The Quality Framework Initiative for YOUTHREACH and Senior Traveller Training Centres arose from the YOUTHREACH 2000 consultative process. The development of a quality assurance framework for YOUTHREACH is recommended not only on the grounds of good practice, it is anticipated that its establishment would also meet the requirements of the Qualifications (Education and Training) Act 1999.
This initiative involves a number of distinct phases; exploration, consultation, development and implementation. The Exploratory Phase in this initiative concluded in March 2001 with the production of a report Towards A Quality Framework for YOUTHREACH. One of the key recommendations made in this report was that consultation in relation to the development of a quality framework should take place with all stakeholder groups.
STRUCTURE OF CONSULTATION PHASE
The consultation phase began in May 2001 and was concluded in January 2002. The nature of the consultation process allowed stakeholder groups to engage with the process in a variety of ways and at a number of levels. Following the circulation of the report on the exploratory phase all YOUTHREACH and Senior Traveller Training Centres were invited to respond. This was followed by consultative meetings with all the key stakeholder associations as well as nine regional consultation meetings involving represen- tatives of all stakeholder groups.
FEEDBACK FROM CONSULTATION PHASE
The feedback outlined in this report has been collated from written submissions, from information gathered during group discussions at regional meetings, and from issues raised at meetings with stakeholder associations.
A Quality Standard/Good Practice Guidelines
During the exploratory phase practitioners identified the key elements of a quality YOUTHREACH and Senior Traveller Training Centre. These elements formed the basis of a draft quality standard which was used as a focus for discussion during the consultation process.
Stakeholders were satisfied with the draft list of standards but acknowledged that many require further clarification and refinement. Much of this teasing out will take place in the development phase. It was generally acknowledged that the draft standards are in essence guidelines for good practice. As guidelines they ought to give a clear indication of the key elements that should be in place but ought also to allow for local flexibility in the way in which standards are achieved. It follows therefore that standards should not be too prescriptive and should reflect the nature of the programme.
The development of a quality standard will assist centres in acknowledging good practice and identifying areas for improvement. It can also be used as a tool for evaluation.
Centre Based Development Planning
Centre development planning was identified as an important aspect of a quality assurance process. Developing a centre plan would assist centres in keeping quality on the agenda and would provide an opportunity for the implementation of the good practice guidelines as outlined in the draft standard. The centre plan could contain the centre mission statement, aims and objectives, procedures and policies, review of key areas, recommended improvements and proposed actions.
It was widely argued that a support structure would be required in order to assist centres to engage in a centre development planning process. All stakeholder groups should be involved in this process at local level.
There appeared to be widespread support among all stakeholder groups for the development of structures to allow for evaluation of centres’ compliance with the standard as well as an evaluation of the implementation of recommendations arising from the centre development plans. This may involve centre staff, trainees, boards of management and local Vocational Education Committee (V.E.C.) management.
The prospect of external evaluation was viewed as an essential aspect of the quality assurance process. The absence of this key element would possibly undermine the potential effectiveness of the process. A national system of externally evaluating YOUTHREACH and Senior Traveller Training Centres does not currently exist and therefore a key question remains unanswered: Who will fulfil this role? Out of the many mechanisms and bodies suggested, four predominated: the Further Education and Training Awards Council ( FETAC), the National Adult Learning Council ( NALC), the Department of Education and Science Inspectorate, or a stand alone body established within the programme for this purpose. Whoever fulfils this function it is essential that evaluation of the programme be based on the criteria outlined in the quality standard.
The next phase of this initiative is seen to be the development phase. This will involve the development of a quality standard and principles of an accreditation system for YOUTHREACH. A key element in this regard should be a synthesis of the recommendations of the consultation processes from education and training sectors. It was clear throughout the consultation process that stakeholders wished to remain informed and involved in the development phase. It was specifically recommended that stakeholder representatives be involved in the synthesis process and that any product of the synthesis process be made known to stakeholders and opportunities provided for further consultation.
The development phase would also be an opportune time to establish appropriate supports and to pilot a centre development planning and internal evaluation process.
The quality framework should comprise four interconnected building blocks. Central to the quality framework is the Quality Standard – Good Practice Guidelines. The Quality Standard informs the three other elements of the quality framework, these elements being a cyclical process of planning and development, internal evaluation and external evaluation.
Main Recommendations in Relation to the First Building Block: A Quality Standard – Good Practice Guidelines
The quality standard should identify the key elements of a YOUTHREACH and Senior Traveller Training Centre.
The quality standard should not be unnecessarily prescriptive and should allow centres the flexibility to meet standards in a manner that is most appropriate to the individual centre and its participants.
Following the consultation phase, representatives of all key stakeholder groups should be invited to participate in a synthesis process towards the development of a common agreed standard for all strands of the YOUTHREACH programme in addition to outlining elements that may be strand specific.
Main Recommendations in Relation to the Second Building Block: Centre Based Development Planning
A support service should be established which would provide advice and training for all centres in relation to centre development planning.
All relevant stakeholders should be involved as appropriate in the centre planning process. It was strongly argued that part time staff should be paid for their involvement in this process.
Following the establishment of a support service and the development of necessary resources a pilot centre-based planning process should take place including the participation of centres operating in a variety of settings.
Following an evaluation of the pilot process all centres should be invited to establish a centre development planning process and be provided with the necessary supports and resources locally and at national level in order to carry out this work.
Main Recommendations in Relation to the Third Building Block: Internal Evaluation
Internal evaluation should be based on the quality standard and the objectives set out in the centre plan.
Templates for paper-based and computer -based record keeping should be developed at national level that would assist the evaluation process.
Internal evaluation should occur on a regular (annual) basis and might only include the evaluation of certain aspects of the programme as set out in the centre plan.
Main Recommendations in Relation to the Fourth Building Block: External Evaluation
External evaluation should be based on the criteria outlined in the agreed quality standard.
The Department of Education and Science should convene round-table talks involving key players such as the Department of Education and Science Further Education Section, the Inspectorate, the Further Education and Training Awards Council (FETAC), the Teachers Union of Ireland (TUI) and the National Co-Ordinators in order to decide on the body most appropriate to carry out the external evaluation function.
External evaluation should be carried out in a supportive manner, affirming good practice and pointing out areas for improvement.
Main Recommendations in Relation to Future Developments
The Consultation Phase should be followed by a Development Phase involving a synthesis process, the development of a support service and a pilot centre based planning and evaluation process.
Following the pilot process all centres should be supported to participate in a centre development, internal and external evaluation process.