices of the Ofsted inspection handbook for work-related and adult and community learning.

The Inspection Toolkit contains step-by-step guidance on how to prepare for inspection and covers such topics as choosing the right person to be nominee, using data and self assessment.