An area I have decided to focus my Teaching and Learning on is the development of Level 1 Programmes of Study, as I feel there is an opportunity there to develop my own practice, I have an interest in the area, and feel there is a need; for the development of high quality for Level 1 learners that maybe isn’t being met or addressed. Level 1 will be a focus on my MA at the Institute of Education and my work at Mid Kent College. First of all I will be looking at what it states in the DfE response to Programmes of Study (PoS), regarding Level 1 Provision. “The Study Programme principles should apply to all students who are studying predominantly at level 1 or below, whether or not they have learning difficulties or disabilities. These principles apply for students up to the age of 25 for those with learning difficulties or disabilities. All these students should be on worthwhile Study Programmes, underpinned by high expectations, which enable them to move to an ambitious positive destination at the end of their education.” Department for Education (DfE) report on Programmes of Study.
Apologies for the delay here, I’m aware many will have had these thoughts, I’m playing catch up, trying to be a better edublogger
And from the off we hit difficulties “The government aims to make sure that further education provides the skilled workforce employers need and helps individuals reach their full potential.” Helping individuals reach their full potential coming in third priority there. Now there is some relief that it is a priority at all. Providing a skilled workforce, but only one that employers need, because after all there’s no point in skills that employers don’t need, except for the oft repeated point that the top jobs in 5 years may not, do not exist today.
It’s the difference between what do you want to do when you grow up and what do you want to be, which can be quite a distinction.
As Ken Robinson has often said, the educational system is about preparing people to be either; future academics or a manual workforce as Gove says in his introduction “All young people will get the opportunity to gain the kind of qualifications and experience that employers are seeking but all too often cannot find.” And so many new qualifications are to have employer input and need employer approval. Yet employers like students are not one homogeneous group. So as well as specific industry based training, often based on where the specific industry was 5 years ago, there is the notional understanding of the importance of ‘transferable skills’. This seems to be paid lips service depending on how much a course can show it’s direct relevance to the world of work, or meeting local needs.
At Level 1 transferable skills are hugely important, and need to be part of the main focus. As Level 1/ foundation learning Programmes of Study don’t have a ‘Main Aim’ or Main Qualification. Now as I said, they need to be part of, not everything. Part of the meeting local needs, is the need of the 16-19+ student. If they are of that age and on a pre-GCSE level course then a varied course which enables them to grow as people AND students is essential. As Alison Wolf states in her foreward “Post-16, students should be offered a wide range of options; but they also need coherent programmes, which stretch them and give them genuinely new skills.” Coherence is key, with clear transition onto the PoS and out of it again, whether that be to future study or the workplace.
Wolf goes on to say, “Providers were driven down a route of amassing as many formal certificates as possible, and of prioritising easy options over challenging ones. There were no incentives to think in over-arching programme terms, and no rewards for innovation.” Innovation is needed, in terms of the delivery of the PoS and all aspects connected to it, especially including provision of English and maths. “Maths and English are more important than ever before in the labour market and as a precondition for educational progression.” According to the report on Programmes of Study “Many young people also start 16-19 education and training without the solid foundations in English and maths that will equip them for future education and employment. In 2010/11 41% of 16 year olds did not achieve GCSE A*-C in English and 44% did not achieve GCSE A*-C in maths. Worryingly few then went on to achieve that post-16. Of those who took their GCSEs in 2007/08, only 9% went on to achieve GCSE A*-C in English and 8% in maths by the time they were 19. ”
Also essential is the sharing of that best practice, and feeding back through opportunities like #ukfechat on how that best practice works out. Like any tool it needs to be used and for worthwhileness more than once. Innovation can be scary, it’s very tempting to go to what is safe, easier, but for PoS to work development, continual development, is beneficial for both the teacher and the learner.
“Programmes need to be developed by colleges, schools and providers, in response to the interests and ambitions of their clientele, and in response to local needs and demands.”
Professor Alison Wolf, June 2012
At the time of the DfE report; 63% of students taking level 1 vocational courses progress to a level 2 course. That is a significant number who don’t, for an incredibly wide range of reasons, however part of what is for me a real opportunity with PoS is the opportunity to embrace personalization within courses. Factored against the reality of resources, limited, and shrinking, budgets, and a system that is not set up for it. “Non-qualification activity should be based on a tutor’s or teacher’s assessment of a student’s needs and abilities but may include tutorials, coaching and/or mentoring or other taught courses. The aim of non-qualification activity is to improve student employability skills and enable them to participate in other activity of value which does not necessarily lead to qualifications but enables them to progress. This is particularly important for students studying at level 2 and below. ” However just like with the sharing of best practice, it shouldn’t be the case of try it once, fail and give up.