Elsbeth Tibbetts

Achievement Snapshot

Everyone has a personal mountain to climb - Pioneering a risk benefit approach

It is my belief that knowledge acquired outside of the formal learning environment significantly contributes to the development of a young person. Investigation of the world beyond the immediate environment provides opportunities to develop positive transferable learning habits, confidence and is personally meaningful. To adopt this approach and support staff to embrace this way of working I needed to lead, initiate and adopt a college wide ‘risk benefit’ rather than a risk assessment attitude. Risk benefit thinking requires staff to make a significant shift change, to think about the detriment of not doing things and ‘flip’ attitudes to risk as challenges to plan for and overcome. A learning environment should support innovation, experimentation and risk-taking in staff and students. All our systems, processes, training and development were reviewed and emphasised risks as challenges that in the majority of instances can be managed safely. This dramatically changed curriculum design and opportunities with significant benefit to learners. Teachers became instantly more innovative and once they saw, felt and heard the benefits they pioneered the way forward.

This learner had very limited self belief and felt that after college his life chances would comprise of a day centre and living at home. After embracing challenge, opportunities and risk, he found confidence and trust to try new things and his life chances altered. He lives semi independently in shared accommodation with peers his age and goes to work where he makes a significant contribution to society.

To further develop the college wide approach and embed practice we worked with LSIS, AOC and many other providers on two key publications which provided guidance, training and resources for practitioners to develop their confidence in supporting learners to explore, become resilient, resourceful and confident.

  • LSIS Enhancement of Learning Support - Unpicking the Velcro - Creative approaches to maximising independence

  • LSIS Accessible Risk Assessment - involving learners in shaping their own support.

Providing opportunities for social mobility

In 2009 when I began at the college there was no work related learning or employability provision in place. It is my belief that this is an important aspect of education and the opportunity to increase opportunity and social mobility should be one of the aims of a college. Therefore, over the last four years I have taken the lead and developed a significant provision to meet needs of diverse groups of learners.

Year one/two

  • Developed internal work placement opportunities by utilising all departments within the college – maintenance, estates, finance, admin, catering, domestic and HR.

  • Developed eight external partnerships to support work placements. Implemented robust systems and process to ensure quality and safety.

  • Introduced qualifications at multiple levels, in personal and social development and employability with 100% success rates sustained over three years.

  • Offered courses utilising work placements to feeder schools and other training providers and developed further partnerships.

  • Developed and trained a team of job coaches to support learning and assessment in a wide variety of work contexts.

  • Developed detailed and comprehensive methods of tracking progress of wider/softer skills within work which contributed to overall progress reviews.

Year three/four

  • Utilised strategic business planning and resource management to create five enterprise vehicles, comprising of a public tea-room, coffee shop, H Bay online shopping, a hair salon, and public plant centre.

  • Designed an enterprise curriculum which integrates enterprise skills, functional skills and personal and social development.

  • Worked with the Dfes and Job Centre Plus to develop day and short residential courses to enable learners from a wide variety of backgrounds, ages and community to develop key employability skills supported by real work opportunity. Refurbished accommodation to support residential learning.

  • Continued to develop external partnerships.

Care Quality Commission (CQC) - Coping with fast paced change and maintaining standards

When I began work at the college the residential side was inspected under the Commission for Social Care Inspection which was a non-departmental public body and the single, independent inspectorate for social care in England. I had to quickly learn and ensure quality management of all aspects of residential care under this regulation. This entailed writing a self assessment and improvement plan against specific residential care criteria. The college was inspected and received a judgement of ‘Good’. Shortly after this the Commission was abolished on 31 March 2009. This was replaced by the Care Quality Commission.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) was established in 2009 to regulate and inspect health and social care services in England with increased rigour. In order to be granted registration, care providers needed to demonstrate that they can meet, or are already meeting, the registration requirements. To maintain their registration they needed to demonstrate an ongoing ability to meet the requirements. This meant that an extensive quality management project was required to transfer work and practice to the new CQC essential standards and address any areas of deficit. Each of the standards had an associated outcome and relate to the 28 regulations contained in the legislation governing care. During Inspection providers must have evidence that they meet these outcomes.

One quote from 2011 Inspections report where the college was deemed fully compliant.

When we visited the College, we saw that people were happy with the support and care that staff provided to them. Staff interacted respectfully and confidently with people. They supported people to develop skills for the future and the college planned how to best assist people to gain additional independence in the future.’

One quote from the unannounced inspection January 2014 where the college was deemed fully compliant

The quality assurance system was robust and ensured that the service provider and the local management team were able to proactively identify and address any areas for development. This meant people were provided with care where the quality had been audited on a regular basis, and the provider ensured the service was well led and effective.’

The Care Quality Commission proposes to change its inspection regime and introduce ‘Ofsted-style’ ratings which will exist on a one to four point scale: inadequate, requires improvement, good and outstanding. All preparatory work for this change is completed. Through robust quality monitoring, staff training and development we have managed to sustain high standards through multiple changes to expectations.

Current Projects


Outside of my daily work I remain passionately committed to developing innovative learning solutions that increase social mobility. I have undertaken an extensive project with a colleague and written the Navigate self-assessment and associated resources to provide an innovative and learner centred solution to developing wider skills required for 21st century challenges.

A rapidly changing environment demands a rich toolkit and multiple ways to approach a challenge or task. Learners need the opportunity to do as well as they possibly can in qualifications but this is only one part of the menu for success. Learning has to be expanded past content knowledge and incorporate long lasting, transferable and essential skills. In addition to traditional success criteria the aim of education should include the development of habits that help a young person navigate life’s challenges. Traditionally learning establishments have identified targets based on learner deficits and these are then ‘negotiated’ with the learner. Our product places the learner at the heart of the process discovering, exploring and making decisions about their future. It is now being used successfully in a wide range of learning settings across the country.

What is Navigate?

Navigate is an online software package for learners in schools, colleges and training providers. It is designed to support learners to assess and develop their employability, personal and social skills.

What does Navigate do?

Navigate provides learners with an engaging initial assessment of their employability, personal and social skills. It then provides SMART targets and personalised action plans based on the skills that will most help learners to progress. The learners are at the heart of this decision making and selection of personal targets.

What skills does Navigate assess?

Navigate supports learners to assess their skills in the following areas: Citizenship, Emotion, Finance, Health, Relationships and Work.

Case Study

After discussing their unique requirements (that included delivering a training and support programme to management and tutorial staff across all regional centres) Navigate was rolled out nationally. Over the 2013/14 academic year 2000 learners in YMCA Training programmes will use Navigate to identify their employability, personal and social skills starting point. This data will be used by learners to set relevant targets during the induction stage of their Study Programme before they move out into work tasters/placements or on a Traineeship. Employers will be encouraged to support the completion of the learner’s personal target, helping them to collate evidence of their distance travelled and motivating them to succeed.

As Louise Rutter, Director of Quality at YMCA Training observed, both staff and learners have embraced Navigate and have found it easy to use and relevant to the learner’. Louise continues, ‘Navigate provides a meaningful assessment of the learners starting point and supports in the setting of targets, enabling these to be reviewed throughout their programme. At our recent Matrix assessment it was reported that YMCA Training continues to invest in facilities including computer equipment and other technology such as Navigate. We look forward to seeing learners come out the other end of their programme more confident and having achieved their personal goals as a result of working with staff and Navigate to achieve these’.

Staff Development - Enabling people to discover who they are and what they can do

I am currently working with staff at the college on a programme called 'Who am I, and what can I do?'. After researching the literature and methods around the topic of career management, I have designed a training programmed to support people to understand their skills, qualities and attributes. The emphasis is on all life experience in addition to work and employment history to enable people to consider their full potential and enter the job market with confidence. This training is provided through interactive workshops and online.

Also, preliminary planning and development of guidelines and supporting materials to support practitioners to view themselves as vital contributors to the delivery of english and maths within a wide range of subjects. The style and tone will be similar to that used in Navigate.

Digital Art

During my time in leadership I have always felt that it is important to maintain well-being and nurture your own interests and creativity. Recently, when I was planning the roll-out of the use of mobile technologies and trying to navigate my way around an I-Pad I realised that my own knowledge was insufficient. As a practicing artist I was intrigued by the notion of digital art and set about learning new techniques and skills to produce different art work. Inspired by my new discovery I delivered four short courses on the use of the ‘Brushes’ App on the I Pad and produced work to hold a small exhibition. I do believe that it is essential to keep learning and be inspired by new things which in turn helps you to share the excitement of what could be possible.