A day in the life with Brighton & Hove Recovery College's Quality Assurance Manager

Recovery College Quality Assurance Manager

"The wealth of experience in mental health, housing, and learning disabilities behind us is a massive strength" 

"I love this work! In almost every class I see something new, something innovative. It’s inspiring to see people find new ways to teach old things.

I’m the Quality Assurance Manager at the Brighton and Hove Recovery College. 

I’ve been in this role since July 2017 but I first came to Southdown in October 2014 when I became the Manager of the Recovery College.

The existence of the Quality Assurance Manager role is an indication of good practice. It’s a new role here and in this region it’s a unique role for a recovery college. 

The Recovery College’s management team needs to know what’s going on inside the classroom - to find out if learning is taking place and if the Peer Trainers are demonstrating good practice and our principles. 

Before the start of term I attend Peer Trainer inductions and talk about any themes that need to be addressed and what to expect in the coming term. It’s a summing up and scene-setting essentially.

I draw up a plan to make sure that all of the Peer Trainers are seen at least once a year. I also observe new courses and new Peer Trainers each term. I look at the quality of what goes on in the classroom, the quality of teaching, the quality of course files, and the quality of lesson plans. I’m there to consider every aspect really. 

I give each Peer Trainer two weeks’ notice that I will be observing them, and ask them to ensure that they lead at some point in the class. This is because our courses are co-produced and co-delivered by a clinical trainer or mental health practitioner.

I give feedback using a coaching model because it enables the Peer Trainer to take control of their own development. I always start by asking them how they thought the lesson went. I’ve been amazed at how good the Peer Trainers are.

My background is in adult education and teaching. I taught fiction writing to start with and then adult literacy, in which I am a subject specialist. Somewhere along the way I became a Teacher Trainer delivering entry level teaching qualifications. I’ve been observing teachers for over 10 years. That teacher training background is probably my most valuable asset when I’m observing another Trainer.

I first found out about recovery colleges when I trained a cohort of Peer Trainers at Hastings Recovery College. In the summer term of 2014, I trained Peer Trainers for Brighton and Hove Recovery College and that’s when I came on to manage them!

While I was working as the Recovery College Manager, I formed a partnership with another adult education provider so that we could offer courses that were accredited by NCFE – a nationally recognised awarding body. 

We ran two courses of basic teacher training. Southdown’s Peers in Partnership service then wanted to run an accredited mentoring course and we’ve now run three of these mentoring courses. The fact that we can offer accredited courses is unique. It demonstrates that we are providing high quality courses.

The NCFE requires that there’s a Quality Assurance Manager or Co-ordinator before they can work with a college or organisation and so for that part of my role I do a classroom visit and when the teacher training or mentoring course is over I go through a sample of portfolios to check that assessment decisions made by a Trainer are accurate and fair. Due to the high quality of our work, the Recovery College is now able to directly award certificates.

At the Recovery College, we are looking to expand the observation programme to include a small group of Peer Trainers who will be trained to observe their peers. This is innovative. If Peer Trainers watch, observe, and learn from each other, it widens their skill base and the College’s skill base. The fact that we are developing this programme shows that we are not resting on our laurels.

Key aspects of our work within the Recovery College include the observation of teaching and learning, the Buddy Programme, and our Student Internship scheme. 

We like our interns to focus on a project. Last summer an intern organised the first ever Move On Day for students to explore the learning options available to them in the wider community. 

Part of adult education is to encourage progression and development. Move On Day brings in local organisations who provide information about how our students can progress within the community and engage with mainstream adult education. It allows students to enter a safe familiar environment where they can access outside organisations.

New ideas develop from our internship placements, such as the Welcome Pack we provide which arose after a cross-comparison study on what the University of Sussex does that we don’t. This pack includes lots of info on the College, important mental health helpline info, info about adult education providers in the area and free or low-cost art and craft courses. 

These packs are given to every student and feedback we receive about them is that they’re really good. They’re just another aspect of college life – we are a college not a mental health therapy unit.

We were also the first recovery college in the country to be affiliated to the National Union of Students (NUS). It’s a real student union in a real college. This was a long process, which began from an intern-managed project, but one that was met with enthusiasm by the NUS who said they’d wanted a recovery college member for a long time.

Because we are a small compact team at the College, we are able to think promptly and organise change quickly. This allows us to be flexible and meet the ever changing needs of our students.

Southdown encourages and rewards innovation which in turn creates a better and more responsive service, and that’s one of the main strengths at the Recovery College – that the NHS is partnered with a third sector organisation.
Although we’re a small team at the college, having the weight and support of Southdown and the wealth of experience in mental health, housing, and learning disabilities behind us is a massive strength. 

The support of management at Southdown has allowed me to be flexible and is a huge part of the success of the Recovery College. From the first day, Southdown trusted me to get the job done and gave me the support when I needed it."

Delivered as a partnership with the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, the Brighton and Hove Recovery College uses education in a supportive learning environment to help people with mental health challenges become experts in their own self-care and recovery. The College provides a wide range of courses which are co-produced and co-delivered by people with lived experience of mental health challenges and are delivered in community and educational venues across Brighton and Hove.