Karen Tarbotton is Workforce Information & Systems Manager at Peterborough Regional College. We caught up with Karen at the end of 2017 to ask about the College’s recent 2016/17 submission to the national FE workforce data service, SIR Data Insights.

If everyone contributes it creates useful data for the sector as a whole, which helps everyone.

This was Karen’s first year using the SIR Data Insights service for the Staff Individualised Records (SIR) return, although the College did submit in 2016 when the service was first launched. Asked why the College submits workforce data, Karen gives two key reasons:

“Firstly, as a college we are keen on benchmarking what we do and looking at comparisons with other learning providers on key issues. The national FE workforce data service helps us to do this.

“Secondly, we had opted-in to the new FE sector data sharing agreement for staff data and we wanted to gain benefit from that.”

The new data sharing agreement that Karen refers to was established in summer 2017 between the Association of Colleges (AoC), the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) and the University and College Union (UCU). The aim is to reduce the burden of administration on colleges by replacing three separate workforce data collection exercises currently undertaken by AoC, ETF and UCU each year with one data collection through the ETF national FE workforce data service, SIR Data Insights.

Colleges have been invited to opt in to agree to share their workforce data. Peterborough Regional College opted into the agreement and this was an incentive to submit 2016/17 workforce data to ETF, with the immediate benefit of covering off UCU’s Freedom of Information request, therefore avoiding the need for an additional submission.

Karen felt the SIR Data Insights service was very easy to use: “The upload facility was very straightforward. We used the help desk service several times and they were great – very proactive.  Overall, we felt very well informed. The data spec setting out all the fields required was very helpful, it gave a good reference guide. We also used the video guide on how to upload data.”

The College was unfortunately unable to export data from their HR system. Karen comments, “The export report from our HR system failed so we had to extract data manually which was time-consuming. We are now working with the HR database provider to rectify this issue ready for next time. We recognise that it’s for us as customers to lobby the HR providers to try to bring about improvements.”

Despite these issues, Karen feels the exercise of submitting workforce data is definitely worthwhile: “It needs everyone to submit as accurate data as possible, but if everyone contributes it creates useful data for the sector as a whole, which helps everyone.”   

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