Informed Scotland Learning & Skills Hottest Topics 2017

We’re delighted to present the fifth annual list of Learning & Skills ‘Hot Topics’ that made it onto the cover of Informed Scotland over the past year:

1. Digital skills & inclusion (1 in 2016)

=2. Teacher education, development, shortages & recruitment (=3)

=2. Widening access (=3)

4. Future skills, learning & work (-)

=5. Apprenticeships (=3)

=5. Developing the Young Workforce (-)

=5. Gender balance & equity (=3)

=5. International collaboration & comparisons (-)

=5. Leadership (-)

=5. Science, technology, engineering & maths (STEM) (2)

=5. Skills shortages & gaps (=9)

=5. Students, leavers & graduates – statistics (-)

‘Digital skills & inclusion’ was the hottest topic for the second year running. It has been in the top three every year since the list was first compiled in 2013, and this is the third time it’s occupied the number one spot.

No one will be surprised to see ‘Teacher education, development, shortages & recruitment’ so high on the list, after making mainstream news headlines in 2017. It made its first appearance on the list just last year, but we expect it to be a recurring theme in 2018. By contrast, ‘Widening access’ has been on the list every year, although this year’s joint second place is its highest position.

Five topics have made every annual list. As well as ‘Digital skills’ and ‘Widening access’, the others are ‘Apprenticeships’, ‘STEM’ and ‘Skills gaps & shortages’ – and they’re all likely to remain hot issues in 2018.

There are two first-timers on the list this year – ‘Future skills, learning & work’, the highest new entry, and ‘Students, leavers & graduates – statistics’.

As we predicted, although 2017 was Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage & Archaeology, none of these three topics made it onto a single Informed Scotland cover. It was a similar story last year for the 2016 Year of Innovation, Architecture & Design. However, the Year of Young People 2018 has already begun to capture the imagination across the learning & skills landscape, so we are confident that it will have an influence on next year’s list.

What were your 2017 highlights? What are your predictions for 2018?

Angela will be discussing the stories behind the list in an interview for Radio EDUtalk on 16 January, in a review of 2017 and a look ahead to 2018. Tweet us @InformedScot and we’ll share your thoughts.

Make it your New Year’s resolution to be better informed about what’s happening across learning & skills in business, schools, further & higher education, community & adult learning, and government & wider society. Contact to receive a recent sample copy and find out how to subscribe here.

Merry Christmas and many thanks!

Image is © D Ormiston

Time to reflect on another busy year for AJ Enterprises and to say a bunch of thank yous to clients, associates and coworkers!

With education remaining at the heart of Scottish Government priorities, we’ve had to work harder than ever to keep Informed Scotland subscribers up to date with learning & skills in 2017. In addition to the monthly digests, we published a Leadership Special commissioned by Scottish College for Educational Leadership, a UK General Election Extra, the fifth annual Organisations & People Special, and shared interesting guest blogs.

Thanks to our subscribers for the great feedback and for spreading the word about the benefits their subscription brings.

In January, Angela reviewed the hottest learning & skills topics of 2016 on Radio EDUtalk, and looked ahead to what was in store for 2017. In September, she ran an information briefing on school education for the Blake Stevenson research team. The session was so well received that this service will be offered more widely in 2018.

We continue to promote hundreds of conferences, seminars, teachmeets, exhibitions etc. via the Learning & Skills Events Calendar. Lisa at Media Bloom kept the Calendar updated until a few weeks ago – she’s now the proud mother of a beautiful baby boy – many congratulations! And thanks to Hannah for helping with the updates while Lisa is on maternity leave.

On social media, @InformedScot now has almost 3,300 Twitter followers, up 600 from this time last year! InformedScot has a long way to go to match this on Instagram, but has attracted 230 followers in its second year.

Turning to other business, in May, we were delighted to be awarded a joint three-year contract to produce a new quarterly Skills Research Digest for Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy, in partnership with London based, long-standing associate Elaine Hendry of emh connect, who publishes the learning & skills UK Digest.

We’ve also provided communications consultancy, copy-writing, editing and proofreading services, research and horizon scanning to repeat and new clients with business interests at home and abroad, including Macmillan Education, EdComs, Sunrise Setting, Beyond Green and 3rd Horizons. Whatever the task, we’re fortunate to work with such lovely people!

Personal thanks once again to associates including Janey at Mamook Graphics (look out for her new Informed Scotland cover designs in 2018), adult learning specialist Jackie Borge, copy-writer Lewis Packwood, editor Cathy Tingle and others I’ve had the pleasure of working with this year. Thanks too to supportive fellow local members of the Society for Editors & Proofreaders and Edinburgh Editors’ Network, particularly our coordinator Lesley Ellen.

Working alongside other businesses has so many benefits. After a fab year at Hanover House (thanks to the wonderful Team Tanami), in June Angela moved into Evergreen Studio coworking space. Thanks to Sigrid, James and Shaun for the warm welcome, and for the opportunity to cowork in a creative community of talented people – and in an office with such a rich literary heritage.

Finally, thanks to Derek Ormiston for providing this year’s festive photo – you can see more of his atmospheric pics via eider.22.

The annual Informed Scotland Hottest Topics in Scottish Learning & Skills will be shared here in January. 

Email for more information about any of the above, to subscribe to Informed Scotland, or to discuss how we could support your work in 2018. 

Informed Scotland November 2017 – Keeping pace with change in learning & skills


The latest issue is so packed with items it’s hard to believe it only covers one month!

The main publication was the Scottish Government’s consultation on the Education (Scotland) Bill, Empowering Schools, open until 30 January 2018. The proposals are far-reaching and somewhat controversial – we’ve included all 24 questions in an Annex for ease of reference.

Two other consultations opened. The Scottish Apprenticeship Advisory Board is gathering views  on Defining an Apprenticeship until 20 December, and the Scottish Government on revised Guidance on the Presumption of Mainstreaming for pupils with additional support needs until 9 February.

Membership of the new Enterprise & Skills Strategic Board and the new Scottish Education Council were both announced last month; full lists are included in the Informed Annex.

November was also crammed with numerous important, useful and fascinating reports, including:

There’s no space to mention all of the other meaty reports, such as on poverty, social mobility, young people’s attitudes, and not forgetting the UK Industrial Strategy white paper. We also saw the launch of the Year of Young People 2018 with a raft of announcements and reports.

Among several developments, a new Cyber Skills programme was launched by SDS for S1–3 pupils, and Glasgow School of Art and Renfrewshire Council agreed to set up a new School of Creative Education at Castlehead High. Meanwhile, another sector skills body, the Tech Partnership of digital skills employers (formerly e-skills UK) is to close in September 2018 due to ‘changes in government policy for skills’.

This is the tip of the information iceberg: become an Informed Scotland subscriber so you can keep on top of all the developments. Email to request a sample copy.

Check out our latest guest blog post, Looking beyond the classroom to tackle the achievement gap by Children’s University Scotland Chief Executive, Neil Mathers.

Looking beyond the classroom to tackle the achievement gap

by Neil Mathers, Chief Executive, Children’s University Scotland. Continuing our guest blog series featuring Informed Scotland subscribers writing on the theme Making connections across the learning & skills landscape.

In Scotland today almost a quarter of children are growing up in poverty, and many lack even the most basic essentials to help them thrive. Low income and material deprivation impacts on multiple aspects of children’s learning and creates inequalities at every age and stage of their education.

Children from the most disadvantaged communities are less likely to get a job, engage in training, or progress into further or higher education; in adulthood they are more likely to be out of work, earn less and be in low-status, insecure jobs. Poverty not only damages children’s prospects, but also affects their experience of life in the here and now.

All children and young people have the right to a good start in life, regardless of their background, but in order to change the lives of children growing up in poverty it is essential to intervene early and work across all aspects of children’s lives in a coordinated and sustained way.

Children’s University Scotland wants every child to have the opportunity to learn and pursue their ambitions to the fullest. We inspire learning beyond the classroom that enriches children’s lives, broadens their horizons and transforms their prospects for the future. We give a platform to thousands of children who want to try new experiences, develop new interests and acquire new skills.

We do this by working in partnership with schools, colleges, universities and other learning providers to provide access to affordable, high quality out-of-school learning that raises aspirations, boosts achievement and helps each child to achieve their potential.

Aspire is our programme for inspiring learning and celebrating achievement at every age and stage of a child’s life. Our online platform enables children and families to search for opportunities, track their progress and visualise their skills development. Participation in learning experiences is recognised and rewarded as children collect credits and unlock awards that celebrate their learning journey.

Looking beyond the classroom to deliver integrated after-school activities, such as study support, can have a significant impact on achievement. Targeted support such as peer tutoring, mentoring and helping children understand how to improve their own learning outcomes can also make a difference.

Most of a child’s learning takes place outside of school, and it is therefore critical to strengthen support for parents to engage in their children’s learning at home.

Over the next few years we aim to work at every age and stage of children’s education, strengthening the role we play in learning at home, increasing opportunities to learn outside of school and contributing evidence on what works to close the achievement gap.

To find out more or enquire about working in partnership, contact Neil at
Twitter: @ChildrenUniScot Facebook: @ChildrensUniversityScotland

Read previous guest blogs in the series, including those from GTC Scotland, Be Personnel, SCEL, Clyde Gateway, EDT Scotland and SCQF Partnership.

Informed Scotland October 2017 – Plans, aims, gains & change


October is usually a little less hectic for Scottish learning & skills – but not this year…

The main items this month were the Scottish Government’s Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths [STEM] – Education & Training Strategy, accompanied by an announcement for £20k STEM teacher bursaries; and publication of their Expansion of Early Learning & Childcare: Quality Action Plan.

The latter should be read alongside NHS Health Scotland’s review of the benefits to children of attending high quality early learning & childcare, also published in October.

A number of consultations were announced, including those on measuring the poverty-related attainment gap and on revising the professional standards for college lecturers. A major consultation on the new Education (Scotland) Bill was just published at the start of November – but more on that next month!

Other interesting items to look out for include:

  • two reports on the use of contextual information in university admissions from the Scottish Funding Council and Sutton Trust
  • Education Scotland’s changes to school inspections
  • Carnegie UK Trust’s report making recommendations on digital inclusion for vulnerable young people – and demonstrating that it’s wrong to assume all young people are ‘digital natives’.

It’s also worth highlighting that the target set for the Developing the Young Workforce agenda – to reduce youth unemployment by 40% by 2021 – has been met four years ahead of schedule. If only anyone had the time to celebrate…

Thank you for all the recent positive feedback! Become an Informed Scotland subscriber so you can keep on top of all the developments. Email to request a sample copy.