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How ROC De Leijgraaf gives quality assurance a major boost
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How ROC De Leijgraaf gives quality assurance a major boost

‘How can we evolve into a learning organization with improved quality assurance?’ That was ROC De Leijgraaf’s question to iPM Partners and UPD. Together, in 2019, we embarked on the journey to make the work at this educational institution a little better every day. Now, a few years later, the Continuous Improvement Culture has already taken shape.

The best possible quality of education that meets the inspection frameworks on all fronts. That was and is the motivation of Regional training centre De Leijgraaf to get to work on improving quality assurance. De Leijgraaf is a medium-sized vocational school with approximately 5300 students and 500 staff members, spread across nine locations in Cuijk, Oss, and Veghel.

Together with iPM Partners and UPD, this educational institution developed a program to help teaching teams structurally improve the culture of quality. More responsibility for results in teams and sustainable, lasting changes are important principles. As with other improvement programs, the rule is: start small and implement improvements in the working environment. iPM Partners has extensive experience with improvement programs in education. Read on and discover what results this has led to at ROC De Leijgraaf.

Quality systems were not applied

We already had an internal quality system, says Peer van Summeren, Chairman of the Board of Directors. The systems and prerequisites were in place. However, because the teams lacked sufficient knowledge of the tools, they often didn’t use them or used them incorrectly. 

The employees assumed that the management was responsible for the quality analyses and that they would implement the measures. But what we wanted was for the employees to perform the analyses themselves. There was also a lot of resistance and misunderstanding about how and why to use these systems and prerequisites. As a result, there was insufficient awareness of quality among the education teams. We wanted to improve this situation.

Composition of teams changed

In addition, the organization of the programs had to be changed. “Previously, the programs were divided into four domains, each with its own director. The programs were offered at multiple locations, which meant that teachers had to travel a lot and were less accessible to students,” explains Francisca van Kessel, Manager of Educational Development at De Leijgraaf. We also wanted to strengthen the connection with the region in order to establish better partnerships with internship companies. All of this was the reason to prioritize the regions.

As a result, the composition of some teams also changed. Many team members had to get to know each other again and adapt to a new structure. Both processes converged in this quality improvement plan, which we named FLOW.

Unique collaboration

Improvement organizations iPM Partners and UOD facilitated this process. “Initially, it was not obvious that we would jointly shape this process,” explains Mark Wilde, Business Consultant at iPM Partners. “Both of us have a lot of knowledge and experience in implementing improvements in education. De Leijgraaf asked us to join forces, and that’s what we did.

We developed a unified approach and presented ourselves as one team. This was new for us because we had never worked together before, but it turned out well. We sharpened each other’s methods and exchanged knowledge and experiences. This created genuine synergy.”

FLOW: focus on the teams

The focus of the FLOW process was on the teams themselves. Wilde states, “If teams collaborate better, the quality also improves. That has been and continues to be the focus of our approach. From day one, we involved all 15 teams in the plans. We explained what we do and how we work, so that eventually the team members can engage in continuous improvement themselves. That is always our aim.”

Inge Broekmans, Educational Policy Officer at the Education Development department of De Leijgraaf, continues, “What worked well was that we started with a team scan, in which a team is assessed based on various indicators. For example, how does a team evaluate? How are roles and tasks distributed? How do team members communicate with each other? And so on. After the scan, teams know exactly where they stand and in which areas they need to improve. The way a team functions is no longer solely based on feelings but has been objectified. Based on the team scan, our team determined the priorities: ‘What should we focus on?’ We included these concrete actions in our team plan.”

When team members collaborate and communicate better with each other, the processes become more efficient, and the output improves

Mark Wilde – IPM Partners

Awareness of the ‘why’ question

It was also important to raise awareness among the teams about the need for quality improvement, so that they would feel more responsible for the outcomes. Van Kessel explains, “You cannot improve a quality culture by either just communicating about it or solely implementing more tools. You have to do both. It requires both hard and soft interventions. But above all, you need to explain to the team members why it is important to focus on quality, namely: to enhance education for students. We emphasize this repeatedly. Additionally, we explain that one action is connected to another. Moreover, there is a great need for attention to communication skills. Once again, when team members collaborate and communicate better with each other, the processes become more efficient and the output improves.”

Quality improvement process takes time

In 2019, the quality improvement program FLOW as initiated. “We have aligned the program with the quality agenda of the MBO and expect to complete it by the end of 2022,” says Van Summeren. “That will be almost four years later. As an educational institution, you truly need that time to transition into a learning organization with improved quality assurance.

The teams need to be informed about what will happen; they need to learn a common language, align with the PDCA cycle (Plan, Do, Check, Act), engage in discussions about self-evaluation, tackle improvements, evaluate, and so on.” Additionally, timing is crucial because teachers are busy preparing for exams at certain times during the school year. Van Kessel adds, “During those moments, it doesn’t make sense to implement improvement methods. Therefore, the program must align with the rhythm of education, which requires extra time.”

Results are visible

But the efforts of the past few years are bearing fruit. Van Summeren says, “The theme of ‘quality’ is now widely embraced within the organization. In fact, where the Inspection used to be critical of our institution in the past, in 2020, we received compliments that employees at all levels of the organization speak the same language and share the same stories when it comes to quality. Everyone now knows what quality of education means and how to improve it.”

Furthermore, employees have implemented numerous small improvements. Van Kessel explains, “For example, in some teams, it was difficult to establish an effective meeting structure because there were too many teachers with different educational objectives. As a result, the meetings were interesting for a small group, but the rest quickly lost interest. Now, the team has simply set up a digital work board linked to thematic plans and objectives for each team member. This makes it much clearer who is working on what. They can hold each other accountable for the plans, and the meetings can be conducted more efficiently. It makes everyone’s work easier and better.”

Lessons learned

ROC De Leijgraaf is pleased with the progress made. Van Summeren says, “The awareness of quality is now there. That is the greatest achievement. But there is also increased awareness among education managers regarding working in teams. We have made significant strides in that aspect as well.”

Aligning with the team’s pace is one of the lessons Van Kessel has learned since the start of the project. “Each team has its own dynamics and a certain level of maturity. It is important to align the plans accordingly. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Additionally, I recommend – and we have done this as well – establishing a steering group with an program manager with mandate. This is important to give the project weight and attention. It is not something you just add on.”

Broekmans adds, “Quality assurance truly comes to life when it is no longer just a paper tiger, but when we engage in ongoing conversations about it. This has become very clear. Quality is everyone’s responsibility. We must keep the topic alive by continuously discussing it with each other. It is always present and never stops.”

iPM Partners: Together towards better education

iPM Partners has over 15 years of experience in the eduction sector. With our unique iPM method, we improve your education logistics systems and processes, enhance collaboration within your teams, and ensure quality. We have achieved this at ROC De Leijgraaf, as well as many other educational institutions. Contact our specialists for personalized advice!

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