This post is for the educationists among you!
The event: March 21st: I attended a 16+ event run by We Are Snook (click here ) on behalf of the Scottish Government (SG). The idea was to look at policy through a design perspective (@designforgov Twitter or designforgov Facebook). The conference, open and networking in character, is part of a series of research/interactive events to acquire rich information from those in the system. Almost 100 attendees from many different sectors. Lots to share about the problems facing young people making choices about what to do post 16 and some of the good practices currently in place.
Problem: there are a lot of young people aged 16+, whether in or out of education, who face a difficult job market and have limited knowledge of the different potential pathways they might take and the financial and other implications of their possible choices. Lots of people in public and private sector work in this area but don’t always know what each other is doing. SG wants to improve access and support for young people – there are five themes for ‘post16 strategy’. Today’s theme was ‘the learner journey’ – look at what is available from the point of view of the learner.
We looked at issues such as funding (and the complexity of application and approval), clarifying choices and progression routes, tracking progress, misunderstandings about college and university, role models and networks. We considered different groups of young people: those how have been in care, those coming out of custody, those with additional needs…. Good event; lots of interesting points.
The main points I wanted to contribute, based on my twenty years experience as a headteacher/headteacher trainer of doing my best to compensate for the design failings of the present system :
- There is a role for national leadership here – we need a good well co-ordinated and readily understood system. Currently the pathways are too complex and confused, we do not prioritise those who need most support, we do not work together sufficiently well in our local areas. National leadership and structure can improve consistency and streamline/simplify by establishing shared vocabularies etc. At the time of the Howie debates in the early 1990s, Scotland rejected his proposed ‘two stream’ system for post16, but the structure followed in Norway works very well, without sacrificing fairness and equal opportunities, and brings a degree of order that allows young people and their parents to see the pathways more clearly. (Click here for info re Norwegian curriculum)
- The examination system dominates Scottish secondary education. Current arrangements, by which we rank children on a linear scale according to how well they do in exams, do not give enough recognition to what young people can do because it is more concerned to put them in order. This will not change with the new system being introduced now. Some schools / local authorities do a lot of work to compensate for this by encouraging and developing potential/skills beyond academic success, but they have to work round the academic system, which often only values exam success. We need a heavyweight national counterpart to the exam system if we are, consistently right across Scotland, to give equal value to the broader capacities which our system now aims for (see point 4 below).
- The current system works reasonably well for those who take the direct track to University or full time academic College courses. The real priority for Scotland should be the 20%+ ( and more in certain areas of the country) who get very little out of their formal school education, leave school feeling disempowered by the system and confused about choices and with little idea about where they would like to get to by the time they are aged 25. Their experience is a serendipitous mix of: who they happen to know; who has shown an interest; what people they trust have said to them. In some communities, there is not a lot of local knowledge of the complex / changing world of work / training / lifelong learning opportunities.
- The P7 and S3 profiles already being developed though Curriculum for Excellence are based on the ‘four capacities’ (click here) (successful learner, confident individual, responsible citizen, effective contributor). By developing their own profile as they progress through primary and secondary, young people get a better sense of what they are good at, as well as what they cannot do. This is a perfect foundation for a national graduation certificate: such a certificate, available to every school leaver as they leave school, would motivate and reward those many other important qualities summarised in the ‘four capacities’ and of such value in the ‘real world’. See my article on valuing what we measure (that’s what we are doing just now) and the follow-up article on measuring what we value (that’s what we should be doing!)
- Because provision is so uneven across Scotland, local authorities should be given a statutory responsibility to convene / co-ordinate a local partnership of all those involved in post16 training, education, voluntary sector and employment so that, working together, they ensure that ‘no child is left behind’. It’s not good enough to expect that schools, local authorities, employers etc. will do this everywhere in the country.
Well done We Are Snook and SG.
Also the Lighthouse – what a stunning venue. Climbed up the inside of the water tower for the view over Glasgow after the event. Just one word: wow! Might post some photos later.