Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Key Messages from UNESCO European Regional Consultation #OER #Openscot #Digiscot

I had a moment or two this morning to try out Lumen5  what a cool tool - but I hope you pick up the key messages as well as learning about this new medium

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

All England but worth reflecting on Skills Policy/ Politics in England

Thanks to for this image

Education and Skills is thankfully a devolved issue in Scotland and we have our own levers and our own challenges in making Education and Skills in Scotland reflect the needs of Scottish learners, employers and broader civil society. And thankfully education and training is still viewed in the main as a social good across the political spectrum in Scotland.

But it is worth having a keek over Hadrian's Wall as large UK employers will have an appetite or at least will question the Scottish institutional response to some of the broader English reforms around Further Education and Vocational Skills Reform.

Some of these policy commitments could have big implications for Scottish training providers operating in England and for FE Colleges in Scotland trying to hold on to training contracts from English based organisations.

In amongst all of this there are some good ideas, from both sides of this political divide. Some of these ideas might even creep north of the border but only the good ones,  I hope.

The summaries of Labour and Conservative Manifesto's as reported by The Federation of UK Awarding Bodies appear below along with links to the full party manifesto.

Labour Party Manifesto
  • Labour would introduce free, lifelong education in FE colleges, enabling everyone to upskill or retrain at any point in life.
  • Labour would abandon Conservative plans to once again reinvent the wheel by building new Technical Colleges, redirecting the money to increase teacher numbers in the FE sector.
  • To implement Sainsbury’s recommendations, we would correct historic neglect of the FE sector by giving the sector the investment – in teachers and facilities – it deserves to become a world-leading provider of adult and vocational education. 
  • Labour would restore the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16-18 year olds from lower and middle income backgrounds
  • Labour would replace Advanced Learner Loans and upfront course fees with direct funding, making FE courses free at the point of use.
In relation to apprenticeships, the draft manifesto includes commitment to:
  • Maintain the apprenticeship levy while taking measures to ensure high quality by requiring the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education to report on an annual basis to the Secretary of State on quality outcomes of completed apprenticeships to ensure they deliver skilled workers for employers and real jobs for apprentices at the end of their training 
  • Set a target to double the number of completed apprenticeships at NVQ level 3 by 2022
  • Cover apprentices’ travel costs, which currently run to an average of £24 a week – a quarter of earnings if apprentices are on the minimum wage. 
  •  Roll out of T Levels with an average of 900 teaching hours per year and a 3 month work placement. No specific mention of or timescales licences etc.
  • Repeated commitment to create 3 million apprenticeships for young people by 2020.
  • A UCAS-style portal for technical education
  • Commitment to establish skills as a key part of the "modern industrial strategy"
  • £250 million investment in skills by the end of 2020 from the National Productivity Investment Fund
  • Double the Immigration Skills Charge levied on companies employing migrant workers, to £2,000 a year by the end of the parliament.
  • Ensure that the skills and qualifications gained by members of the armed forces are recognised by civilian employers
  • New institutes of technology, backed by leading employers and linked to universities, in every major city in England. They will provide courses at degree level and above, specialising in technical disciplines, such as STEM, whilst also providing higher-level apprenticeships and bespoke courses for employers
  • Employers still "at the centre of these reforms" with Skills Advisory Panels and Local Enterprise Partnerships working at a regional and local level.
  • Discounted bus and train travel for apprentices
  • A new right to request leave for training for all employees.
  • A national retraining scheme - the costs of training will be met by the government, with companies able to gain access to the Apprenticeship Levy to support wage costs during the training period.
  •  A right to lifelong learning in digital skills.






Thursday, May 18, 2017

#oereumt UNESCO Regional Consultations for 2nd World #OER Congress 2017 #openscot #digitaldifference

Interview with Joe Wilson

Joe Wilson

Spotted that the papers and all the sessions from the UNESCO #OER Regional Consultations are now up - if you are interested in this important global dimension of learning really worth having a good dig around.  You can get all the key notes here  and if you don't already know about Video Lectures as a platform worth having a look at that too.

Here is me caught on one of the coffee breaks on a sunny balcony over looking Valletta harbour.
Shout out to whose work I plugged in session but is not mentioned in this edited version.

Main lessons coming out of sessions

1. Open Educational Resources is  a subset of Open Practice
2. That countries need quite clear competency frameworks around digital literacy for learners and for those who work with learners ( teachers , lecturers , trainers , librarians , community education workers , GLAM workers ) which includes an understanding of Creative Commons , open licensing and how to create, publish , find and re-purpose open educational resources and embed this in their practice.
3. That to move on both digital skills and open educational practice there needs to be some quite clear policy drivers - not sector by sector - but from government. To be really effective this can't be from Education Ministry alone it should be seen in broadest context to get both civil society and industry engaged,  they all have things that they can share openly to support learning. But Education Ministry is a good place to start.
4. That there does need to be some sort of technical infrastructure a national repository or another suitable  aggregation, tagging , discovery  tool as a means of  finding and tracking openly available learning materials

Remember too where ever you are in the system you can just share your own learning materials with an appropriate creative commons licence . You don't have to wait for permission to innovate. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

#Jisc #FELTAG UK FE and Skills Coalition London

I had the opportunity to present to the #FELTAG FE and Skills Coalition in London this week on the challenges I see around the vocational reform programme in England and the opportunities emerging from this. I will not rehearse them all here but  will offer a short summary.

I think the system is becoming comfortable but needs more challenge around delivering 20% of apprenticeship programmes off the job. There is still room for more innovation around on-line delivery. Training organisations unused to classroom delivery need most support here in shaping innovative on-line offerings.

The main challenges lie around how to manage the movement of learners through programmes and towards end point assessement without the scaffolding of the unit based qualifications that existed in previous frameworks. There is an opportunity here for open badges and other forms of micro-credentials.  You can see City and Guilds and the other former awarding bodies that operated in this space positioning their delivery systems to supply learner content and step by step assessments that are supported by open badges.

Managing learmers progress is a mechanistic  challenge too.  Many frameworks require the collection of  on-going evidence to be presented at end point assessment. The system as a whole needs new approaches to e-portfolios that better support learning and development.  The previous vocational system was over reliant on checklist based systems while the systems that are used in Higher Education are too aimed at deep reflection against very broad outcomes.  The ideal system for the new apprenticeships lies somewhere in the middle - twinned with an reliable virtual learning environment for learner delivery and tracking. This to allow trainees, employers, training providers and End Point Assessment providers a window on the progress of the learning.  Trainees need to be highly confident that they are ready for end point assessment.

For providers there is still a challenge around making sure that there is a consistency of decision making and reliable quality control both around delivery and in decisions about predicting gradings.
Grading is a new concept in this area of training.  There needs to be greater transparency around the quality assurance mechanisms for End Point Assessments. Candidates and training providers need clear guidance both around understanding the pass/fail criteria and the grading criteria in many frameworks.

There remain some gaps - some of which might have been held up by the general election. I think many observers were anticipating the publication of a new set of digital competency standards around digital literacy to be published in England. This to form part of the underpinning essential skills for apprenticeships. There is already a new framework in place in Wales.

There remain too some deeper structural challenges that need tidied up by the new Institute of Apprenticeships and Technical Education. Some standards and assessment standards are not fit for purpose though published and approved. Probably best exemplified by the diminishing but still stubbornly high list of frameworks with no end point assessment body. This is still a potential crisis needing averted. The offer for non-levy paying employers still seems unclear and will stop many SME employers engaging with the programme. I think too the cost of end point assessment may act as a deterrent for both employers and employees in achieving fully qualified status.

From a Scottish view point 

As someone with a lot of experience of this sector in UK and internationally I understand the English drivers for many of these changes - but I don't agree with many of the reforms. I think the system should be rightly very anxious about the next wave of changes in trying to shoe horn vocational delivery towards 15 strands. Yes,  they do things like this in New Zealand and in other vocational systems but not in the manner that is being attempted in England.

I wish the term UK Vocational Reform Programme was used less - in what is in essence and practice an English Vocational Reform programme.

But I am jealous about some of the high level movement and thinking going on.

On the data side, the willingness to make more use of the Universal Learning Number ( we have had this in Scotland since the 1970's, the Scottish Candidate Number,  but have never fully exploited its utility around reporting learner progress through all of our learning system) The work around both the Individual Learning Record and the Individual Learning Plan with that focus on how the system supports and pushes on the performance and achievement of the learner so that centres are  not rewarded for simply allowing the learner to mark time is something the Scottish system should be exploring.  Yes,  it does take some learners longer than others to achieve but system should be working to understand this.  It will be interesting to see how the final link to HMRC shows a clear link to income and productivity. Would be great to see some of these approaches in Scotland.

We have data and some of these tools but have lacked the willingness and ambition to join this data up in Scotland.

I like too the grading of apprenticeships - as will employers and apprentices - but I think you can achieve this without the cost and disruption of End Point Assessment.

I like too the broader ambitions of the graduate apprenticeship programmes in England . In Scotland we are doing these targeted at areas where there has been a lack of flexibility from the Universities and a latent demand from industry. In England you are doing this too  but also building a rich set of alternative pathways into the professions like law and accountancy. This will really close the academic and vocational divide.

Finally I like the innovation around delivery and assessment that has been driven by both the FELTAG coalition and by the changing landscape shaped by the vocational reform programme. There is a greater sense of urgency to adopt new delivery methods and drive up the technical capacity of centres and teaching staff in English Colleges and training providers.  We do have some excellent practice in Scotland but it is more distributed.  Jisc and other have been doing a great job in supporting centres through this period of change .

I'll do a follow up post on the growing list of support available for centres in this new landscape.