Through policy, I have given a clear commitment to young people about the routes on offer to education, employment and training – and the support that they can expect, when they reach the end of their statutory education. 16+ Learning Choices is Scotland’s post-16 transition planning model which ensures an appropriate offer of post-16 learning for every young person (broadly 15–18 years old) who wants it. The success of the model depends on local partners knowing and understanding individual young people; where they are in their learning and where they want to get to; and putting in place the opportunities and support that they need to make this a reality. This may mean tailored learning opportunities combined with intensive and often ongoing support for those who face particular barriers to engaging. To this end, it is essential that local partners have in place robust systems and processes around data-sharing – between schools, local authorities, colleges, Skills Development Scotland (SDS) and other learning providers and support agencies. Working with SDS, as our national skills body, I have built a national 16+ Learning Choices Data Hub to facilitate data sharing and to provide, to a range of partners, up-to-date information on individual young people and their learning choices. At a local level, this will ensure that services are planned and delivered on the basis of identified local need and that young people can access the right learning and support. The Data Hub will also provide aggregated data to inform national analysis. Although separate and discrete elements, data management within the context of 16+ Learning Choices and More Choices, More Chances (Scotland’s strategy to reduce the number of young people not in education, employment or training) are both integral components of the wider data infrastructure and are complimentary to each other. As such I call the harmonious elements Partnership Information. Indeed, this is a term that has now been adopted by Government and I recently established the Community of Practice for Partnership Information (CoPPI), intended for local authority staff, schools and careers advisors. The Data Hub will enable the progress of young people from about the age of 15 onwards to be tracked, allowing partners to quickly identify and engage with any young person dropping out or failing to complete their post-16 learning choice, with a view to re-engaging them in further learning. Data sharing provides an increased understanding of where people go, when they engage, and provides a more holistic view of the barriers that they face. In the longer term, this allows us to become more intelligent when mapping the outcomes of young people (or particular groups and characteristics of young people) so that intervention and national resources can be targeted where they are most effective; either geographically or by individual/group need. This is really important, post-recession and could impact upon the ability to enhance economic recovery; combining employment and international trade opportunities into anti-poverty and health policies. Not only will this lead to improved life chances for our young people, it also becomes a powerful commodity for policy makers and is a clear opportunity to do things better. My vision is that effective, straightforward data sharing between the key partners will achieve a more complete and reliable data set for all partners, which in turn will deliver the following benefits:
- more effective service synergy, leading to more young people in sustained positive destinations; more effective and easier working for front-line delivery staff;
- more comprehensive and robust management information, that supports well informed strategic decisions and curriculum planning; and
- and more accurate and complete reporting to Scottish Government.
Red tape and bureaucracy is a real danger to effective data sharing. Working closely with the Information Commissioner, a legal framework for two-way data sharing whilst protecting individual confidentiality, is well established.
The Data Hub will allow schools to access college data and vice versa. Being able to view college applications from a school perspective is appealing, as too the college being able to view information on a young person as they make that application. This will improve the process and accuracy around information, advice and guidance, both at the point of leaving school and through any subsequent offers of post-16 learning. Using technology and new online tools like My World of Work (see www.sds.co.uk) motivates young people; these are the mediums that they are familiar with and engaging with these types of platforms is now a requirement, whether producing a CV, discovering learning opportunities or learning about a particular career. Likewise, all these approaches need to be joined up, if they are to be deployed to their full potential.
At the start of the year, I established a National Reference Group to adopt a governance approach to organise and regulate data sharing in action. I chaired this group and used it to steer national developments, in collaboration with local authorities and other policy makers. The technical IT solution for securely storing data, together with secure methods of data exchange in both directions between SDS and partners has been built and is in the pilot phase. The Data Hub will be fully implemented this coming Autumn.
You can read more about the 16+ learning Choices Data Hub and monitor progress through the CoPPI.