Informed Scotland July/August 2021 – Innovation, exams & libraries

Issue 93 includes key COVID-19 guidance up to and including 13 September.

National Qualifications results day passed by quietly this summer. However, the debate about the future of exams continues to grow, sparked by the publication of the OECD’s report on Upper-secondary education student assessment in Scotland commissioned by the Scottish Government.

Three strategies relevant to learning & skills in Scotland were published, two by the UK Government on Innovation and R&D People & Culture.

The other was a new five-year Public Library Strategy for Scotland by SLIC. As a firm believer in the power of libraries, I’m happy to spread the word about a Support our Libraries campaign launched by Scotland on Sunday to ‘highlight their work, tell their stories and push for their futures’. Also look out for Libraries Week organised by CILIP from 4–10 October.

However, at a time when lifelong learning is so vital, it’s particularly sad that Scotland’s Learning Partnership has had to cancel the 2021 Adult Learners’ Week in Scotland due to uncertainty over funding – this would have been its 30th anniversary year.

Other interesting reports to highlight:

A date for your diary

Registration is open for the fourth annual David Raffe Memorial Lecture, to be delivered by Prof Ewart Keep on ‘transitions from learning to earning and on the wider relationship between education and the labour market’. It will take place online on 3 November hosted by Moray House School of Education & Sport, and Informed Scotland’s Angela Gardner has been asked to lead the Q&A session.

Want to keep on top of all the developments? Become an Informed Scotland subscriber. Email [email protected] to request a complimentary copy from Angela and discover what you’re missing.

Who’s where in Scottish learning & skills?

The ninth Informed Scotland Organisations & People Special has just been published to coincide with the start of the 2021–22 academic session.

This annual snapshot of a busy, dynamic landscape helps our subscribers to quickly locate the key organisations and make sense of where they fit into the bigger picture. They find it a useful directory of the main bodies and institutions operating across business, education, community & adult learning, government and wider society, including:

  • Sector-specific skills bodies
  • Local authority education departments and regional improvement collaboratives
  • Colleges and universities
  • Teacher education institutions
  • Developing the Young Workforce regional groups
  • Knowledge exchange, research pools & innovation centres
  • National resources, libraries and science centres

With 21 additions, there are now links to over 400 organisations, over twice as many as in the first edition in 2013.

Notes throughout highlight the changes over the past year, including new organisations, mergers and rebrands, and new appointments, promotions and retirements. Sorry to see the Scottish Institute for Enterprise and Scottish Drama Training Network have closed down since the 2020 edition.

All new subscribers receive a copy – join the growing list and stay well informed.

Want to keep on top of all the developments? Become an Informed Scotland subscriber. Email [email protected] to request a complimentary copy from Angela and discover what you’re missing.

Informed Scotland June 2021 – The future of school & tertiary education

Issue 92 includes key guidance up to and including 9 July.

The hottest topic in June was the final report of the OECD review of Curriculum for Excellence, with the Scottish Government accepting all 12 recommendations and announcing significant changes ahead for the qualifications, curriculum and inspection bodies. We’ve provided our subscribers with a helpful Annex containing the recommendations and response in full.

Had it not been for the above, the Scottish Funding Council’s review of tertiary education & research would have taken the headlines with its final report. We’ll have to wait until September for the Scottish Government’s response to this one, however.

These weren’t the only major reports; take a look at:

Plus there was the usual batch of statistical reports and surveys, including on school leavers, looked after children, attainment, apprenticeships, students and graduates. 

We don’t just cover reports and big announcements… On an enterprising, musical note, the University of the West of Scotland launched Damfino Records, a record label to be run by students. It’s not the first though: Edinburgh Napier University students launched Mirror Glass Records in May 2021, Aberdeen University created Vox Regis in 2016 – and Glasgow Kelvin College launched Electric Honey in 1992! Did I miss any? Any before 1992?

Want to keep on top of all the developments? Become an Informed Scotland subscriber. Email [email protected] to request a complimentary copy from Angela and discover what you’re missing.

Informed Scotland May 2021 – National Qualifications & rethinking assessment

Issue 91 includes key guidance up to and including 5 June.

This edition marks nine years since the first issue of Informed Scotland. With youth unemployment currently at 8.0%, it’s reassuring to be reminded that, as well as being down from 12.0% last year, in May 2012 it was a shocking 23.1%.

It was good to see the Scottish Government publishing the Scottish Employer Skills Survey [ESS] 2020, after opting out of the last UK-wide version.

Interestingly, Informed 1 reported on the first survey, ESS 2011, published by the much missed UKCES. Back then, 14% of vacancies were due to skills shortages – in the current survey that was up to 21%. Conversely, fewer employers currently have skills gaps among the workforce (12%, vs 16% in 2011), and fewer have underutilised/over-skilled/over-qualified staff (33%, vs 58%).

A number of the new Scottish Government’s plans and priorities are relevant to learning & skills. In her 26 May Priorities of Government Statement, the First Minister said that ‘support for skills and young people is part of our wider mission to create a fairer Scotland’. (Informed 91 also includes a list of relevant Cabinet members and Parliament spokespeople for our subscribers’ ease of reference.)

But the main talking point has been the SQA’s National Qualifications – the controversial alternative certification model and appeals service for 2020/21 – swiftly followed by the announcement that reforms are planned for the SQA and Education Scotland. Meanwhile in higher education, a Jisc and Emerge Education Rethinking assessment report is encouraging universities to take the opportunity of the pandemic to make assessment ‘more relevant, adaptable and trustworthy’. Time perhaps for some cross-fertilisation of thinking and approaches.

Other interesting reports to highlight: on work experience during a crisis by Prospects, the tech sector by ScotlandIS, the challenges facing universities by the UK Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee, colleges’ financial challenges by Audit Scotland, and digital skills by Lloyds Bank.

Want to keep on top of all the developments? Become an Informed Scotland subscriber. Email [email protected] to request a complimentary copy from Angela and discover what you’re missing.

Informed Scotland April 2021 – The disproportionate impact of COVID-19

Issue 90 includes key guidance up to and including 6 May.

With political lockdown in place for the Scottish Parliament elections, April was the quietest month for learning & skills in a while. That said, there was no shortage of developments and reports to cover.

A number of reports provide evidence of the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on the learning and employment experiences of young people, and on those Skills Development Scotland (SDS) refers to as ‘equality groups’ – women, and minority ethnic, disabled and disadvantaged people. The reports include:

  • SDS’s Equality Evidence Review, on schools, FE, HE and the labour market
  • The Darkest Hour? by the Centre for Research on Learning & Life Chances, UCL Institute of Education, on the learning experiences, wellbeing and expectations of 16 to 25 year-olds during lockdown
  • Uneven steps by the Resolution Foundation, on changes in youth unemployment and study.

Away from Covid-19, these reports on HE admissions, school policies and artificial intelligence are well worth a read:

Many thanks to those who sent positive comments about our Election Extra last month – click here to download your free copy.

Become an Informed Scotland subscriber to keep on top of all the developments. Email [email protected] to request the latest edition.