New Research & Policy Digest for the Northern Ireland Executive

AJ Enterprises and emh connect have been awarded a joint three-year contract to produce a new quarterly Research & Policy Digest for Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy, following a competitive tendering process.

The aim of the new Digest is to provide policy makers and stakeholders in Northern Ireland with quick and easy access to relevant local, national and international studies and strategies.

The two consultancies launched their own learning and skills digests in 2012, following four years producing similar briefings for members of a UK-wide business-education-government forum. Informed Scotland, published by AJ Enterprises and UK Digest, published by emh connect provide subscribers with monthly intelligence on research, policy and practice across government, education, business and the wider community. They encourage and enable connections to be made across the learning and skills landscape. Subscribers include national bodies, businesses, local authorities, colleges and other organisations working in the field.

Angela Gardner of AJ Enterprises and Elaine Hendry of emh connect are delighted to collaborate on creating the new digest for the Department. ‘Winning the tender recognises our track record of keeping busy people up to date and well briefed on the issues that matter. We’re looking forward to working with the Northern Ireland team to provide a useful resource for them and their stakeholders.’

This is a good example of the tailored services we both offer to our clients. For information about similar services, including face-to-face and written policy briefings, contact

Informed Scotland April 2017 – Gender, equity, anxiety & achievement


There was plenty to capture the attention in learning & skills this month, even with the Easter holidays and elections creating a few ‘distractions’.

Gender and equity was once again a hot topic right across the landscape.

Research reports initiated by the David Hume Institute on why boys do less well in education than girls, and British Council on Gender equality and empowerment of women & girls were presented and debated at events at the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Scottish Parliament respectively.

And a fascinating Equality Challenge Unit report was published on the different experiences of female and male STEMM academics (STEMM being science, technology, engineering, maths + medicine).

Numerous interesting reports and studies provoked much thought and discussion.

There was a Scottish Government Research Strategy for Scottish Educationdescribed by some as ‘about time’. Two reports from IPPR – The inbetweeners on graduate internships and Autonomy in the right place on school governance reform. The first OECD study of students’ wellbeing, with insights into the relationship between school-related anxiety and achievement. Plus a Skills Commission report on Lifelong learning for an ageing workforce, and a review of the impact of the Scottish Credit & Qualifications Framework.

We always enjoy spotting enterprising or creative learning & skills activities.

This month we noticed the Scottish Association of Teachers of PE launched a Higher Physical Education Revision WIKI, created by PE teachers across the country. Fife College distributed 8,000 study packs to students at local secondary schools to support their exam preparation. And a ‘Higher Grounds Coffee Bar’ opened at Auchenharvie Academy, North Ayrshire, supported by Ayrshire College, The Prince’s Trust Scotland and DYW Ayrshire, with pupils able to develop their customer service skills while working towards a City & Guilds Barista Skills certificate!

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 new Leadership Special commissioned by SCEL, and the latest guest blog post, Celebrating achievement in adult learning by Jackie Borge.

Leadership through collaborative learning – Informed Scotland Special


We’re delighted to publish an Informed Scotland Leadership Special. It was commissioned by the Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL) and launched at their major conference in Perth on 3 May 2017.

Gillian Hamilton, Chief Executive of SCEL said, ‘Building leadership capacity at all levels through collaborative learning is crucial and must be a priority in education and beyond’.

The SCEL conference, facilitated by Lyn Sharratt, Beate Planche and Maggie Ogram from Collaborative Networks for Learning, set out to ‘deepen understanding of the power of collaboration as a leadership and learning approach’ – at all levels, from the classroom teacher to the education system leader.

It’s clear from our research for Informed Scotland, that improving leadership is a key focus for many organisations right across the learning and skills landscape – including in business, further and higher education, community and adult learning, third sector and government, as well as schools.

In commissioning the Special, SCEL wanted us to capture the breadth of what’s happening and make connections with their own growing portfolio of programmes, resources and support for teachers and leaders at all levels. Practising what they preach, they’re keen to learn from others!

Like all Informed Scotland publications, the Leadership Special aims to encourage everyone to look beyond the usual places for inspiration.

Download: Informed Scotland Special 10: Leadership

See #SCEL2017 for tweets about the conference.
Previous Informed Scotland Specials can be downloaded

Celebrating achievement in adult learning

by Jackie Borge of Borge Consulting. Continuing our guest blog series featuring Informed Scotland subscribers writing on the theme Making connections across the learning & skills landscape.

I’ve worked in adult learning for almost three decades, yet I still feel a tug on my heart strings when I hear how learning has affected people and changed their lives for the better. And that’s exactly what happened when I attended Newbattle Abbey College’s adult education conference in March for Informed Scotland.

The day was a celebration of the Adult Achievement Awards, developed in 2014 at the request of SCQF Partnership and Education Scotland, and credit-rated by Edinburgh Napier University in 2015.

Through a mix of keynote speakers, workshops and group discussions, attendees heard about the successes of the pilot programme and about plans for the future. We heard learners talk about feeling more confident, about experiencing achievement and recognition (often for the first time in their lives), and of having a passion and desire to continue learning, ‘It’s opened me up to be hungry, to have more… I want more now’.

During his keynote speech, John Swinney MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, talked about the importance of ‘supporting adult learners to achieve their potential’ and ‘ensuring that we have accessible learning in communities’.

Cath Hamilton, Education Officer with Education Scotland, reported on national priorities and developments in adult learning, and mentioned ‘the importance of cross-sectoral and partnership working for us all to realise our ambitions for adult learning in Scotland’.

The pilot programme has been running since 2015 and Marian Docherty, Newbattle Abbey College’s Depute Principal, reported on some of its key successes, including:

  • 29 pilots delivered across Scotland and one in the Isle of Man
  • 450 learners and over 100 tutors engaged across sectors and settings, including in the community, at home, in college, at work and through volunteering programmes.

Marian also shared information about plans for the future and delegates were asked to provide feedback. The plans are exciting and ambitious and include: rolling out the Awards across Scotland, the rest of the UK and Europe; engaging providers and employers; and developing a new Award at SCQF Level 2.

I am looking forward to seeing what the future brings, to a time when the Awards are a ‘must have’ for individuals and when employers recognise the value of the qualification. 

Jackie is also an associate, AJ Enterprises.
For further information email and follow @borgeconsulting on Twitter.

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

Informed Scotland March 2017 – Early learning, future skills


Early learning made it onto the Hot Topics list for only the third time in 49 issues. The main reason was publication of the Scottish Government’s Action Plan for Early Learning & Childcare (ELC).

Even if ELC isn’t usually on your radar it’s worth taking a look, as there are actions relevant to pretty much all sectors. For ease of reference our subscribers will see all 31 actions in an Annex. Skills Development Scotland also published the first ELC Skills Investment Plan in March.

Another key report that spans most sectors is Education Scotland’s Quality & Improvement in Scottish Education, covering from early years to colleges and community learning.

Interesting reports to delve into this month include City & Guilds’ Generations at Work, the Association of Graduate Recruiters’ Student Development Survey, and Business in the Community and City & Guilds’ study of jargon-filled, off-putting entry-level job descriptions.

A new Centre for Work-Based Learning in Scotland was opened – not to be confused with the School for Work Based Education, formerly the Scottish Centre for Work Based Learning, at Glasgow Caledonian University. And it was announced that Individual Training Accounts are to replace Individual Learning Accounts later this year.

Meanwhile, both the Federation for Community Development Learning and UK Commission for Employment & Skills closed down. The response to the UKCES Chief Executive’s farewell comment on LinkedIn shows we’re not alone in mourning the loss of this unique organisation that straddled and made sense of the UK skills landscape.

It was a busy month on the Learning & Skills Events Calendar, too.

The 7th International Summit on the Teaching Profession took place in Edinburgh, organised by UK and Scottish Governments, OECD and Education International. As well as the annual Scottish Apprenticeship Week, the first Scottish Financial Education Week was held. We were delighted to showcase Informed Scotland at the final day’s conference at Murrayfield, live tweeting throughout. Thanks to visitors to our stand – we hope you’re enjoying your free copies of Informed!

We also made it along to two events looking to the future: Nesta’s Future Jobs; Future Prosperity at University of Edinburgh, and Goodison Group in Scotland’s debate on Future Schooling, Learning and Education Approaches at the Scottish Parliament, with discussion led by Prof Mark Priestley of Stirling University. This will feed into Scotland’s Futures Forum’s Scotland 2030 Programme, which also kicked off in March.

A reminder that we’re working on a Leadership Special commissioned by Scottish College for Educational Leadership to coincide with their annual conference in Perth on 3 May.

Feedback that made us smile last month: ‘Informed Scotland unlocks critical information for interested parties without them having to know or remember everything!’

Become an Informed Scotland subscriber so you can keep on top of all the developments. Email to request a sample copy.