Using data to improve the quality of provision in the Tallinn School of Services
The Tallinn School of Services is the largest state school offering vocational training in the service sector in Estonia. In 2015/16 there were approximately 65 teachers and 900 students. Teaching takes place in Estonian and Russian and 39% of the students learn through the Russian language. Students’ programmes are in:
- tourism, catering and accommodation services;
- food industry.
There are approximately 30 programmes (at EQF Levels 2-5) and the curricula are updated continually. All the school’s curriculum areas have received full accreditation.
The school has used quality management principles since 2001 as only a systemic approach achieves the desired results and the school’s sustainability. The management team looked for a suitable quality assurance method among many management techniques, and decided to join the Estonian National Quality Award competition for VET schools. Since 2005, the management’s approach has been based on teamwork. The teamwork approach has been used because:
- the vocational education sector is changing very rapidly;
- the curricula, its introduction, implementation, organisation and cooperation with employers are effective only when all the staff are aware of the school’s objectives and are involved in the processes;
- decisions have to be based on an analysis of the evidence and facts if they are to be understood and accepted by everyone;
- transparent management ensures greater employee satisfaction and gives staff the opportunity to have their say in decision-making;
- the experience of participating in the quality award competitions is used to improve practice;
- it helps to ensure the sustainability of the school. The management team wanted to involve all the school’s staff in developing each annual plan;
- the staff wanted decisions to be made on using previous results. This helps to ensure implementation of improvement activities (in the annual action plans) are based on evidence.
The school produces an internal evaluation report every 2-3 years. The results from this internal evaluation are used to plan the school’s improvement activities and adjust the existing development and action plans. The school uses the following documents to support its development:
- the internal evaluation report;
- the development plan that usually covers 3-5 years with an annual review and adjustment if necessary;
- the action plan that covers up to three years and is adjusted at least once a year;
- the annual work plans for each sector – these are adjusted on an ongoing basis.
Every year (usually from May-June) employees complete their self-analysis - the results of this analysis are generalised by the head of the unit and presented at the open Board meetings in June and August. The results are discussed and used to make proposals. Decisions from these open meetings and the self-evaluation reports form the basis for adjusting the goals and activities of the school’s annual work plan and action plan.
This process can be summarised as follows:
Surveys/statistical data/self-analysis/analysis of the results from employees/students etc.
Those responsible for the area (or area managers) analyse the results and produce a summary
The summary is presented to the School Board or the management of the school
The School Board proposes amendments or continuation
The School Board votes on amendments to the Development Plan and the Action Plan
The management makes changes to the Action Plan
The decisions are binding and are implemented
At the start of the process, data and information is collected using the following methods:
- Checking the school’s records to ensure they are in line with the legislation;
- SWOT analysis;
- An evaluation of the materials produced for accreditation;
- Monitoring and analysis of the school’s development plan, action plan and indicators;
- Staff interviews and self-analysis to inform the area managers’ evaluations;
- Observation and analysis of educational activities;
- Satisfaction surveys;
- Analysis of the extent to which decisions have been implemented;
- Summaries of internal training and development activities;
10. Inspection of teaching equipment and the school’s inventory of resources;
11. A check on the improvement activities in the report from the previous year;
12. Observation and analysis of the educational environment;
13. Analysis of the financial reporting;
14. Analysis of the risk assessment (adequacy of the budget assigned to fulfilling the action plan).
The development team includes all the school’s managers. When an action has been agreed by the School Board, it is initiated by the school’s Director. The development manager with the team is responsible for ensuring that the action is implemented. Implementation can also involve actions by many curriculum area managers.
Twice a year the school organises development seminars to analyse the results of the work and the satisfaction surveys, and think about future prospects. As part of this analysis the school organises training for staff and coaching for managers.
The creation of accurate job descriptions for teaching staff is important in preparing the school’s development plan and in implementing the annual action plan. The work that is expected from staff, based on an internal evaluation, has to be included in employees’ job descriptions. These job descriptions are adjusted when required - at least every two years. The experience of recent years shows that the more changes there are in the organisation, the more frequently the job descriptions need to change and the work re-assigned following a review of current practice. To manage these changes, the leader of each curriculum area, project or task has their own team. They are responsible for analysing what need to be completed, reaching conclusions, and implementing change in order that the new activities can be achieved.
Implementing change requires a considerable amount of internal analysis of what is happening (usually based on internal evaluations). The school director confirms the priorities arising from each year’s internal evaluation, decides who is responsible for meeting these priorities and the schedule for completing the work. The school’s Development Manager manages and monitors the process of improvement activities; and the school’s Quality Specialist helps employees to analyse the data. This internal evaluation process is continuous and helps the school to evaluate the current situation and make adjustments to the annual plans.
The analysis of how well things have been implemented is used to improve students’ learning. For example, as a result of last year’s changes, teaching has become more practical through the use of new curricula. This year the focus is to create smaller teaching groups and make more use of assistant teachers (this proposal was made by the teaching staff). As well as changing the teaching arrangements, the development process affects the administrative and management processes e.g. the introduction of new curricula led to classrooms being re-organised; the development of an additional computer laboratory; the creation of hotel service training classes; the integration of teaching for professional chefs with restaurant work; and the refurbishment of a kitchen.
This approach to school development has succeeds because I t is based on quality management principles, uses teamwork and relies on distributed approach to management and leadership. Every employee is able to:
- express their opinion and make proposals for streamlining work to make the school more sustainable;
- participate in the decision-making process - this increases their willingness to take responsibility for change.
In the coming years, the school faces greater pressure to meet the demands of the labour market. This will require the curricula to be renewed; teaching to become more practical; an expansion of apprenticeship training; making changes to teachers’ education programmes; changing what it means to enable students to learn; and increasing the efficiency of teaching and the school management. To meet these demands, it is essential that all employees are involved in designing and implementing new process. It requires a lot of time to be allocated to explanations because the school is experiencing a paradigm shift which is difficult and time-consuming. However, by using the existing developmental processes (e.g. staff analysis and satisfaction surveys) the school is able to make more accurate and more confident decisions. This saves time and resources.