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Quality Assurance in Vocational Education and Training in Saarland
Quality management systems in accordance with the criteria of the internationally recognised Standard ISO 9001 have been established and certified at all public vocational school centres in Saarland. Schools are subjected to an annual audit conducted by an external certifying body.
Quality management at vocational schools in Saarland (QBS)
The development and implementation of school quality management systems for the vocational schools in Saarland was instigated in 2004 by the then Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. The aim from the outset was to achieve a QM system aligned to the ISO 9000 ff. group of standards. One benefit of adopting this approach is the high degree of acceptance of this worldwide standard on the part of the companies acting as partners of the vocational schools. Experiences from other service sectors and from the extra-school educational area in particular also show that a QM system based on ISO 9001 drives forward all the essential developments currently being called for within the scope of educational debate as well as offering individual measures which serve as a vehicle for the achievement of a sustainable process of improvement at the educational establishments concerned.
ISO 9001 defines a management system which operates within the framework of statutory stipulations and which is mainly focused on the requirements of the target groups. In the case of the vocational schools, these target groups are the pupils themselves, the parents and the companies providing training and practical placements. Detailed documentation of all tasks and processes and of the reciprocal effects these exert (Quality Management Handbook) enable the following:
- Retention of transparency within (school) operations
- Recognition and exploitation of opportunities for improvement
- Achievement of clear rational processes
Self-eveluation, external evaluation and error management all form essential components of quality management in accordance with ISO 9001.
All 20 public vocational education and training centres in Saarland and all the various forms of school involved have now been certified pursuant to Standard ISO 9001. Annual audits for this purpose are carried out by an accredited certifying body, currently CERTQUA GmbH. Over the past few years, all VET centres have so far successfully passed the audits scheduled.
The aim of the following list is to highlight the essential aspects of the QM system operated at vocational schools in Saarland:
- The core element of the QM Handbook is an individual mission statement for each school with which the staff and pupils identify themselves and which stipulates an overall goal for the complex processes and strands of activity pursued.
- Each VET centre sets itself new targets each year. These targets are measurable, and progress and compliance are monitored and documented. Targets may involve such aspects as certain pass rates or average overall marks, changes within the learning environment or measures aimed at bringing about pedagogical improvement. Failure to achieve targets automatically results in a cause analysis and relevant corrective measures.
- Teaching and human resources development activities are conducted in all schools with the aim of improving quality of teaching. These activities are each documented in the QM Handbooks. The introduction of the functional role of Learning Team Advisor (LTB) at all vocational education and training centres and the appointment of specially trained teaching staff to this position have further reinforced the development of this core area of school activity. For the purpose of developing and precisely defining instruments for the development of teaching and human resources, the Ministry of Education has formed a working group of head teachers and staff representatives which is expected to submit its results by April 2010. These will include the introduction of a teacher portfolio to serve as documentation of self-evaluation and self-development.
- The QM system requires school management to document and analyse the advanced training activities of the entire staff. To this end, both quantitative recording and monitoring of the effectiveness of individual advanced training activities in qualitative terms will take place. School or departmental management staff are also required to document anticipated identification of advanced training requirements in a clearly substantiated manner.
- Relevant process instructions serve as a vehicle for the precise and clear presentation of all important operational procedures within the school. These include registration, induction and deregistration procedures, the process for determining pupil performance via means ranging from class tests to reports conferences, the approaches to be adopted in the case of regulatory measures and systems for issuing warnings, all communication structures such as conferences and teams, the implementation of curricula, the administration of teaching documentation (class records) etc.
- A binding procedure for the reporting of errors and improvements is in place in all schools. All teaching staff, all pupils, parents and cooperating companies can use this system to provide notification of procedural errors or to submit proposals for improvement. The binding requirement for documentation of the procedure and an annual check conducted by an external auditor ensure that all entries are processed and that appropriate measures are instigated as and when necessary.
- All schools carry out an annual and differentiated survey of their pupils to determine levels of satisfaction. The results of the survey are analysed and documented at class, departmental and whole-school level. School management is required to use significant survey results as a basis for introducing relevant measures and actions to be undertaken.
- Every year, each school draws up a so-called Review Report. This is structured in a standardised way and comprises a documentation of the activities of the past school year including a critical appraisal and identification of any measures which may need to be instigated. This report also encompasses a stipulated catalogue of key figures such as pass rates of all school forms, development of numbers of pupils etc. This overall analysis forms the basis for the further development of the school by management and staff.
- All material documents and records produced within the scope of school operations are managed and filed in accordance with a fixed procedure. This also includes the necessary standardisation and form of the documents and records. Spot checks are carried out within the scope of the external audit in order to monitor compliance.
- Each school undergoes an annual check carried out by an independent company as part of an audit to monitor compliance with the stipulations of the QM Handbook and to examine actual school practice. The result of the check is documented in a corresponding Audit Report. During these audits, critical appraisal takes place of the whole of the school administration and the learning environment (buildings, safety aspects, media equipment) as well as of teaching documentation, compliance with curricula and lesson planning and implementation. For this purpose, pupils are also surveyed alongside teachers and function holders. Compliance with school law stipulations and transparency of school actions for pupils, teachers and cooperating companies also form a component of consideration. The Audit Reports and concluding discussions which follow each audit are advisory in character rather than judgmental, although they still remain binding.
The quality management system introduced together with the related documentations also enables vocational education and training centres, which may have up to 3,100 pupils and employ over 100 teaching staff in some cases, to display transparency to their customers – i.e. pupils, parents and companies providing training and practical placements. Processes and actions undertaken are thus clearly comprehensible and reliable for all participants. At the same time, the Schools Inspectorate retains the opportunity to exercise controlled quality development by exerting an influence on the setting of the respective annual targets and quality documentation. Within this process, the annual monitoring conducted by an independent specialist company guarantees mutual objectivity and compliance with the standards system.
All school development activities are required to be subject to the aim of bringing about an improvement in the learning situation of pupils. For this reason, the Ministry of Education will shortly commission an academic research study with the objective of validating the quality management system described in respect of this requirement.
Provider accreditation under the “Ordinance regarding the conditions and procedure for the accreditation of professional bodies and the admission of employment support providers” (AZAV)
In autumn 2013, the Saarbrücken Vocational Education and Training Centre for Social Care Occupations obtained provider accreditation in the field of training leading to the qualification of nursery school teacher pursuant to the DIN ISO 9001 and also conducted and successfully completed accreditation in accordance with the AZAV.
(Source: Ministry of Education of Saarland; Andreas Nikolaus Heinrich/Nobert Bös)
Further information and publications on the activities in Saarland may be viewed on the website of the Saarland Eduserver.
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