This year’s Scottish Learning Festival (Twitter #SLF11) is likely to be one to remember – either for better or worse. To be held on 21st and 22nd September, the theme is Curriculum for Excellence: Learning, Teaching and Assessment, Making the Connections.
The conference will also see the highly anticipated ‘launch’ of Scotland’s new executive agency – Education Scotland; a marriage between Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) and Her Majestie’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIe). The perpetual role and responsibilities of the ‘support’ and ‘challenge’ aspects of the agency are yet to be communicated in any great detail, though these traditional terms are likely to be ones that The Scottish Government would like to banish into the void; they do not convey the contemporary message which will realise the desired ties between Education Scotland and the learning and teaching profession.
Back in 2008, having attended and presented at a number of consecutive festivals, LTS asked me to produce a short paper which measured the impact of SLF. Given that the next event is almost upon us, I thought that I’d take the time to reflect on my previous thoughts, though I admit that I struggle to conclude whether the event is dead in the water or alive and kicking.
The Scottish Learning Festival is the largest education conference and exhibition of its kind in Scotland. Throughout its twelve year history, the event has been extensively evaluated by Learning and Teaching Scotland to ensure that delegates are benefiting from attendance. However, the real success of whether or not attendance is beneficial is in the long term impact that it has on the delegate and their classroom, school and professional practice. This ensures that the event is continuous throughout the year and not simply a two day event which promotes innovative ideas and an opportunity to network.
I believe that some teachers can have very narrow perspectives when their view is restricted to only one school or classroom and that SLF provides the ideal opportunity to have a fresh and unique overview of education. We have all seen significant change to the curriculum over the last few years and the future promises to bring ever more intensive and stringent reform to the qualification and assessment system. Improving the life chances of our young people and raising self-esteem, self-belief and self-determination, what I call responsible confidence, must be promoted amongst children and young people through a diverse range of creative and innovative pedagogy. By sharing ideas, resources and knowledge we can facilitate the growth and development of such practice to an extent where we provide infrastructure which will firmly support further implementation of Curriculum For Excellence.
I normally feel very excited following attendance at SLF. There aren’t many opportunities to meet with teachers from early years and secondary, colleges and other areas of education all in the same day and this type of perspective gives that broader picture. The conference programme arrives on my desk at exactly the right time. Based on current themes related to the curriculum and teaching practice, I always use it as a starting point to identify my own professional development for the year ahead, and it is an opportunity to see what other people are doing up and down the country. Increasingly, I have met with colleagues from other parts of the United Kingdom and from as far as the United States and Australia – indeed, if they make the effort to attend then so should we.
I do feel however, that in the current economic climate, some teachers may have difficulty achieving time away from the classroom – decreasing staff cover budgets and increasing workloads make attendance challenging – and I don’t know many teachers who attend both days.
I would really like to see the attendance figures from this year’s conference and compare them to those of the past. There could well be some serious questions to be asked. It may well be, despite all the advantages and good points to the event, that it has lived its course and a new approach is now needed. Perhaps, a controversial shift in time is needed, with an opportunity for teachers to attend at the weekend instead; are we given the chance to tune into a live seminar via video conferencing? This would be appealing to those who need to travel from afar and stay overnight – and of course it would provide a valuable record of the discussion. This is especially important, I feel. A record is needed if the conference is to continue impacting on learning and teaching throughout the year.
If you are attending this year, I may well see you there – please do give me a shout and say hello. I’d be interested in your after thoughts – either message me via Twitter (@leeandrewdunn) or send me an email. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions around the future of the event and its impact on your practice. At this moment in time, I’ll sit on the fence.
The “Student Fees (Specification) (Scotland) Order 2011”
The Scottish Government has published proposals for secondary legislation to change the way in which higher education tuition fees are applied to students who normally live in another part of the UK outside Scotland (RUK). This will be achieved through legislative changes made by secondary legislation and an associated condition attached to any grant paid by the Scottish Ministers to the Scottish Further and Higher Education Funding Council (SFC) in terms of section 9 of the 2005 Act.
The future policy on higher education tuition fees for students who are domiciled in another part of the UK outwith Scotland (referred to as ” RUK-domiciled students”) who attend Scottish universities will be determined by the Scottish Government, following consideration of responses to the consultation process on both the policy proposals and this interim EQIA.
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.
I recently wrote an article which explored the concept of measuring education reform by developing an appropriate performance framework to analyse outcomes. Originally, I intended to write this in two parts, but instead I have integrated both sections into a single paper.
An education system which is flexible, responsive and adaptable during economic recovery is desirable – and we must be able to test this, challenge it and support continuous improvement across all of its component parts.
Although measuring performance within individual services, schools and agencies is important, there is an argument to mark progress across the entire portfolio of integrated services at key stages of a young person’s life.
Given this, any performance framework must underpin a statistical infrastructure that can provide quality information that supports cross-policy development, performance measurement and analysis, and appropriate monitoring at both local and national level.
You can download the full paper here.