Tagged: schools

Tackling Youth Unemployment – identifying young people at risk

First things first this is the last time that Ill use the word NEET (Not in Education, Training or Employment). Imagine being a 17 year old, leaving school and being labelled in the negative. It doesnt really say much for your future does it? How depressing…

Upon leaving school (regardless of age) young people enter into either a positive destination or they require support; careers information advice and guidance (IAG) to assist them through their learning journey. I use that term a lot, as I firmly believe that throughout our lives we all experience learning, regardless of setting. And yes, that does include employment.

High quality, impartial IAG is important in helping young people (and others) to make informed decisions about their pathways and future career choices. Careers IAG is a universal entitlement in Scotland – supporting all young people at any stage of career development, whether they choose to learn at school or college, or to develop their career management skills in a work-based or non-formal setting. Indeed, this is reinforced in both the Curriculum for Excellence entitlements and within the 16+ Learning Choices Policy and Practice Framework.

There is a need to re-assert the Government’s commitment to the provision of universal careers services, placing an emphasis on self-help – through developing people’s ability to manage their own career and through a multi-channelled, blended service, with face-to-face and more intensive support for those who need it most.
Most young people will access universal support from Skills Development Scotland during their school career, though others will require a more targetted approach, with early identification required so that resources can be deployed effectively. This process must start at least 12-16 months in advance of the statutory leaving age (in Scotland this is 16 years old) or whenever required by legislation as outlined in the ASL Act and Code of Practice.
An example of such assessment can be found within a risk matrix. The Risk Matrix aims to address the issue of those children and young people at risk. It highlights those most at risk by using a simple assessment technique that assigns a risk value to a number of the pupils attributes. These are configurable by each authority and when added together the resulting number is a quantitative risk assessment for that child. The status of the pupil is identified using colour coding with those most at risk coloured red. This is managed through the school/authority management information system.

The system should assist pastoral staff with the early identification of those pupils slipping towards a high risk category. Hopefully this will allow intervention at an earlier stage. The data is also shared (through the application of robust data sharing agreements) with other parties e.g. colleges of further education. This has the additional benefit of streamlining the post-school transition and is a basic principle of the 16+ Learning Choices Data Hub.

Information is automatically updated to the risk matrix on a nightly basis but can be re-imported at any time if required. Some of the criteria includes attendance; exclusions; post code; attainment; social work and other professional agency engagement; additional support needs and so on.
Of course, this isnt an exact science were talking about young people and they are the most significant variable in the known universe. By that, I mean to say that a young person may be at risk at 10am in the morning and by 2pm the level of risk has diminished, and vice versa. Criteria must never be used alone and so this must be backed-up by professional opinion ideally from a named person from within the school e.g. youth worker or pupil support teacher.

The Teacher, The Social Media Site and The Public

Here we are, advancing steadily into 2012. I find it slightly amusing if not frustrating that my first post this year is based on the use of scoial media by teachers. Forgive the title – The Teacher, The Social Media Site and The Public – however I do believe that we are stepping into the fantasy world of mystical beings, talking lions and batlles between good and evil.

Scottish teachers are being warned that their use of social networking sites could put their careers at risk.

For those of you who work with children and young people outwith Scotland, the issues are exactly the same. The media has made a fine example of professionals who have stepped over the line and merged their personal and professional lives together. Easily done when that proverbial line is hardly visible.

This is what the SSTA says:

The Scottish Secondary Teachers Association believes teachers can reveal too much personal information on sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The union also fears they could become overly familiar with pupils.

The General Teaching Council of Scotland is preparing new guidelines on social networking sites.

This follows a number of recent cases brought before the GTC’s regulatory body.

Jim Docherty, assistant secretary of the SSTA, told BBC Scotland that teachers should follow his advice: “First thing is don’t bother telling anybody else about your social life. Nobody is interested about your social life and it doesn’t help.

“Secondly, never make any comment about your work, about your employer, about teaching issues in general.

“There is always a possibility it will be misinterpreted.”

And this is what the GTCS says:

The recommended advice for teachers is that the online environment is an extension of your professional responsibility as a teacher. So conduct online must mirror the Standards set out in the GTC Standard for Full Registration and the GTC Scotland’s Code of Professionalism and Conduct (CoPAC). The interesting thing about the CoPAC is that it does not exclude the use of social media with pupils but states that it must be”… professional, appropriate and justified“. For this reason the Disciplinary Sub-Committee

has said that; “…for the avoidance of doubt, there should be absolutely no ambiguity or perceived ambiguity between a teacher’s private life and his/her professional life in electronic communications”.

– John Anderson, Head of Professional Practice, GTC Scotland

In essence, if you have a social media account as a teacher – it should reflect your professional responsibilities as a teaching professional. I wouldn’t expect teachers not to discuss education (in general) so the GTCS shouldn’t either. That’s like asking a politician not to talk about politics. It isn’t going to happen. If you have a personal account, it must be kept completely separate and private. This can be a potential minefield at the best of times if you are unsure of the features available in the programs and you should seek advice from colleagues if you’re not sure.

I for one will continue to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress and the magical wardrobe to Narnia. Of course, with a splash of common sense. Essentially, don’t post anything in the public domain if it is something that you wouldn’t want your mother, spouse or employer to see. Secondly, don’t direct message pupils or add them as friends – be cautious about adding those who have left school as they may have friends on their social site who you still teach.

Lastly – if in doubt, go with your gut instinct.

Scottish Education – The Front End vs The Back End

Following from my previous article, here are some random ramblings on Curriculum for Excellence. I’ll produce another article later this week with my concluding thoughts.

Mixed messages and a lack of clarity around the broader implications that CfE brings to education has lead to some misinterpretation. Many teachers still believe that it is all about changing the national qualifications and the assessment criteria, albeit with a splash of contemporary learning and teaching thrown in. With many stresses on the daily routine, finding time to plan and deliver a cooperative lesson or plan interdisciplinary learning across the curriculum is challenging. Yes, where relevant, appropriate and timely – this is a great way of reinforcing a particular lesson; articulating aspects of the curriculum and connecting skills so that they young person’s learning is progressive, integrated and that the experience is not easily forgotten. Unfortunately, there are a few major barriers which are preventing progress within Scottish Education.

Educational leaders, as public managers are accountable to their local authority. The majority are not taking the managed risks that are needed to break the cycle of tradition which is halting progress. This is not their fault, but is a fundamental paradox within the system itself. We have done to CfE, exactly what we wanted to avoid. Tinkering around the edges and enhancing what I call the ‘front end’ of the learning and teaching process. We’ve done an exemplary job here – but it only goes so far. The ‘back end’ of the system, the inspections, the accountability and the qualifications process which is required for university entry is stagnant and rigid. There is little flexibility and as such this transfers to the classroom.

There is a misconception that everything needs an evidence base – it must be measured recorded and evaluated. I wonder what the purpose of that process is? Is it to monitor and track the young person or is it to appease the inspector when they knock on the door? An independent General Teaching Council for Scotland is raising the standard for full and continued registration; yet there remains an inherent lack of trust between the Government, it’s executive agencies, local authorities and teachers. This is then passed down between parents and carers, pupils and teachers and places schools between a rock and a hard place. The impact of recession has not helped either – changing teacher’s terms and conditions and messing about with pensions during such a sensitive time has enlarged the expanding gulf – reinforcing the ‘them and us’ mentaility which prevents creative, innovative approaches. Not many people are willing to stick their heads above the parapet these days and we have fallen to a culture of standardising standards and writing a policy for policy making. There are many teachers who, given the chance, would do things differently if they were not bound by red tape and mis targetted accountability.

I for one, don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I do have the guts to ask some questions. Why do we need an inspectorate of education? Schools go through the self-evaluation process and they are then held to account – based on evidence and statistics. I’d like to see an education system which measures the longer term outcomes of a young person, not when the leave school at the age of 16, 17 or 18 with a fistful of qualifications. To me, that means very little and it certainly does not reflect the improvements in life chances that we must focus upon. Unfortunately, it takes a brave Government to put aside the immediate story telling – required to win elections, and embed a system of education which realises the potential of a young person well after the term of office has completed. I do not like to drive statistics for the sake of telling a story. If we get it right for every child and young person, the numbers will improve as a result.

Whilst removing inspection and revitalising the statistical infrastructure which underpins Scotland Peforms and the national targets, I recognise that curriculum evaluation is important for many reasons. It provides an opportunity for identifying the strengths and weaknesses of an education system so that it can be analysed against an agreed vision and quality criteria. It also informs policy makers and stakeholders with regard to the changes/reforms needed for enhancing the quality of education inputs, processes and outcomes. Moreover, curriculum evaluation points to the capacities to be developed for enhancing the quality of curriculum design, writing and implementation. We need the ability to test, analyse and measure the learning system : adaptability, responsiveness and effectiveness to meet the changing needs of children and young people. This must be embedded into learning and teaching whilst supporting individuals through a modern approach to integrated services, incorporating education, social work and health etc. An education performance framework requires robust monitoring of both the individual and collective progress of children and young people and their achievements: measuring progress throughout the learner’s journey and recognising their outcomes upon leaving school, an episode of learning and when reaching the end of the extended school curriculum.

To this end, I propose a two tier, national framework to measure the success of the education system. This should be based on Integrated Services Performance – the lead indicators which measure across the entire portfolio of services; building capacity and promoting accountability. These should be embedded in a culture of continuous improvement and measured through community partnership planning and local government agreements, and: Organisational Performance – the supplementary indicators which measure schools, colleges and individual services, in the more traditional sense; and promote the need to be more responsive in planning and delivering the curriculum, providing young people with better educational experiences. Such a framework must remove the focus of attainment results in S4, 5 and 6 and instead look across the holistic outcomes. This means removing the current Standard Tables and Charts system and replacing it with a new senior phase benchmarking tool.

Lecturing, Guest Speaking, Advice or Coffee?

As well as teaching at my own institution, I have decided to take a bigger part in the development of my field both in a professional and public context. You can read more about my specialism within my Biography. This includes expanding my education papers and research projects.

If there is no conflict of interest with my employers, I am currently open to invitation; offering lectures on courses / undergraduate or postgraduate teaching programmes at colleges of further education or universities. Likewise, I am open to lecture outside academia and I am more than happy to speak to other organisations with an interest in education, policy or young people.

I have stood as keynote speaker at many events and conferences and I am now looking to expand my portfolio. I do not always require fees or expenses, depending on the nature of what I have been asked to do.

If you believe that I may have something to offer to you, whether as a guest speaker, consultant or perhaps an informal chat over coffee, please do get in touch! I don’t always work Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm either, so evenings and weekends are also welcome and I can work virtually if this suits you best!

The Scottish Learning Festival – Dead or Alive?

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.

Enhancing Teacher Effectiveness = Improving Student Learning

The Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) will hold its fall conference on teaching and learning entitled “Enhancing Teacher Effectiveness = Improving Student Learning” from October 28-30, 2011, in Las Vegas, United States.

The conference aims to explain how schools can support teacher effectiveness in a balanced way that addresses the factors that improve student learning. It is open to professionals aiming to increase their instructional effectiveness by discussing topics such as researched-based teaching and evaluating practices.

For more information, visit www.ascd.org

The 16+ Learning Choices Data Hub

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.

16+ Learning Choices and The Senior Phase Curriculum

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.