Universal Skills All Learners Should Know How to Do

Paul Champion:

Great Resources.

Originally posted on User Generated Education:

This morning I was thinking about the things that all young people should know how to do regardless of income, geographical location, life goals, etc.  I started a list – see below.  Some have “always” been true – some are unique to this century of learning.  Let me know of any other universal skills you believe young people should know how to do.

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Activate Enterprise apprenticeships manifesto


Activate Enterprise apprenticeships manifesto

The chancellor recently announced a 20 per cent increase in the minimum wage for apprentices and there is interest from all parties in this form of training as a means of bridging the UK’s skills gap.

In the last few weeks there have been concerns that too much talk of apprenticeships as a means of tackling unemployment is damaging the brand; more details on the voucher payment scheme have emerged and the debate about the value of level 2 apprenticeships rumbles on.

As an apprenticeships partner of four further education colleges, working with more than 1,380 apprentices, we have set out a clear four-point manifesto for politicians to take note of.

  • Apprenticeships are professional qualifications.
    They prepare people for professional and technical careers we should value in their own right. We should stop calling them ‘vocational’, because the term has a less clear meaning outside the education sector, or ‘the equivalent of GCSEs/A-levels/foundation degrees’ because they should be seen as valuable in their own right.

  • The decline in training: Are migrants giving employers a free ride?

    Originally posted on Flip Chart Fairy Tales:

    At the Resolution Foundation’s pay event last week, someone asked a question about immigration. Alison Wolf was leaving but, just as she was on her way out she remarked that, while immigration might not have had an impact on wages, it has reduced the amount of training given by employers.

    Well you can’t leave a comment like that hanging so I had a brief Twitter conversation with her afterwards to make sure that I’d heard her correctly. I had. There was, she said, a huge drop in employer training well before the crash and that a link to immigration is consistent with the evidence though difficult to prove with the data we have.

    I decided to do a bit of digging. There has indeed been a drop in training provision which started sometime around the middle of the last decade. As this LLAKES report found, since the mid 2000s, there has been a steady fall in the proportion…

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    Attitudes and Behaviours Required of 21st Century Learners

    Originally posted on The Learning Renaissance:

    Regular readers will be tuning in to the persistent message that learning in the 21st century will move from a preoccupation with knowledge and content to one in which the inculcation of learning habits, attitudes, behaviours and competences becomes paramount.

    There are many reasons for this, not least because the solid body of critical knowledge that, in the past, defined the educated person is expanding and morphing at an exponential rate, thereby defying the attempts of anyone to keep up with it.

    This infographic provides a good survey of some of the new summits in the learning landscape…

    Source: habitsofmind.org Source: habitsofmind.org

    Source: www.habitsofmind.org, where you can also access larger posters for each of the 16 habits summarised here.
    Read more at ETML: 16 Habits of Mind Essential for 21st Century Learners

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    Keep lessons light, bright and positive


    Keep lessons light, bright and positive

    When pupils are disaffected with education, feeling hopeless about their future and struggling to revise, the fast approaching exam season is an especially stressful time – both for students and teachers alike. Fleur Sexton, a former teacher and now joint managing director of PET-Xi, provider of intensive results-based interventions for young people at risk of not achieving their academic potential, shares her thoughts on how schools and FE institutions can support and re-engage disaffected students and help them to feel good about their learning.

    In all my years working in education, like many other teachers, I am proud to say I have never given up on anybody. Put simply – disaffected students have just stopped believing in themselves. In order to be receptive to learning and able to achieve academically, students need to have a level of self-esteem – help them get that and you are half way there.

    Varied and complex reasons lay behind disaffection, but groups of consistently low achievers include boys, FSM, EAL and SEN pupils, some ethnic minority groups, pupils with high mobility between schools and Looked After Children.

    Some students become disengaged from their education because they have not found their own particular road, or have for some reason missed out on the fundamental points of a subject and are consequently unable to follow enough of the subsequent course to remain engaged.

    It’s also a sad fact of life that some young people in modern Britain lead chaotic lives – they could be carers or dealing with substance misuse, physical abuse, or pregnancy for example – and with such difficulties in their social situation these youngsters have bigger issues to think about than their GCSEs and A Levels.

    The starting point is always to ensure pupils have mastered the basics – and, if not, to work like mad to make sure you provide this vital scaffolding as it’s absolutely crucial to all future success. If they don’t ‘get’ a subject or topic, keep trying to find them another way to understand. Keep explanations short and tidy– never longer than the typical disengaged learner’s attention span of two minutes will guarantee results. Keep frustrations at bay with high staffing levels so that feedback is quick, as well as concise.

    In working to raise self esteem, keep everything light, bright and positive. It’s vital to praise students and celebrate any successes they do have, however small, so that success becomes a habit and the students see themselves in a different light. Frequent short “Aha – I get it!!!” moments are essential. When they get feel-good feedback, students are encouraged to continue. Work hard for their attention as often it is not freely forthcoming. You can do this by asking lots of questions and varying the input methods. Then praise them and praise them again – ensuring they associate feeling good with learning.

    On that note – a reduced focus on bad behaviour can also work wonders. That doesn’t mean being a soft touch, it just means being consistent, realistic and practical. Students facing challenges must feel there is hope for the future. We have to be forgiving and use our energy to drive them forward until their own drive takes over. Often disengaged young people throw barriers in our way as a method of precipitating what they consider to be inevitable failure. It is important to overcome those barriers, whatever they may be.
    When it comes to revision, work with them to break it down into manageable chunks. Once students feel a sense of achievement, it becomes self-fulfilling. Yes they should have the skills to arrange and organise revision by the time they come to take public exams– but they may not.

    Look at specific barriers that may affect revision or completion of homework – for example they may have no appropriate quiet space available at home, or have a routine that precludes it. But by talking to them about their lives, you may be able to help them spot other times and opportunities.

    One more vital, but frequently overlooked, factor is to help students develop resilience. A resilient student will be more successful in sticking at revision, realising that small failures are not a problem and that success is all about turning up and not giving up! Be sure to help learners maintain a sense of perspective so that exams don’t take over in a negative way – a holistic approach including good nutrition, exercise and even trips to the cinema and playing computer games are also essential elements of any good revision plan.
    You may also need to be patient, it’s like moving mountains, not a single linear journey, and for every three steps forward there may be two steps back. But with sensible targets it is possible to re-engage young people and instil in them a love of learning.

    A common accord for subcontracting


    A common accord for subcontracting

    Wednesday, 01 April 2015 08:56

    With the Adult Skills Budget for 2015-16 now announced and reductions in some budgets of up to 30%, the focus on delivering value for money (VFM) is more important than ever. It is inevitable that questions about the level and some of the quality of subcontracting within the sector will come under scrutiny as part of this.

    It’s important to recognise that subcontracting is a legitimate business arrangement that can be found across all areas of public service delivery and its practice does not automatically imply a negative impact on VFM. In fact when done well, the taxpayer can benefit in terms of less bureaucracy required to directly manage supplier contracts which should mean that more funding goes to the front line. Subcontracting can be a very effective way for specialist providers to remain involved in the sector without the high cost of direct contract management.

    However where subcontracting is not managed well, it can create uncertainty and barriers to effective delivery. Ministers express concern about some of the subcontracting in FE and skills with some providers charging high levels of fees without adding value. We have seen lead providers creating short term arrangements with subcontractors just to support their contract volumes. Recently the SFA allocated funds to FE colleges only and within a few days, much of it was subcontracted out to independent training providers (ITPs) whose growth requests had just been turned down.

    However, one implication of significant government intervention to reduce the overall level of subcontracting would be a need for the Skills Funding Agency to increase the number of direct contracts that it currently manages with providers, hardly a desirable outcome for a government agency looking for further efficiency savings. So we need a more effective supply chain management process.

    The responsibility for the quality of subcontracting arrangements lies with the lead provider. The SFA holds the lead responsible for the complete supply chain and this has been reinforced through changes to the funding rules for 2015-16. We believe that this is the right approach. The agency requires transparent information on the lead provider’s website about its supply chain fees and charges, including how management fees are calculated and what support the subcontractor can expect in return. The policies posted on websites typically have a statement saying that fees can vary between 15 and 30%, but AELP members often complain that 30% is the norm rather than the maximum and they even report cases where the percentage is higher.

    This is why over two years ago AELP and AoC decided that the SFA rules would be strengthened by the existence of a self-regulatory Common Accord whereby a lead contractor and a subcontractor could show that they were following a guiding set of principles which characterised their relationship. Published at the same time as the Accord was a document called ‘Supply Chain Management – Good Practice Guide’ and both of these are available for download on the AELP website.

    The Common Accord requires that the fees retained by the lead contractor must be related to the costs of the services provided and the fees and services must be clearly documented by all parties. Where disputes between supply chain partners cannot be resolved through mutually agreed internal resolution procedures, signatories commit to submission of the dispute to independent outside arbitration or mediation and to abide by its findings.

    We know that on an informal basis the Common Accord has been used not only to resolve disputes well before they arise into any formal situations, but also to demonstrate goodwill and good practice at the start of a subcontracting arrangement, thus eliminating many potential disputes from arising in the first place. In fact, although the Common Accord details a process for independent arbitration or mediation, we are not aware of any case where this has needed to happen, but of several where the Common Accord itself has been at the basis of a satisfactory agreement all round. More typically it has been used to help settle supply chain disputes.

    AELP is also involved in the subcontracting arrangements in DWP contracts where there is a different set of principles governing the arrangements called Merlin. It is our view that we need to look at common principles for subcontracting across all government departments involved in the employment and skills sector.

    The recent announcements on allocations will mean that many providers will have to review the subcontracting arrangements for 2015-16. This re-contracting process needs to be managed effectively and transparently. The Common Accord and its principles must play a vital role in upholding mutually beneficial partnerships and resolving any potential tensions that may arise. If providers aren’t referring to the Accord already, as the SFA rules recommend, then I would urge them to make it a fundamental part of their contracting arrangement s for 2015-16 and beyond.

    Stewart Segal is chief executive of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers

    A Futurist Prediction for Virtual Education

    Originally posted on The Learning Renaissance:

    I found this article by Rob Furman both entertaining and depressing.


    Schools often dip a toe into online learning as the default when the normal service in schools is interrupted – such as during periods of inclement weather. However, they then expect to impose school-based models of accountability on both teachers and learners, thereby sacrificing one of the key advantages of online learning: anywhere, anytime access…

    Read the article at the Huffington Post online: A Futurist Prediction for Virtual Education | Rob Furman

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    UK National College for Teaching & Leadership

    Originally posted on The Learning Renaissance:

    Having endured some recent turbulence, the UK’s National College for Teaching and Leadership is a useful resource for following trends and developments in UK schools. There is a concentration on supportive approaches to collegiality and the sharing of expertise.

    My only criticism is that much of their thinking is not radical enough as it takes place within the context of the ‘traditional’ school and curriculum. No doubt, they would reply that their expertise is rooted in current practice.

    Their blog gives a flavour of their work…

    National College for Teaching & Leadership/

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    Double U-turn on career guidance leaves coalition playing catch up on 2010

    Originally posted on Adventures in Career Development:

    I have just published a new article in The Conversation. It looks at recent policy on career guidance.

    Double U-turn on career guidance leaves coalition playing catch up on 2010

    As the general election edges closer, the coalition has used the past few months to try and sort out problem policies and reposition the narrative of its government. One little-noticed area in which there have been last-minute repairs is career guidance, with the announcement of both new funding and new regulation. Read more..

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    Solving the apprenticeship perception problem


    So according to the recent Demos Commission on Apprenticeships research it appears that everyone loves apprenticeships. Except they don’t when it comes to their own children. As one of the commissioners on the cross-party think-tank, I was disheartened but not surprised by these findings.

    Every time we’ve polled parents about apprenticeships they are seen as a good thing in an abstract sense but when it comes to discussing specific options for their own children, A-Levels as a route to university still take the lead. While this attitude is understandable given the bias towards academic learning that continues in this country, it’s a shame that parents still think a university education is the best guarantee of a job.

    Whilst there are degrees that are essential in preparing someone for a specific career such as medicine, there are many others that do little to guarantee employment because they don’t have such a clear-cut pathway to a career and competition for graduate positions is fierce. In these cases, an apprenticeship could be a much better bet for someone wanting to learn the skills they need to get a decent job, particularly when you factor in the debt that today’s university graduates are often saddled with.

    On the face of it then the benefits of an apprenticeship, and other vocational routes, are clear and while it’s not a case of one option being better than the other, academic and vocational routes into employment should be equally considered by young people. However, despite a general understanding that apprenticeships are a good thing, this message isn’t getting through where it’s needed.

    One of the problems that came up in the commission’s research and that we’ve seen at City & Guilds, is the lack of advice for someone wanting to take an apprenticeship. Teachers are being asked to double as careers advisers and as the vast majority followed an academic route into teaching it makes it difficult for them to give informed advice about the other options available. Putting dedicated careers advisers into schools would go some way towards providing non-biased advice about all the routes into employment.

    However the bigger issue for me is the difficulty of finding an apprenticeship if you want one. The well-trodden path from school to university is easy to understand and achievable with the right grades. Securing an apprenticeship on the other hand is less certain as, just like any job, you aren’t guaranteed to get one if you apply. There’s also a big gamble to be had in terms of the quality of an apprenticeship. There are obviously some highly-regarded well-known schemes at companies such as BT or BAE Systems but if you’re taking an apprenticeship somewhere less well-known you’re starting on almost as a leap of faith. At 16 this can be a scary choice to make when the academic alternative is so clear cut and particularly when parents and teachers are urging you down the university route.

    One of the areas for change recommended by the commission is improving employer engagement within schools, something that I talk about constantly. From talking to young people we know how much they value that direct contact with employers when making choices and how essential it is towards helping them get a job. It’s always easy to point to the celebrity vocational success stories such as Richard Branson or Jamie Oliver but what’s needed is an army of career mentors on the ground who can help young people understand the different routes into employment and also the skills they will need to pick up along the way to make them employable. There has to be a much greater employer presence in schools to help remind teachers, parents and young people of the relevance and importance of vocational routes into work.

    All the major political parties are promising new apprenticeships left right and centre at the moment but, to create a truly great system for the future, discussions need to be about how they will increase quality not just quantity. We also need them to consider how they will encourage businesses to take on apprentices in the first place and to make them attractive to young people. As the Commission’s research highlighted and we in FE already know, the benefits of good apprenticeship programmes are clear – from increased productivity for businesses through to improved earning power and workplace skills for those entering employment. Yet none of these benefits will be realised if the route into apprenticeships is not made clearer and more attractive for everyone.

    We need to shift the perception of vocational education using professional careers advisers to fully explain the benefits of high quality apprenticeship programmes. It would also help if there were more people in government who have got there by following an alternative educational pathway and understand what high-quality vocational education looks like. Unless we do this, parents and influencers will remain unconvinced of the suitability of apprenticeships and vocational education will never be able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with academia as a viable route to career success.

    Kirstie Donnelly is UK managing director of training body City & Guilds Group

    The evidence base in career guidance

    Originally posted on Adventures in Career Development:

    Last week I was invited to the Department for Education to talk to various civil servants and people involved in the new careers company. I was rather pleased to be invited. It seems that a wind of change is sweeping through the DfE and that career guidance (and with it me) are once more back in favour.

    What I tried to do was to give a potted summary of the evidence base in career guidance and to touch upon some of the key issues that look like they might be important for the new careers company e.g. employer engagement in schools and e-portfolios. I hope it was helpful and that policy continues to move in a more evidence based direction.

    This is what I said

    The evidence base in career guidance.

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    GCSEs and A-level Subjects Culled by Ofqual | BBC News

    Originally posted on The Learning Renaissance:


    The often-maligned subject, media studies, has survived a cull of A-level subjects as England’s qualifications watchdog moves to toughen examinations. Ofqual is scrapping home economics, citizenship studies and communication and culture A-levels. GCSEs in catering, digital communications, expressive arts and home economics are also being axed.

    Read more on the BBC website: GCSEs and A-level Subjects Culled by Ofqual | BBC News

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    The Flipped Classroom Model: A Full Picture

    Originally posted on User Generated Education:

    Due to Khan Academy’s popularity, the idea of the flipped classroom has gained press and credibility within education circles. Briefly, the Flipped Classroom as described by Jonathan Martin is:

    Flip your instruction so that students watch and listen to your lectures… for homework, and then use your precious class-time for what previously, often, was done in homework: tackling difficult problems, working in groups, researching, collaborating, crafting and creating. Classrooms become laboratories or studios, and yet content delivery is preserved. Flip your instruction so that students watch and listen to your lectures… for homework, and then use your precious class-time for what previously, often, was done in homework: tackling difficult problems, working in groups, researching, collaborating, crafting and creating. Classrooms become laboratories or studios, and yet content delivery is preserved (http://www.connectedprincipals.com/archives/3367).

    A compiled resource page of the Flipped Classroom (with videos and links) can be found at http://www.scoop.it/t/the-flipped-classroom


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    Saturday jobs ‘can damage exam grades for teenagers’


    Saturday jobs ‘can damage exam grades for teenagers’

    Brooklyn Beckham

    There was widespread praise for millionaire parents David and Victoria Beckham when it was revealed that they had sent their eldest son, Brooklyn, to do a few weekend shifts in a west London coffee shop. And Jamie Oliver won approval for insisting that he’ll be keeping his eldest two daughters “real” by encouraging them to work in his new pub on Saturdays.

    However, new research suggests that teenagers who take on a Saturday job could be damaging their GCSE grades – an effect especially noticeable in girls – even while they earn extra cash they might spend on risky behaviours like drinking or smoking.

    Taking a part-time job – gaining work skills and pocket money for those teenage essentials – while studying for exams has an impact on the end results, according to the study, from the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex.

    In December the Conservative minister for business, Matthew Hancock, urged employers to create more Saturday jobs and said teenagers were missing out, after figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that the numbers of schoolchildren with part-time jobs had fallen to a record low.

    The proportion of 16- and 17-year-olds working in shops, waiting on tables or having a paper round had fallen from 30% in 2000 to 15.5% in 2014. “A paid job while you’re in school can go a long way with a prospective employer and makes it easier to get a foot on the career ladder,” Hancock said.

    But this latest study, Youth Employment and Academic Performance: Production Function and Policy Effects, written by Dr Angus Holford, has cast doubt on the wisdom of working and studying. It used the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England, which followed a cohort of teenagers aged 13 to 14 in 2004. Holford looked at the hours they spent working and the impact this had on the time they spent doing other things – including risky behaviour and sport – as well as their study time and subsequent exam grades at GCSE.

    “Around a quarter of all 13- to 16-year-olds in England take some formal paid employment during school term time,” said Holford. “This can be a good thing – they earn their own money and can pick up useful skills, which might help them find full-time work in the future. However, they may spend that hard-earned money on less than useful things, or fall in with a different group of people. We did find that schoolchildren who worked became more likely to drink alcohol regularly, smoke or consume cannabis.”

    However, the biggest impact of part-time work was on the school grades of girls. For teenage girls, an additional hour of paid employment per week in school year 10 reduced their final GCSE performance a year later by approximately one grade in one subject. This was in part caused by the girls spending less time studying outside lessons.

    Holford said he suspected another factor influencing their grades could be explained by girls in employment becoming less motivated by school and less interested in the work they did in their lessons.

    Girls who have a job at the age of 15 work on average six hours a week, which means their part-time work is likely to reduce their results considerably – a grade lower in six subjects.

    “The long-term effect of this would be particularly bad for borderline students at risk of not achieving the target for progression in education, of five A*-C grades – including English and maths. Given that academic results at 16 have such a significant influence over our future life outcomes, these findings should worry policymakers and parents who want young people to achieve their potential at this crucial point,” said Holford.

    “It’s inevitable that having a job gives teenagers less time to study. That alone might be a small price to pay given the potential benefits of having a part-time job for all-round development. What concerns me instead is how it causes teenagers to lose sight of the importance of their education for their longer-term opportunities.”