It’s a real pleasure to announce that I have been appointed as Coordinator – Excellence for All. Focussing on attainment and supporting children and young people, I will be working with a range of professionals and organisations to realise the potential of Scotland’s youth. Over the coming months, I will be writing new material and posting it here, archiving presentations and other material within my new blog page.
In the meantime, here is a snapshot which outlines the role:
Excellence for All will support and challenge those children and young people who are deemed to be the most educationally vulnerable and who may be at risk of underachieving. Data analysis and benchmarking standards are achieved at the outset and regularly monitored and tracked throughout the session, in order that an informed evaluation can be presented with clear evidence of impact.
The Strategy, which is still being drawn, will include:
- Developing a sustainable mentoring scheme.
- Building capacity to engage children and young people in their learning and assessment.
- Embedding a culture of all children and young people taking responsibility for their own learning.
- Further developing effective means to monitor and track the progress of those pupils at risk of underachieving/missing out, in order to maximise attainment and promote achievement.
As Curriculum for Excellence continues to embed itself into the culture, structure and practices of education in Scotland, there has never been a greater need for effective transition arrangements throughout the secondary phase of the education system. As young people continue their learning journey through the broad general education (broadly 3 years to 15), the move between primary schooling to secondary is an important one, as the new curricular arrangements seek to develop successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens.
Indeed, the journey does not end here, but instead continues into the senior phase curriculum; eventually leading into post-school education, training or employment. The impact of the recession on post-16 learning opportunities has tested the current transition arrangements. The purpose of this paper is to establish how effective post-16 (and ergo post-school) transitions are throughout Scotland. The topic will focus predominately on post-school transitions, including post-16 learning within the senior phase curriculum, although there will be additional light touch exploration and discussion to establish the effectiveness of transition arrangements between the primary and secondary phases. The scope of the paper will cover integral concepts such as universal and targeted support, Getting It Right For Every Child, Health and Well-Being, 16+ Learning Choices and The Additional Support for Learning Act. The paper will explore the outcomes for particular groups of young people, for example, those who have identified Additional Support Needs, and in particular those who are Looked After at home or away from home. Focus will remain solely on mainstream and maintained schools in Scotland although there may be occasional reference to special schools or special units within a mainstream setting, where a young person studies a bespoke curriculum which is partly or exclusively designed to meet their individual needs. The paper will draw together sound conclusions based on research evidence with the possibility of identifying particular strengths in current transitions arrangements or common issues which may need to be explored further.
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.
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.
Skills Development Scotland, the national skills body, has designed and developed an online toolkit to aide those in search of careers information, advice and guidance. My World of Work (or My Wow) will help you find all the advice and information that you need to win that next job or develop your career.
Having contributed to policy development under the auspices of Curriculum for Excellence and Building the Curriculum 4 – Skills for Learning, Life and Work, I’m pleased to see that SDS has incorporated these themes as such:
- Career Choices
- CVs and Covering Letters
- Find a Job
- Job Interviews
- Help your child with their career
- Developing Skills and Strengths
- Ways to Learn
- Apprenticeships and Training Programmes
- Scottish Qualifications Explained
- Career Development
- Career Changes
- Employment Rights
This is a fantastic resource and will shortly be used across all secondary schools in Scotland, though of course where applicable, those elsewhere across the international community may find it equally valuable. It is an essential toolkit to support 16+ Learning Choices and More Choices, More Chances – with a specific role in both universal and targetted support for those young people 15 – 19 and beyond, both in school and in other learning settings.
It’s still in beta mode – currently under development, but you can access the site and send SDS feedback. I’ve added a link at the bottom of this post. Here is an outline of what is on offer:
Work out who
With My CV tool, whether you’re applying for your first job, updating your skills and experience or preparing for a career change, this tool can help.
Work out what
Discover your skills and strengths and which careers may be right for you. My DNA is an engaging tool which helps you to build up your profile. My Strengths is an easy to use tool to help identify your strengths and learn more about them.
Work out which
There is a Careers A–Z which will help you to get from A to B. Check out the case study videos and listen to people talking about their jobs and career paths.
Work out where
Find out about the learning and training options open to you with the Course Choices tool.
Work out when
Discover live job opportunities online using the Job Search tool.
Visit the site at: http://myworldofwork.skillsdevelopmentscotland.co.uk/about-us
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.
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.