QQI Inaugural Review Feedback

Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) is responsible for the external quality assurance of further and higher education and training in Ireland. One of QQI’s most important statutory functions is to ensure that the quality assurance procedures that providers have in place have been implemented and are effective. To this end, QQI conducts external reviews of providers of further and higher education and training on a cyclical basis. 

QQI conducted the inaugural review of quality assurance in education and training boards and visited LWETB during 2022. Cyclical review is an element of the broader quality framework for ETBs composed of statutory quality assurance guidelines; quality assurance approval; annual quality reporting; dialogue meetings; the National Framework of Qualifications; validation of programmes; and, most crucially, the quality assurance system established by each ETB. The inaugural review of quality assurance in education and training boards runs from 2020-2023.

Each inaugural review is carried out by a team of independent experts and peers. The 2022 inaugural review of Longford and Westmeath Education and Training Board (LWETB) was conducted by a team of 6 reviewers selected by QQI. The review team attended a briefing and training session in QQI on 18 February 2022 and the planning visit to Longford and Westmeath Education and Training Board (LWETB) took place on 24 February 2022. The main review visit was conducted by the full team between 25 April and 29 April 2022.

On conclusion of the process, the panel of independent experts were extremely complimentary of LWETB FET services and the many structures in place to ensure quality outcomes for learners. The team stated that FET services in LWETB evidenced ‘clear focus on the learner as central to its services and in line with its values’. The review team also recognised ‘the considerable effort of LWETB during the pandemic and commends LWETB on its learner centred approach, which is clearly at the heart of its activity’.

Major Investment Announced Athlone Further Education

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Simon Harris TD, has announced a multi-million euro investment in the creation of state of the art further education facilities on the campus of the existing Athlone Training Centre in Garrycastle. The significant capital investment was announced by Minister Harris on a visit to Athlone, and this key project forms part of a first phase of projects to be advanced under the national Further Education and Training Strategic Infrastructure Upgrade Fund (SIUF).

Funding for the project is to be provided through SOLAS to the Longford and Westmeath Education and Training Board (LWETB), and the appointment of a design team follow this announcement. Announcing the investment at a special event in the Athlone Training Centre in Garrycastle, Minister Harris said: “Today marks another important day as we announce another key investment in regional further education and training provision”.

“We are announcing a significant investment for further education and training in Athlone, which will see the creation a new Further Education and Training (FET) centre next to the existing Athlone Training Centre. This will enable the consolidation of existing services to one central location and provide a more campus education feel for our learners. It will provide for a more enhanced provision of services and additional capacity to meet head on the rising demand.” 

The Minister acknowledged the role of LWETB in advancing the planned project and said it

demonstrates their “on-going commitment to the FET provision in the Athlone and surrounding regions.”

The investment will ensure that learners and staff will have a “fit for purpose facility and will provide a pipeline for students to continue their training/studies” said the Minister. “Learners are at the centre of all further education and training. Investment in Further education and training benefits our learners, giving them a better chance to get a job, opportunities to progress to other education and training opportunities, and to gain the transversal skills that will enable them to fulfil their ambitions, and contribute fully to the economy and society.”

CEO of SOLAS, Andrew Brownlee, said: “Further Education & Training has a unique and special value both for learners and for our communities – and learners and communities in Athlone deserve cutting edge facilities and equipment. This announcement of capital funding is a welcome step that will mean that FET facilities there reflect the modern, dynamic nature of FET provision in 2022.

The ambitious scale of vision set out in the national FET strategy, Future FET: Transforming Learning, is being met by suitably ambitious investment. This funding will enable nationally coordinated and strategic action that will form the foundation of FET Colleges of the Future; greatly expand capacity; build up our national skills portfolio; strengthen pathways through and from FET; and most importantly, best serve the FET learners of today and tomorrow.

This investment in capital is an investment in the future of FET – and most importantly, an investment in the future of the many learners in the Midlands region that it will directly benefit.” Liz Lavery, Chief Executive Officer of LWETB said: “LWETB is delighted with the news of this significant capital investment facilitating the provision of additional teaching, learning and skills development spaces on our centre here in Athlone. “This investment will allow us to build on the excellent

services we currently provide and ensure that all our learners have opportunity to reach their potential, progress to further or higher education or employment.”