Informed Scotland Learning & Skills Hottest Topics 2018

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

For the first time since we began compiling the list in 2013, two topics share top spot:

=1. Diversity, equality, equity & inclusion (new)

=1. Teacher education, development, shortages & recruitment (=2 in 2017)

=3. Digital skills (1)

=3. Future skills, learning & work (4)

=3. Gender balance & equity (=5)

=3. International collaboration & comparisons (=5)

=3. Science, technology, engineering & maths (STEM) (=5)

=3. Widening access (=2)

=9. Skills shortages & gaps (=5)

=9. Students, leavers & graduates – statistics (=5)

As predicted, ‘Teacher education, development, shortages & recruitment’ continued to make the mainstream headlines in 2018, pushing it up one place from last year. In contrast, ‘Diversity, equality, equity & inclusion’ is on the list for the first time, with themes such as poverty, social mobility, disadvantage, disability, care experience and ethnicity grabbing the attention across the landscape.

Although ‘Digital skills’ slipped down the list after two years as the hottest topic, it remains the only issue to have been in the top three every year since 2013.

Three other topics have made every annual list: ‘Widening access’,
‘STEM’, and ‘Skills gaps & shortages’, and they will most likely be hot issues in 2019.

Surprisingly, ‘Apprenticeships’ dropped out of the list for the first time, having only appeared on the cover for March, coinciding with Scottish Apprenticeship Week.

A year ago we wrongly predicted that the Year of Young People would be on the list… It only just missed out, however, and its influence has permeated learning & skills and wider activity throughout 2018. (We’ll have to wait for 2020 for the next Themed Year, which will be Scotland’s Coast & Waters.)

Finally it’s worth highlighting two topics that made Informed Scotland covers for the first time: ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’ (ACEs) and ‘Brexit – recruitment & skills challenges’. We expect to see them both back as hot topics in 2019 and they might even sneak onto next year’s list.

What were your 2018 highlights? What are your predictions for 2019?

Angela will be discussing the stories behind the list in an interview for Radio EDUtalk on 22 January, in a review of 2018 and a look ahead to 2019. 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.

Happy Christmas & heaps of thanks!

It’s time to say a big thank you to our wonderful clients, associates and coworkers after another busy year for AJ Enterprises!

We’ve been hard at work keeping Informed Scotland subscribers up to date with the changes and challenges in learning & skills throughout 2018.

As well as the monthly digests, we’ve provided Annexes with detailed actions from three key Scottish Government reports, and published the sixth annual Organisations & People Special.

Many thanks to our subscribers for the great feedback and for spreading the word about what we do! Also thanks to Geoff Leask of Young Enterprise Scotland and Sarah Philp of Osiris Educational for their enlightening guest blog posts, and special thanks to Janey Boyd at Mamook Graphics for designing new covers for Informed’s sixth anniversary!

We continued to promote hundreds of events via the Learning & Skills Calendar, and managed to attend a few ourselves.

We shared copies of Informed with delegates at Newbattle Abbey College’s national adult learning conference in April, and the West Lothian Inclusion & Wellbeing Service Partnership Planning Event in May. Thanks too to General Teaching Council for Scotland for displaying the Informed flier on their stand at the Scottish Learning Festival, and to the Graduate Engineer Show in Derby for featuring our advert in this year’s show programme. And thanks to David Noble for the invite back onto Radio EDUtalk to review the hottest learning & skills topics of 2017, and to look ahead to 2018. 

We’ve also shared information widely via social media@InformedScot now has over 3,700 followers on Twitter, up 400 from this time last year, and over 400 followers on Instagram, up 170 – thanks to all our engaged followers!

It was a pleasure to continue working closely with London-based associate, Elaine Hendry of emh connect, particularly on the quarterly Skills Research Digest that we produce jointly for Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy. 

Turning to other business, we’ve provided communications, copy-writing, editing and proofreading, research and horizon scanning services to old and new clients, with regulars including the global company Macmillan Education, Winmat Publishers in Ghana and Beyond Green here in Edinburgh. 

Personal thanks are owed to associates it has been a pleasure to work with this year, including Kirstin who helped look after our Newbattle conference stand, and to Hannah at the start and Sarah at the end of 2018 for helping to keep the Events Calendar updated. Thanks also to supportive fellow local members of the Society for Editors & Proofreaders, particularly Lesley Ellen and Cathy Tingle – due to their persistent encouragement, I achieved Advanced Professional Member status in March!

Finally, I’ve enjoyed another year of coworking alongside a bunch of creative, talented people in Evergreen Studio in Edinburgh’s Old Town – thanks for the camaraderie, support, technical advice – and the regular sweet treats!

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 2019.

Informed Scotland November 2018 – Diversity for excellence


Diversity and inclusion were common themes across the learning & skills landscape in November.

From increasing ethnic and gender diversity among teachers, construction workers, engineers, interns and university boards, to teaching LGBTI equality and inclusion in schools, and recognising the skills of refugees and asylum seekers.

Check out Advance HE’s Diversity Principles and Board Recruitment Frameworks, Adopt an Intern’s Diversity Works, Construction Scotland’s new strategy, the National Centre for Universities & Business report on Engineering Skills and Education, Scottish Government’s Teaching in a diverse Scotland report and the LGBTI Inclusive Education Working Group’s endorsed recommendations, plus Open University in Scotland’s report on its Refugees’ Educational Resources project.

Other items worth highlighting this month include:

Want to keep on top of all the developments? Become an Informed Scotland subscriber. Email to request a sample copy.

Informed Scotland October 2018 – Skills: untapped, mismatched & ‘meta’


October was a busy month for meaty, fascinating reports on a range of learning & skills themes.

Word of the month was ‘meta-skills’ – or should that be ‘meta skills’ or ‘metaskills’? Spelling isn’t the main bone of contention here, so it’s good to see that defining these higher-order skills is an action in the Enterprise & Skills Strategic Board’s Strategic Plan, published last month. (Anyone else reminded of extensive debates about the definition of core/key skills…?)

As well as the usual annual studies, evaluations, outcome agreements and statistics, other reports worth exploring in detail include:

Among several developments, a new Skills & Employability Leadership Group is being set up by SCDI, chaired by Skills Development Scotland, and a new Scottish Government Learner Panel of 30 young people will help to shape educational policy and practice. There’s a new Men in Childcare Challenge Fund, aiming to increase the number of men in early learning & childcare; a new SQA Mental Health & Wellbeing Award; and YouthLink Scotland is launching a new Youth Work & Schools partnership programme.

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, Powerful professional learning by Sarah Philp, Director of Learning Scotland for Osiris Educational.

Powerful professional learning

by Sarah Philp, Director of Learning Scotland, Osiris Educational. Continuing our guest blog series featuring Informed Scotland subscribers writing on the theme Making connections across the learning & skills landscape.

‘We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.’  – Aristotle

We are all on a journey seeking ‘Excellence and Equity’, and while there are few who would deny these are worth striving for, this certainly does not make them easy to achieve.

In the context of education, we know that what happens in the classroom matters and we have a good history of supporting teacher professional learning in Scotland. That said, we still have some work to do. We need to make sure that we don’t get distracted and lose our focus on learning and teaching, and on ensuring that teachers have access to the highest quality professional learning.

Common barriers to changing our practice or engaging in learning, whatever line of work we might be in, are:

  • Cognitive overload – I’m sure we can all recognise this feeling, that we can’t take on board new or additional information because we are overwhelmed.
  • Relational trust – the glue that holds an organisation together. Having high relational trust allows us to take risks, to say we don’t know and to be open to engaging in learning.
  • Accurate self-perception – the difference between our own assessment of our performance or impact and our actual performance or impact.

We need to be aware of these potential barriers and actively build a culture of learning with these in mind.

Before joining Osiris Educational, I was Principal Educational Psychologist with Midlothian Council. One of the core functions of an educational psychologist is to provide professional learning. It has been many years since we moved away from the tendency for this to be delivered as a ‘twilight’ session on a particular ‘topic’. We know this does not work, and we know it doesn’t work for the reasons above.

Professional learning has shifted away from a focus on one-off events as the main delivery mechanism, to a much more dynamic model which aims to reflect and meet the needs of all learners at different stages in the learning process.

Professional learning is only as good as the impact it leads to for the learners in our classrooms. I guess it’s the ‘So what?’ and ‘What now?’ questions – if we don’t create opportunities for teachers to engage with these questions alongside their learning experience then we will fail to see the impact for our learners.

There is no short cut to powerful professional learning.

It needs time and energy from those providing it, those engaging in it and those supporting it at the system level.

The Osiris Teacher Intervention (OTI), one of our professional learning programmes, works with teachers to build the habit of excellence in learning and teaching through the following processes:

  • Building clarity – understanding what excellence really looks like
  • Reflexivity – reflecting on practice using video (it might be scary at first but it is incredibly powerful)
  • Levelling up – being clear about the incremental steps needed to ensure improvement and develop new habits and norms.

We also support school leaders through a leadership programme to develop a culture of effective professional learning across their school, using the key principles of what makes OTI so impactful.

Both of these programmes work well alongside the national model of professional learning launched by Education Scotland at the Scottish Learning Festival in September 2018.

According to the model, professional learning should be:

  • Challenging, and develop thinking, knowledge, skills and understanding
  • Underpinned by developing skills of enquiry and criticality
  • Interactive, reflective and involve learning with others.

We couldn’t agree more and we look forward to using this model more in the future.

For further information contact Sarah at
Twitter: @sphilp2 and @OsirisEduScot  Facebook: @osiriseducational
Osiris Educational  YouTube: Osiris Educational

Read previous guest blogs in the series, including those from Young Enterprise Scotland, Children’s University Scotland, GTC Scotland, SCEL, Clyde Gateway and EDT Scotland.