Thursday, July 21, 2016

Preparing for the Apprenticeship Levy with @bobharrisonset @MartinLewarne @itslearningUK

 A week ago I had the opportunity to talk on a webinar about some of the changes coming in the Apprenticeship Space in England and how it might impact on Colleges and Training Providers . The clever people from ITSLearning  demonstrating great digital literacy - have now published the session as a  Youtube Video

Many thanks to @bobharrisonset @MartinLewarne @itslearningUK

Relevant too for  Scottish Training providers and Colleges.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Post 16 Skills Plan in England - Reflection from Scotland

Here are some of the main bullets from the Post 16 Skills Plan in England with some Scottish reflections. It would be good to see some innovative thinking in this space in Scotland. You can read both the Sainsbury Report and the Post 16 Skills Plan here  The Sainsbury Report is a big read but the significant follow up published on same day is the Post 16 Skills Plan.

This is not all happening next year - the system is to be fully in place by 2022.

I don't agree with all of this but I do agree with some of the reforms set out here.  This is an administration trying to shake things up and build a system that is  more effective for learners.
At the age of 16, students will have to choose between the “academic option” – comprising A-levels leading to an undergraduate degree – or the new “technical option”. This will signal the end of 16-18 students being able to opt for a mixture of academic and vocational qualifications, and is likely to lead to greater specialisation in individual providers and schools. For learners, however, there will be the option of switching between the two routes after completing A-levels or equivalent qualifications
Instinctively,  I don't like the notion of learners choosing either 'academic' or 'technical' but that might be hardwired into my psyche. But if the system allows learners to genuinely progress back into either higher technical or back into 'academic' learning and the system really works to break down that academic vocational divide, then it should be attractive to learners and their parents. With the caveat too that your decision is based on sound careers advice and not that the 'technical' route is the only one open to you.

I think this is saying too that if you choose this route you are probably leaving school to attend College or achieve this through a training provider rather than staying on at school and getting a taster of a vocational offer - though I do think schools in Scotland could offer full national certificates and other programmes, perhaps this will happen, but it might take a new generation of teachers with a broader view of learning and one that is not so focused on the academic routes. The current Developing Scotland's Young People policy is perhaps not as bold in its ambition as the Post 16 Skills Plan.
In the “technical option”, students will embark on one of 15 technical education routes: agriculture, environmental and animal care; business and administrative; catering and hospitality; childcare and education; construction; creative and design; digital; engineering and manufacturing; hair and beauty; health and science; legal, finance and accounting; protective services; sales, marketing and procurement*; social care*; transport* and logistics*.
This is always more complex that it looks - it will be hard to fit all the things that industry want in the way of skills into 15 technical education routes. Where for instance in the list are music and sports industry qualifications and what all needs to fit under the Creative Design route - in theory everything from graphics, journalism to furniture design.  But most Colleges in Scotland should recognize most of their current national certificate provision in this list - and progression and completion rates can be a challenge in FE provision in Scotland  - perhaps something to think about at SCQF level 4, 5 and 6 and maybe a good opportunity to look at what is in these courses along side what is in the modern apprenticeship and to have another look at progression pathways. There might be more than 15 routes but building a clearer relationship between national certificate and apprenticeships is clearly a good thing for learners.

Some people reading this might remember a previous aborted attempt to introduce GSVQs in a fixed number of routes - this looks bolder building a link on into the apprenticeship.

Colleges might be alarmed to see Social Care along with the other starred routes  listed above as a route that will mostly be delivered through an apprenticeship rather than solely a college based route, but when you reflect on this it does make sense. NC Social Care should be about clients and not mainly based in a College.
Within each route, learners can – following a transition year or traineeship for those “not ready to access a technical education route at age 16” – choose between a two-year, college-based programme (including compulsory work experience), or an employment-based programme, such as an apprenticeship (including at least 20 per cent college-based provision). Older learners will also be entitled to take these programmes.
This is really how national certificates in Scotland and apprenticeships could link together . The terms traineeship and transition year  is I think a better pre-apprenticeship term that the foundation term currently used in Scotland. In effect there is a traineeship then either a two year College programme or entry on to an apprenticeship -given there being a close relationship between the College programme and an apprenticeship programme.
 Each college programme will include a “common core” of English, maths and digital skills, as well as “specialisation towards a skilled occupation or set of occupations”.
This is almost  how many national certificate programmes in Scotland currently operate. They do though cover a broader range of core skills , essential skills , skills for learning life and work .
But, would a greater focus on numeracy and communication along with digital literacy improve the progression rates for Scottish FE learners as a common core in NC provision ? I have blogged in the past about the demise of IT as an essential skill replaced by Digital Literacy in Wales. Here is that transition happening in England . Digital literacy already has to be a component of the new apprenticeships in England.
After this, the pathways lead on to either level 4 or 5 higher technical education programmes, degree apprenticeships or higher apprenticeships. There will also be the option in some cases of taking “bridging provision”, leading to an undergraduate degree.
As learners in England are paying up to £9 thousand pounds a year to choose the degree route - so not really £9K think £27K before other learning and living expenses  . Employers including many of the professions like accounting now offer apprenticeship routes to full professional status so that canny learners can earn while they learn and avoid student debt .This has led to a growth in the number of what are called advanced apprenticeships.

The bridging provision exists through HN to degree in Scotland more effectively than in England but  there needs to be clearer links in Scotland between VQ level 3, 4 and 5 and HND and Degree provision. Colleges and Universities in Scotland are not good at recognising achievement through the apprenticeship route- even where this provision is now SCQF credit and levelled.
The new Institute for Apprenticeships will see its remit expanded to encompass “all of technical education at levels 2 to 5”. It will be responsible for bringing together expert groups to set the content and standards for each of the 15 routes and become the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education
This makes sense, it has been a bit of a shambles in England with lots of competition creating an unhelpful maze of qualifications for learners and centres. Though there is probably exaggeration where the  reports talk of 160 awarding organisations and thousands of different qualifications. These awarding bodies and qualifications do not all exist in the College space in England.

 Effectively SQA really awards or accredits across this space already in Scotland but attention needs paid to these developments. I am sure if the expert groups create 15 robust routes there will be some expectation that these are adopted by organisations that operate across the UK . I am sure SQA will be watching this carefully. It also looks like the New Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education will have oversight of this rather than Ofqual ,so the Institute becomes a new strategic partner for SQA.
The report calls on the institute to review all existing apprenticeship standards “at the earliest opportunity” to ensure there is “no substantial overlap”.
I think this is highlighting the very mixed bag of fragmented standards and assessment strategies that were produced by the 'trailblazer' organisations,  who did not call on the experience of sector skills councils, awarding bodies, colleges and training providers in creating the new standards and assessment strategies and this  gives the new Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education the opportunity to tidy these up as they come to have this oversight.
Each qualification at levels 2 and 3 will be awarded by a single awarding body or consortium “following an open competition”, rather than the current market, which sees awarding bodies competing with one another. There will be one qualification for each occupation (or cluster of related occupations).
I highlighted earlier that this may be more of a challenge than it seems in terms of one qualification for a cluster of occupations.

The notion of one awarding body per subject is to control the  market in England which has been out of control for probably the last 20 years - this model was mooted by Mr Gove to control GCSE and A level inflation and was then abandoned. This could be the end of many of the small awarding bodies in England. I am assuming that City and Guilds, Pearson Learning , OCR and a number of the larger awarding bodies will carve this market up if this goes ahead. But, I am assuming that having been granted a monopoly the government will set the prices for qualifications and assessment. It is often overlooked that in Scotland,   SQA could be seen as almost a monopolist provider on the awarding side of the organisation but the Scottish government agrees the price tariff in Scotland not the SQA.

 I think it would be good if one agency had control of the standard and the model of assessment - but allow awarding bodies to continue to compete around innovative on-line delivery and assessment delivery .The innovation needs to be close to the learners.

 If only one awarding body has all the computing or accounting expertise  ..what happens when the qualification comes up for re-tender in 3-5 years ?  or what happens if there is a significant system failure with the one awarding body.

This is not currently a problem in Scotland but if a large employer decides they want to use these English awards, history shows that they will probably get funding for them in Scotland.

There will be a single set of “exit requirements” of minimum standards in maths and English for both college and work-based provision. Each college student will be required to complete a “high-quality, structured work placement”, and complete a logbook to demonstrate what tasks they have undertaken and what they have learned.

This is not yet really embedded in Scottish system every National Certificate learner would benefit from a structured work placement , some more focus on numeracy and communications and digital literacy and an on-line logbook or e-Portfolio that they can use for progression - this would sit well with employability and enterprise and the aims of Developing Young People.

There is currently a useful survey on the  Scottish Government Response to Employer Levy  on what employers think we should spend the Employer Levy on in Scotland.  If it goes ahead in April 2017 the treasury will raise £3billion pounds across the UK and around £250 million should be available in Scotland. It is probably time to do something more fundamental in this space . But , and say it quietly, Scotland does not have a great track record in innovation here,  SVQ's were copied from NVQ's , Core Skills from English Key Skills in earlier reforms.

Perhaps,  we should be doing a bit more thinking about the system being funded rather than just what we will do with the money that comes from the Employer levy ?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Digital Literacy, A New Essential Skill ; Food for Thought from Welsh Experience

Digital Literacy the Welsh Experience
A Think Piece
In Wales, based on recommendations from E-Skills the then Sector Skills Council and Jisc work (including a review of all the digital competencies frameworks globally) , and on advice of Graham Donaldson in his Report to the Welsh Government , a new essential skills framework has been developed to support work based and lifelong learning.
This fits with the requirement for Trail Blazers in England to consider the embedding of digital skills in the new apprenticeship frameworks.
You'll probably know the name Essential Skills in Northern Ireland, but in England you'll likely recognise them as 'Functional Skills', or 'Core Skills' in Scotland. In Scotland things have become particularly confused with Skills for Learning Life and Work being pushed in Schools , Essential Skills in Colleges,  while in apprenticeship frameworks Core Skills is still the brand that is used for the underpinning generic skill set. Though the superset in Schools and College are related to the core skills framework.

There is probably a separate blog post needed in figuring out why this drift apart has happened in Scotland and what should be done to fix this. I hope some thinking hats are going on - digital literacy is a sensible broadening of the narrower core skill of IT.
The Welsh government realised that IT alone was not going to equip learners to gain the dynamic digital skills they would need to support them in adapting with evolving digital technologies at home and in the workplace.

The decision was taken that from September 2015 digital literacy would replace IT as an essential skill along with employability skills, communication and application of number. Essential Skills is a compulsory element for anyone studying towards an apprenticeship or foundation learning programme in Wales.

Based around digital capabilities
The Welsh government has created a new framework of learner qualifications that incorporates all the key aspects of digital literacy models. It offers six themes across six levels, from Entry 1 to Level 3, including:
  • Digital responsibility
  • Digital information literacy
  • Digital productivity
  • Digital collaboration
  • Digital creativity
  • Digital learning
You can see the framework and the suggested models of learning and assessment in the context of the whole new Essential Skills Framework here
I will focus only on the Digital Literacy components here.
The components can easily be adapted to a checklist, a think list approach for Trailblazers in the development of their new standards.  
For  awarding and accreditation bodies across the UK many of whom have not yet looked at digital literacies as a core component of their skills offering this is a useful place to start thinking about how digital literacies should be embedded in learning and in the workplace to improve both the learner’s skill base and workplace productivity.
If you were a Trail Blazer or regulator thinking about digital literacy and skills this would be a good place to start.
Digital Responsibility
Be able to access a range of digital devices  
Know how to stay safe in a digital world and demonstrate how to interact safely in the digital world
Be able to access and use transaction based on-line services
Know what is meant by a digital footprint and know the protocols for you as an individual and within an organisation in its maintenance and demonstrate maintenance of a digital footprint.
Be able to work safely and securely in a range of digital environments
Be able to apply a range of protocols for digital responsibility and digital security in a wide range of digital communities and environments
Digital Information Literacy
Be able to select, identify and verify the source of digital information
Understand how to critically analyse and the review techniques to gather digital information
Be able to retrieve and use digital information to complete a task or solve a problem
Be able to evaluate and use digital information to complete complex tasks or solve complex problems.
Digital Productivity
Be able to open a file and use a range of input devices
Be able to present information in a digital format
Be able to open and respond appropriately to personal and business  messages
Be able to identify, maintain, resolve common digital issues   and use basic hardware.
Be able to organise, store, share, permission and protect digital information
Digital Collaboration
Be able to select and use appropriate digital tools to collaborate with others
Be able to plan, organise and apply effective and efficient collaborative working practices
Understand and demonstrate how collaboration can enhance personal professional and organisational practice
Digital Creativity
Be able to create, edit and enhance a digital resource including multimedia resources.
Be able to use a wide range of digital creative tools and techniques to complete a complex task.
Understand how to critically review, analyse and evaluate creative digital solutions.
Understand how a digital creative solution has the potential to develop opportunities for entrepreneurship and enterprise.
Digital Learning
Understand how digital technologies, tools and techniques enhance and extend learning opportunities.

Friday, May 20, 2016

#Jisc E-Assessment Survey

This report is worth a look at , if only to reflect on the depressingly slow pace of e-assessment across the public education system in the UK .  I think when I was involved in setting up the UK E-Assessment Association in the early noughties we hoped things would move much faster.

What are the challenges

I know I am lumping schools , colleges , universities and some work-based learning all together here and that some systems particularly in workplace are going a lot faster !

1. It is hard to get system and teachers to move away from pencil and paper even for high stakes summative assessment and even where there is a strong evidence base that on-line makes the assessments both more accessible and more cost effective.  Education leaders are afraid of making decision and changing procedures too. There still appears to be a big digital literacy deficit among teachers and educational leaders.

2. Centres are still not geared up for e-assessment . Even though much of this can now be done across wifi and even on candidates own devices .  You don't always need to invest in a bespoke on-line test centre.

3. The awarding bodies - either have their own bespoke systems or are too tied in to systems and processes that require paper.  Much of the e-enablement has focused on embedding the current system. Scanning of candidates scripts for electronic marking rather than any attempt to move the whole assessment and verification systems on-line. Any candidate evidence should be on-line and remotely accessible by now . That includes evidence at centre level internal validation should be through images of candidates work.

4. An unwillingness to open up the question banks that do exist . There should be rafts of on-line apps and systems that allow learners lots of ways to develop their skills through formative assessments on-line,  based on items from the awarding bodies past papers. I am still looking for a free platform that can do maths , numeracy , digital literacy , communications - call it what you will core skills , functional skills , essential skills-  diagnostic testing .  Staff should not have to create lots of assessment instruments and items they should be available for  re-purposing.

5. A lack of flexibility and a belief that exam halls are always the answer.  In terms of assessment in the round there is a push back to high stakes testing and away from e-portfolios and continuous assessment - which is in my opinion pedagogically unsound . This a feature principally in English system.

Over the last 14 years the system has had lots of advice but still learners are more likely to encounter an on-line assessment in situations out with formal education than through an educational establishment. Even at level of institutions preparing learners for the real world , this is wrong.

If folks looked at some of the platforms that are already available and open  for example they would see that there are already very reliable ways to automatically mark even short answer questions. I've raised this example before . I think in Scotland we need someone to make an instance of this available on an open basis to support adoption of on-line learning and assessment across life long learning and out in to our communities.

Monday, May 16, 2016

#dlw16 Digital Learning Week Homework

Education Scotland Digital Learning Week Logo 

Thought I'd assign some homework for schools in Digital Learning Week 

This principally aimed at senior phase. 

In no particular order. 

1. How good is your school wifi and are you ready for learners to bring their own devices ?

2. Have you got a clear policy that encourages learners and teachers  to use their own devices in class and around the school  ?

3. Have you worked out how to close the digital divide - can you supply learners,  who don't have access to a device that can reliably at least browse the internet with a suitable device - ideally for school time and to take home ? hint -  Kindle Fires are good value at moment.

4. How confident are your teachers in making the best use of GLOW - blogging , sharing , publishing their learning and teaching resources, working collaboratively with learners to create content with teacher and learners in other schools across Scotland and internationally ?

5. Have you worked out a policy or mechanism for making the best use of massive open on-line courses for staff and for pupil development ?

6. How much learning content created under Creative Commons Licences do your teachers and pupils produce each year and what platforms are you publishing this on ?

7. How good is your learning community at defining and describing your local area - do you use Google and other maps and suitable review sites as opportunities for teachers and learners to produce content.

8. Have you trained any Wikipedians - what are the Wikipedia entries like for your school and for the region that surrounds your school ?  How can you improve these ?

9. Digital literacy - have you a mechanism for measuring this across your learning community and a means of developing this for teachers and learners on an ongoing basis ?

10. Do you use technology to give learners an opportunity to showcase their work - and do you use it to cut down on meetings and use it for useful things like internal verification, across your school , across the local authority , nationally ?

11. How many on-line courses are your learners using as a supplement to or as an addition to normal classes and are you timetabling these to increase the choice available to senior phase learners and to make non-viable subject choices viable in your school ?

12. E-Books - have you worked out that many of the classic texts are now freely available as they are out of copyright and have you a strategy for making sure teachers and learners make the most of resources like this ?

13. Do most subject teachers have their own YouTube channel with a stream of helpful revision clips from a range of sources to support learners and/or what social platforms are they doing this on ?

14. Have you opened up a lot of your on-line learning to help and support parents - who would benefit from access to this learning ?

15. How many Microsoft Innovator Teachers , Google Certified , Apple or Intel or other trained teachers do you have and do you value your digital leaders ?

16. Do you know what an open badge is and have you worked out ways for your teachers and learners to build some open badges and award these ?

17. Has your school organised or supported a teachmeet ? Do you encourage teachers to contribute to #Pedagoo - do you regularly talk about how digital learning is changing the face of learning - talking about the pedagogy and the on-line resources freely available ?

18. If you think digital learning is still about - composing and sending emails , opening , creating and saving a document and using presentation software , a data projector or an electronic whiteboard and that phones are a needless distraction in school.  Then please ignore  1-17

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Festival of Computing #RUFestofComp16

I was asked to give  a shameless plug 

It is a great idea - I spoke to organiser, the  event inspires staff to tune in and change their own practice at institution and supports teachers, academics and students. 

Roehampton is a pretty unique venue and they have a superb line up of interesting speakers and sessions- 

Message follows - 

I would appreciate if you could spread the word about our Festival 

of Computing. We have talks and workshops for primary and

 secondary school teachers; school leaders and academics. Great 

event for networking and to share ideas. 

Tickets cost £60 for an 

adult and £40 for a student.

Hash Tag :
Ticket store:



Thanks to @selm4s for image

Provocation SELMAS  

I was asked to provoke a gathering of around 140 School leaders from Scotland. I thought I would share my points here and add some web-links.  There wasn’t a fight.

If you are given the opportunity and privilege to talk at a SELMAS event grab it with both hands. I was humbled by the aspiration and experiences of the other speakers and by the commitment of all the education leaders present to improving the life chances of Scotland's young people. 

Thanks to all at SELMAS for the kind invitation.

Provocation - 

I wonder how hard it is to provoke school leaders
If I said that for almost half of my  30 year career I left the classroom and  I worked for SQA and that I’ve worked with HMIE, Education Scotland and SFC, the Scottish Funding Council and many of the agencies that work around schools.

– that is often provocation enough in the kitchen of a party with any teachers present.

But the truth is and like me – many of the staff who work in these organisations come from the classroom – and you can change them and get involved with them. The choice to engage and make changes for the better is yours. 

But I appreciate how busy landscape is. 

For school leaders it is often about squeezing in another change on top of changes that are already in train
Wider Achievement
Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce
Closing the Attainment Gap
Getting it Right for Every Child
The named person scheme
The next school inspection
While managing all the challenges of running a complex organisation with competing demands – and being a role model at the same time.

Currently in the  senior phase of CfE you are getting heads around new national qualifications at SCQF 4 and 5 and looking at a re-aligned curriculum in Highers and Advanced Highers,  while taking a look at the ways schools can work more closely with industry on one hand and with the wider community on the other.

There is always a raft of policy changes and never enough people or re-sources to get everything moving forward – but it is achieved – and thanks to the dedication of you as leaders and your teams.

And we are in a much better place that we were 30 years ago.

Let’s reflect …

I taught in schools in and around Glasgow, in many there was a larger cohort of non-certificated classes finishing their school career in 4th year than there were classes preparing for their O’grades .

In 1986 the system had decided that it was ok to allow large cohorts of learners to leave school with no certification and with precious little engagement.  As a trainee English and History teacher  I was asked to show them videos but not to try and teach them English as they would rebel.

On another occasion, in another school armed with lots of inspiring ideas – I was advised to lower my expectations of learners -  as they were from around here .  The Head of Department hadn’t picked up I was from around the same area and this led to an interesting conversation. 

Expectations were too low at all levels in the system. 

There was never a golden age. There is now and the future. 
We are in a better place and we can make it better still for learners. 

I met the same learners in the local college, now on first name terms and doing courses they were interested in – they performed and were model learners and citizens.
Schools are more like this now or should be.

Often too in those darker days I was more concerned about bullying in the staff room than bullying in the playground. I think we have more professional respect for our peers now and we make decisions based on evidence. Not on who is shouting the loudest.

Things have moved on – expectations at all levels are now in a different place and learners have responded– though the challenges of poverty and in some cases chaotic lifestyles remain in many of our communities and the chasm in achievement among learners from different social economic groups – remains Scotland’s shame.

But the bill of fare in our schools should now be much more appropriate for all of our learners

Now, there should be appropriate choices for all learners and not just more of the same academic fare.

In Colleges we spend a lot of time listening to what learners want and measuring not just their achievements but their satisfaction with the choice available to them and the standard and quality of their learning experience. Do schools really listen to the learners voice ?  And do you adjust your provision in response to this ?

I want to talk about widening achievement – with my YouthlinkScotland hat on
How many school are really using – Saltire Awards , John Muir Awards , SQA Leadership Awards , Duke of Edinburgh Awards  and all the other options that are available across the School

With less funding it will be that route where young people get their first international experience , their first experience of planning an expedition or community project, out with formal education, their first position of responsibility. There are still different sources of funding in the community for these activities and youth groups work hard at raising funds to be inclusive. 

How tuned in is your school to the amazing opportunities , commitments and achievements  young people have through  youth work,  volunteering out with normal school and do you give it adequate recognition ?

Scout story – My volunteers were told – school does offer awards there – but these are only for the thick kids. Their words and perception rather than what they were probably told. But message was clear school still not really valuing wider achievement.

How hard is it for a community group to get notices up inside a school ?  
How aware is the school of opportunities for learners in the immediate community ?

If schools are to be judged as part of a community learning experience how good are you at reaching out and how far are you confident in letting the community reach in to your school ?

If you or someone in the community is doing something good and innovative how aware are you that it can be SCQF credit and levelled and put on Insight Tool and given formal recognition.

I want to talk too about school and employer links :
Things are moving on at pace – Skills for Work programmes give learners an important taste of an occupational area, there are new standards for work experience and many learners embark on Employability awards ( shouldn’t all school leavers do this ?)

School College partnerships should be seen as more than a convenient place to park learners who for one reason or another are not coping with school

A College is a really useful gateway to develop relationships with multiple employers – How good is your relationship with your local College? I couldn't make the whole talk an advert for how College changes peoples lives and plays a major part in closing the inclusion and attainment gap. - but they do. 

Have your teaching staff spent any time in your local College.

It would be a great venue for the next in-service day !

There are new and more complex offerings on the horizon -
Foundation Apprenticeships in 6 key industries are currently rolling out – funded by Skills Development Scotland.
  • Children and Young People
  • Construction
  • Engineering (energy)
  • Engineering
  • Financial Services
  • Social Services and Healthcare
  • Business
  • Software Development
  • Hardware and System Support

These are very different programmes at SCQF 6 – same as higher as exit point . My concern is that this may be too high and that you will struggle to persuade your peers that learners would be better doing this programme,  rather than re-sitting your normal academic fare. These are 2 year programmes – aimed to fit in alongside other school classes – that lead directly into work or can be used as a bridge to College or Higher Education.

Aimed too at a different cohort – the learners who may already be on their way to College or may just get the qualifications they need to get into University. The message has to be clear – as it stands this is not a programme for those you may have traditionally sent along to the College.  

This is for  learners who you might have traditionally offered another academic course or encouraged them to re-sit something in 5th and 6th year .

Foundation Apprenticeships – open up new opportunities delivered in College with an extended workplace component in many cases they cover the main elements of a full apprenticeship.

Schools too can offer too PDA awards that link to industry competencies and in some parts of Scotland schools are now offering HNC qualifications.  Have you a rich and varied enough offering across your local authority for senior phase learners and are you making enough of learning technology to deliver these. Rather than busing or taxiing everyone around at great expense.

I could speak at length on how the learners in the know are now accessing massive open on-line courses and open educational re-sources. Schools still have some way to go to both embed the on-line offerings that are already available or to make similar on-line offerings available.

I am still amazed that there is not a national offering in the Higher Computing space that is largely delivered on-line . It would in one step make computing available to many schools where there is no computing teacher and be a cost effective national solution. For minority languages too or indeed anything that learners could cope with on-line when you can't create a viable class size in your own institution. 

Striking too that the global teacher of the year from England – is a maths teacher – simply up-loading useful lessons on to YouTube as revision aids for his learners – the world started using this re-source – we need more of this ambition in Scottish classrooms.

Are you encouraging your teachers to be content creators and to publish their learning materials openly on the internet with an appropriate creative commons licence ? If this is all in a different language. Find out about Open Scotland and Creative Commons licensing. Every teacher should be an open practitioner.

I asked my first year daughter what one piece of advice I could give you and unprompted ‘ it was find a way to let us use the internet in class – I know everyone does not have phones and the teachers don’t want to embarrass anyone  – but we are allowed to use the school wifi when not in class  – but hardly ever in class. Why doesn’t the school find a way to give everyone a browser’  
Me : A kindle fire is about £49 , a tablet – we need to stop teaching a letter box view of the world and give learners tools to explore the world of knowledge.
How are you closing the growing digital divide – ignoring it is not the answer .
The attainment gap will just grow wider ! and Scotland’s shame grow deeper.

But more change is on the way -

There is a seismic change coming from Whitehall – the industry training levy will impact on every employer with more than a £3million pound pay bill – that includes public sector employers like local authorities and even Colleges . From April 2017 they will pay a 0.5% annual levy effectively a tax.
I’ll say this again – as it seems very surprising.

The UK Government is raising taxes to pay for an improved investment in learning.

Raising Taxes to pay for education !

I'll say that again as it seems in current times a strange concept - the Westminster Government is raising taxes to pay for training from the largest employers to re-distribute to smaller employers to pay for more employee training. 

This will raise 3 Billion pounds across the UK and will in England fundamentally change the relationship that employers have with work based training.

Employers will have training accounts and will get money back based on the training they give their staff .  Small employers will make a contribution and get more back from the pot than they put in. Employers will choose who they contract with to provide the training

Large and small employers will want to either get their money back or in the case of small employers tap in to this funding resource.

The CBI in Scotland finally raised this challenge in today's Herald and I expect new administration will start responding -

I expect next year will be the year when employers start beating on the doors of schools and colleges for learners that are ready to start an apprenticeship so they can benefit from payments from the training levy.

I hope rather than to have provoked you I have given you some some food for thought ! and you don’t get indigestion. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Training Levy in England

I'm doing a bit of work in the English market at moment - but the Training Levy will impact across the UK - so I thought it was worth sharing this report on how policies are shaping around  how employers access their training accounts in England.

CBI  noticed in yesterday's Herald that it will have an impact on Scotland 
Report on Webinar hosted by FE On-line Nick Linford interviewing Keith Smith BIS on Operation of Levy

Keith has moved across from the Skills Funding Agency to BIS to mastermind this large scale transformation in the revenue raising and funding model for apprenticeships.

On 6th of April 2017 the new levy system will come into being and all UK employers with a pay bill of more than £3million PA will be required to pay a 0,5% levy. The collection will be through a monthly payment ( for organisations with seasonal employees there will be in-year adjustments) .  The system will be a standard one and will impact all employers across the public and private sectors that are on or above the £3 million pound threshold.

Yes, this includes Colleges, Local Authorities , Health Boards and any large public sector employer.

While I am aware that there will be a displacement effect - less public money going directly from the exchequer in to training. This is an interesting policy direction for the current UK government. In effect this is a tax on large employers to pay for training with a redistribution to the smaller employers,  who while making a contribution will benefit from access to this pot of money.  It should make employers more engaged in the standards and quality of training subsidised by the public purse and hopefully play a significant part in closing the productivity gap that exists across the UK.

The treasury expects to raise £3 billion pounds per annum through this levy and around £2.5 billion will be available for training in England.  The remainder will be available in Scotland , Wales and Northern Ireland ,  who will have their own mechanisms for disbursement. However , the changed collection model  is likely to have a  net  impact on the budgets of Wales , Scotland and Northern Ireland.

But there will be a series of additional publications between now and the end of the year to provide additional guidance and clarification.

What next?

June 2016
In June 2016 there will be information about:
• provisional funding bands, which will set the maximum amount of
funding which is available for each apprenticeship from April 2017
• the provisional level of the government support that will be available
towards the cost of apprenticeship training if you aren’t a levy paying
employer, from April 2017
• the provisional level of the extra payment you can get for hiring 16 to
18 year old apprentices, from April 2017
• the provisional amount that will be paid for English and maths
training for apprentices who need it, from April 2017
• eligibility rules that set who you are able to spend apprenticeship
funding on and where
• more information on who can provide apprenticeship training and how
you can set up your organisation to deliver apprenticeship training

October 2016
In October 2016 there will be information about:
• the final levels of funding, government support, 16 to 18 payments,
and English and maths payments for apprentices starting from April
2017 full
• draft funding and eligibility rules

December 2016
In December 2016 there will be information about:
• final detailed funding and eligibility rules
• further employer guidance from HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) on
how to calculate and pay the apprenticeship levy 

Large and small employers will have access to a digital account and be able to commission training activity from this account . They will only be able to commission training from providers on an approved list.  ( this in England )

This  approved list  of training organisation will be known as the  register of apprenticeship training providers .  The aim of this new list is to make it simpler for employers to find and contract directly with training providers and to drive out unnecessary sub-contracts from the system. There will be new contractual terms and conditions for entry on to the approved list - these terms and conditions  will appear in June and the register will open this summer.

From January 2017 Employers will be able to open negotiations with the suppliers on the list in preparation for system coming into operation in April 2017

Between 850-950 providers support apprenticeship delivery at moment - it is likely that number may stay around the same but that more employers will become training providers and come on to the new list.  So there is an anticipation that some training providers will step back from apprenticeship delivery

Employers who come onto list will be inspected by Ofstead as will all providers delivering up to QCF Level 3

ROTO will remain in place for other training activities…

The model will still be one of co-investment for small non contributing employers they will make a contribution to their account and in return they will be able to access additional funds .  The current pilot model is that for every £1 a company invests in their training account they will be able to access £2 in return.  A cap will be in place for each framework  - the only additional payments that will remain in place are the £471 funding for both the English and Maths components.

The current pilot includes incentive payments for smaller employers , for taking on 16-18 year olds and there is a completion payment.  There is no commitment currently on incentive payments and there is still a broad discussion underway around the phasing of payments back to employers . The current system created a huge number of transactions and the hope is that a more simplified system can be put in place .  Details of this will appear in new Employer and Providers Guides that are scheduled for publication in June

From June a lot of work will start with employers so they understand how their training accounts will operate .

The Government in confident that system will be in place and be operational for April start.