These are my own views!
The following indicators are not exhaustive; they illustrate potential areas which Education Scotland may wish to review within schools. These could inform the basis of a local report or similar methodology to evaluate the planning and delivery of 16+ Learning Choices (16+LC) and produce recommendations for improvement.
It’s really important that there is a named person within the school to lead and coordinate 16+LC; this could extend to a wider team or network of internal support staff. Ideally, it will be someone who has enough ‘clout’ to carry forward solutions from theory into practice; a Depute Head Teacher or perhaps a Principal Teacher. 16+LC needs to feature on the remit of all pupil support staff as they each have a role to play. The process should not rely upon one person. What if they were off sick for two months, or moved to another post!? Strategic overview and operational delivery need to be clear, leadership and accountability drives momentum.
The school needs to develop a comprehensive strategy; incorporated into the school improvement plan and it must illustrate how the school will plan and deliver 16+LC to eligible young people – clearly indicating who is responsible for what. This is not an initiative and any plans must embed and sustain practice – and accommodate additional capacity in the future. There needs to be clear articulation between More Choices, More Chances (MCMC) and Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC). In an ideal world, these strategies would not be labelled as such, as this can lead to them being seen as add-ins to the curriculum structure. Rather, they are simply the way that we should do things – improving the life chances of all our young people by applying a process of professional conduct; not simply ticking a box.
Early identification and targeted support to those young people who are at risk of not entering a positive post-16 destination is crucial. Schools need to be as proactive as possible, thus stemming the flow of potential NEETS (Not in Education, Employment or Training) into the S4 cohort. I don’t like that term – so I won’t use it again. Using a system of risk identification is a must – but of course, acting upon the risk is equally important and any school policy needs to reflect this. There is no point in identifying a vulnerable young person if one is not going to give them the appropriate support at the right time. Staged intervention and careful coordination of support is essential, especially if there are multiple partners interested in the young person, e.g. Social Work.
Universal support at the end of statutory education (if not before!) can take shape in many different ways. I’ve just Googled ‘Universal Support’ and received over 74 million entries, so I’m not going to explore this now. You can find out more at http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk, where there is a comprehensive section on supporting learners. 16+LC is a universal offer of post-16 learning to every young person who wants it. This means that schools need to address this when planning the senior phase and engaging with the cohort, through careers education in PSHE classes, form class and year group assembly.
There must be evidence of joined up professional meetings for the most vulnerable; utilising input from external agencies and organisations and articulating to GIRFEC. Young people should not be attending a Looked After Children (LAC) review at 10am, a GIRFEC meeting at 11am and a transition planning meeting in the afternoon. For the better part, the people around the table will be the same. The young person must always be at the centre of any planning – they must be involved in their own education – and there must be a process to reduce duplication and make better use of resources to support the young person.
There are three elements to 16+LC. The right support, the right learning opportunity and data management. A network of external partners who can contribute to learning provision within the senior phase curriculum is essential. In a market heavily affected by recession, schools need to engage with the local community, establishing links with employers and other learning providers and utilising a network of professionals to deliver aspects of learning, either within the school environment or out with.
I’d be disappointed if visiting a school and I discovered that there had not been an ‘audit’ amongst the staff, of those who could offer more, for example, hobbies, interests and the additional value to be gained from teachers who had been trained in first aid or leadership etc. I believe that every teacher should have an ‘interest’ or extra curricular activity on their timetable which they can deliver to a group of pupils. This does not need to be delivered during lunchtime or after school; rather it should be incorporated into the timetable as an option, enriching and enhancing the curriculum.
It is really difficult to discuss any one element of 16+LC on its own. They are all integrated and when talking about support and provision, there arises a need to discuss data management. Transition planning meetings for young people with Additional Support Needs; continuum of support between the school and other learning providers and facilitating offers of learning all require data sharing. The national Data Hub will facilitate this process, but each partner needs to be clear on their roles and responsibilities. Evidence must include accurate and timely data returns to Skills Development Scotland (SDS) – based on achievement (predicted or otherwise) – collation of intended destinations – offers made and information on those young people who disengage from learning or do not take up their offer. There should also be data exchange when a young person is enrolled, moves to another school or changes their personal details.
One needs to keep in mind that the Data Hub will match data sets across a broad spectrum of information systems. This could produce national statistics which when de-aggregated, will allow us to look at an individual’s journey. I’ll write about this in another post, for those of you whom are interested.
Extending the role of pupil support staff, schools need to take into account support from parents/carers and teaching/non-teaching staff – a holistic approach to planning and delivery within the wider school community. For example, how may classroom teachers know what 16+LC is – or how the process works? It is the link between the broad general education and the senior phase curriculum, and central to the success of the education system – and implementation of Curriculum for Excellence.
I cannot emphasise enough, the importance that clear processes for referral from staff and self-referral by young people to a Careers Advisor bring to 16+LC. When they are in need of information, advice and guidance – they all must know where to look and who to speak to. As well as being reactive to need, the school must also provide universal support through systems and technology such as My World of Work (My WoW) and its own management information system.
These are some brief thoughts, and clearly you may be able to think of others. Please do feel free to comment on this post and add your own ideas to mine. Likewise, I’d be happy to discuss in more detail with you, if you want to get in touch.