EMSAG External Evaluation Report
Kate Sparshatt
June 2006

This report was commissioned to be an external evaluation of the EMSAG project for the academic year 2005-06 which will complement the overall evaluation. The report will therefore not include statistical analysis but will provide a qualitative reflection based on interviews with individuals.

The brief for the project was broad, and for the purposes of this external evaluation I have focussed on key areas which I hope represent the breadth of the project. I considered the aims set out at the beginning of the project and identified key individuals who have impacted on these aims or experienced the project in some way. These individuals represent a cross-section of students and staff from across the College community who have engaged with the scheme. The report therefore may not refer specifically to each and every activity that took place, or to every individual on which it had an impact.

Curriculum Activity
The Equality and Diversity Working Group has embraced the EMSAG project. For example, the Professional and Personal Development module, taken from Post 16 National Careers Framework, includes Cultural Diversity studies and is to be made compulsory from Sept 2006. A scheme of work has been devised, to enable the Cultural Diversity lecture series (3 hrs, with an assignment) to be taught by any lecturer, supported by the lead lecturer Ian Jesney. The college has committed to training all staff in understanding Beliefs and Faiths to support this. Ian Jesney felt that whilst the PPD module was developing anyway as a core element in the curriculum, the EMSAG project provided a vital platform for advocacy and leverage to broker decision making at all levels within the college. However, whilst this is a positive move forward it was suggested that the PPD module can be somewhat detached from the actual art-making and the students’ passion.

Of the BME learners taught by Melanie Morrell, many are going on to Higher Education, both at PCAD and at other UK institutions. All of them tapped into the funding, most of them used the internal meetings of ‘Unity’ and one international students in particular used it for building a safe environment away from home.

It was generally felt that EMSAG has been a positive effect on working practices providing better resource awareness and a good framework. However, it was suggested that it would benefit from more integration across the College, and the students could be more a part of it.

Other Activities
There has been a good mix of individual support, learning support and group or College wide activity including a theatre performance, celebration days and workshop led by beneficiaries of the EMSAG with the University of Plymouth.

Individual Learning Support
Individualised support has focussed on specific needs, and where barriers to learning were identified a specific action plan was developed by the student with tutorial support. EMSAG has enabled this one-to-one intervention, and provided funding to support the action plan. Funding has therefore been made available on an individual needs-led basis; not as a general ‘hand-out’ but as a result of careful planning, responsibility and autonomy on the part of the BME learner. This has supported the learning of life and employment skills. EMSAG has allowed new approaches to student support to be tried, and where gaps were identified in existing support systems different approaches could be devised with tutors and learners.
The financial benefits have been widely taken up by both British and international students, especially the photocopy cards. This seems to be key in providing awareness of the project, and student commitment.

Library Services
The Library has found the EMSAG to be a positive resource and has used it to lever funds to broaden its exhibition activity. The Library traditionally takes the curriculum as its driver but the EMSAG has allowed wider purchasing to include novels, biographies, and works that are from different cultures. Having funds to back this has been vital. Engaging with the EMSAG project, particularly with the students targeted by it, has encouraged staff to take a global view, and generate a global focus to all their exhibitions and purchasing. The Library has engaged with and invited contributions from all students, without a specific focus on those from BME backgrounds.

The overall benefits of the EMSAG seems to have come mainly from financial support and networks. International students who have no families in UK benefit from making more connections, and in this respect international students have engaged with the EMSAG projects more than BME British students. The internal meetings, ‘Unity’, have provided a focus for staff and students, and offer a safe, open space for engagement on a practical and social level. The grant provided an engine which has driven staff and student communication across the curriculum and extra-curricula activity.

Role Models
Two students in receipt of the EMSAG support gave talks to new First Diploma students. Both of these students are going on to HE and were positive role models to a prospective new in-take of students. When the website is up and running these case studies will be more widely available.

Memory sticks and training workshops were provided as a support mechanism. This allowed students to save and transfer work enabling mobile working.

A website was identified as an aim of the project. A student was commissioned as part of her work-based learning to design this. To this end the website has served many purposes – a safe but realistic working environment for a student; a student-led website that is accessible to its users; linked the EMSAG project to the curriculum and provided an action-led project which integrated BME and non-BME learners. The site is now under construction and when finished should provide a sustainable service to all students, including BME learners, and should achieve many of the objectives set out for the project.

A letter inviting students to interview for careers advice was sent out to all students who identified themselves as being from a BME background. This was followed up by text message. The text message did not get a huge response but some students approached the careers service through recommendation by tutors.

Subscription to publications such as Smart Talent and Opportunity aimed at the black and Asian markets have been made available in the library. These were funded by Careers budget, not EMSAG and will continue beyond the EMSAG, but were prompted by the initiative.

The Careers Service viewed the EMSAG as a useful and necessary prompt to raise issues and awareness in an environment where most students and staff are white British.

The Project Co-ordinator has acted as a facilitator, with the intention of embedding EMSAG funded work into on-going College processes. Her approach has therefore been to support others in working independently, in adopting or changing working practices, thus generating organisational change. The organisation of EMSAG events and partnerships was led by BME learners, with the full support of the Co-ordinator, and this capacity building has enabled learners to develop skills for employment as artists, including leading workshops, negotiating content of work and costs of projects. Her approach was successfully reflected in all the interviews undertaken; staff and students felt ownership of their work, and had ideas as to how to take it forward.

She has worked flexibly and where barriers have been met she has found ways round or through them. This action-oriented approach has developed a sense of trust with the students and respect from both staff and students I spoke to. This has contributed to creating a safe pastoral care environment, an extra point of contact outside the College structure where concerns, for example issues of racism, can be addressed.

It is clear that the EMSAG has made a wide and positive intervention in PCAD life. There are many staff who felt they had a small, specific involvement in EMSAG and this is reflected across the college from careers advice, resources and academic departments making the impact quite significant.

All staff I interviewed were extremely positive about the project, and offered some suggestions for development which demonstrates their commitment to the aims of the EMSAG:

o The project could have gone further with more signage, translations of signs, and more visible marking of cultural
o The project could be more integrated with the scheme of delivery in the college. For example, building it into team meetings.
o A yearly plan, with set dates, would help with planning and for networking purposes, and to link the project into students’ project work
o ILPs could be electronic (like a diary or journal) for ease of up-dating to allow more flexibility and responsiveness to students needs. The ILPs could also contain links specific to students, ie to the Equality and Diversity website, and to EMSAG event calendar.

The inclusion of all students to the programme has succeeded in reducing the exclusion of BME students, whilst continuing to engage them specifically where barriers to learning exist. One tutor suggested EMSAG has been integral to breaking down a significant barrier to learning which is that of feeling different. The improvement of resources and opportunities provided for all students, not the excluded few, is key to this success.

The levering of funds for photocopying cards provided a useful access tool, and was used to engage with BME learners specifically, providing a grounding at the beginning of the year. Capacity building underpinned the entire project enabling BME learners with life skills and staff with confidence and ideas for future work.

The EMSAG project has provided particular advantage for international students who have used the networks to navigate their way into college and local life.

Approaches have been made to outside organisations who can offer services in future similar to those offered by the EMSAG. Activities have been implemented in partnership with these bodies to sustain the work beyond the end of the EMSAG. However the impact of employing an internal worker to promote and co-ordinate the project cannot be underestimated, and there are still areas in which BME learners benefit from specific engagement with this worker. There is evidence that the partnership work and embedding of EMSAG aims in College systems is working, but it is still new and therefore potentially fragile. The continuation of a post would secure the new working practices for the future.

Overall there is clear evidence that the EMSAG has had a wide, positive and long-lasting impact on PCAD and its BME learners and it was a pleasure to share in the commitment of staff and students during this evaluation.