Informed Scotland March 2023 – Learning, skills & the rise of AI

There were a few particularly hot topics for learning & skills in March:

Digital economy skills. This is the theme of a new five-year Skills Action Plan from Skills Development Scotland, now that digital skills are essential for all industries, not just for the tech sector.

Developing the Young Workforce (DYW). A set of three meaty reports from the Scottish Government review DYW activity since 2014, and explore the initiative’s impact on employer engagement and its impact on education. And the latest annual update on the Young Person’s Guarantee, launched in 2020, discusses DYW and areas of duplication.

Green skills & jobs. Brought into focus by two separate but quite complementary reports: Nesta’s Green jobs: Rapid evidence review, and Business in the Community’s ‘routemap’ for Building green skills.

Artificial intelligence (AI). With the ‘stable release’ of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in March, awareness of the potential impact of AI on learning, skills and assessment is quickly growing. QAA is running a series of webinars on the rise of AI and concerns about academic integrity. City of Glasgow College is seeking input on its Draft Guidance for Learners on Use of AI. An OECD report is asking Is education losing the race with technology?. And a Scottish Parliament committee is asking about AI’s potential impact on assessment.

Tertiary education futures. The Royal Society of Edinburgh published the final report from its project on how post-school education might evolve, and a new UCAS Journey to a million national debate is exploring implications of the projected 30% growth of annual HE applicants.

Other items worth highlighting:

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Informed Scotland February 2023 – Curriculum & Qualifications Reforms

February was a quieter month for learning & skills. Yet there was no shortage of must-read reports and significant announcements, including:

Choice, Attainment and Positive Destinations, a report from University of Stirling researchers into the impact of Curriculum for Excellence, funded by the Nuffield Foundation. Authors Prof Mark Priestley and Marina Shapira, describe it as ‘a stark picture of curriculum reform that has diverged considerably from its original aims with significant unintended consequences … and serious equity concerns’.

The interim report of the Independent Review of Qualifications & Assessment led by Prof Louise Hayward, featuring the model proposed to replace the existing system. Although published on 3 March, it’s included this month because of a tight 7 April feedback deadline.

A new joint project on The Future of Learning and Teaching launched by the Scottish Funding Council, Education Scotland, QAA Scotland, sparqs and College Development Network. It will look at ‘defining and delivering an effective and inclusive digital/blended offering’.

Other reports to highlight:

And more news for podcast fans with four new series now being broadcast: Skillscast by Skills Development Scotland; from QAA on the biggest issues in HE; Research Matters by College Development Network; and from Northern Alliance Regional Improvement Collaborative.

This week is SCQF Week 2023, on the theme ‘Recognising Skills & Qualifications for the Future’. Finally, it’s once again worth checking out our Learning & Skills Events Calendar for other themed weeks, and a growing number of in-person and hybrid events. Let us know of any you’d like included.

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Informed Scotland Dec22/Jan23 – Reviews, trends & podcasts

The last two months were prolific for learning & skills, despite including the festive period. Alongside numerous new courses and resources, annual statistics and surveys, and budget, investment and personnel announcements, take a look at:

There was also news for podcast fans. A Wee Bit of Everything was launched by the Scottish Association of Teachers of PE, and Research Matters by the University of the West of Scotland. UWS is the latest university to use podcasts to share its research stories. Others include University of St Andrews’ One Square Mile…, University of Aberdeen’s Café Connect and SRUC’s Podcast. And this month the QAA has launched a podcast on the ‘biggest issues’ facing higher education, and Skills Development Scotland launched Skillscast, on issues affecting Scotland’s skills landscape. 

Themed weeks and events coming up include: Cyber Scotland Week 27 February–5 March, Scottish Apprenticeship Week 6–10 March and SCQF Week 13–17 March.

Become an Informed Scotland subscriber so you can keep on top of all the developments. Email [email protected] to request a copy of the latest issue.

Informed Scotland Learning & Skills Hottest Topics 2022

Which learning & skills topics appeared on the most covers of Informed Scotland over the past year? Here’s the tenth annual list.

=1. Recruitment, vacancies & workforce shortages (NEW)

=1. Qualifications, exams, assessment & review (=9 in 2021)

=3. Energy transition & net zero skills & jobs (NEW)

=3. Skills shortages & gaps – upskilling & reskilling (=1)

=5. Careers guidance & career services review (=9)

=5. Developing the young workforce & early careers (=4)

=5. Poverty related attainment gap & challenge (–)

=5. School education reforms (=4)

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

=5. Students – experience & perspective (–)

Two topics share the top spot:

  • Qualifications, exams, assessment & review is up from joint ninth place in 2021. ‘Qualifications…’ has been in the list five times, but this year its inclusion is driven by the Independent Review of Qualifications & Assessment launched by the Scottish Government at the end of 2021.
  • Recruitment, vacancies & workforce shortages is one of two topics in the list for the first time. Its entry reflects the continued impact of Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic, Scotland’s unemployment rate falling to a record low of 3.1% in September, wages not keeping pace with inflation plus the shortage of skilled workers in growth sectors.

In joint third place are Energy transition & net zero skills & jobs, the second first timer on the list, and Skills shortages & gaps. The latter has made every annual list except one, and this is its second year in the top three. In 2022 the main shortages and gaps were in green skills/skills for net zero, cybersecurity, engineering, construction and social care.

There were two surprise omissions: Digital skills didn’t make the list – or indeed the top three – for the first time ever! It slipped to joint 11th place, after holding the top spot five times including a year ago. And after two years at the top, Covid-19 was also missing – the biggest surprise was that it didn’t even appear on one cover in 2022.

Among the topics that appeared on a cover for the first time was the ‘Cost of living crisis’ – expect to see this back on the list for 2023.

What other topics are expected to be ‘hot’ this year? The two 2022 new entries – ‘Recruitment, vacancies & workforce shortages’ and ‘Energy transition & net zero skills & jobs’ – are likely to be back. Also expect to see ‘School education reforms’ and ‘Qualifications…’ on the list again as the outcomes of the reviews come to a head. The Independent Review of the Skills Delivery Landscape is also due to report in the spring – it’s had a much lower profile but its outcomes could make an impact.

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

2022: Taking stock & saying thanks

Image is © Ross Nisbet

AJ Enterprises has been busy throughout another challenging but productive year. Angela has continued to work with, for or alongside some fabulous clients, associates and coworkers.

It’s hard to believe it’s been ten years since I took the plunge and began producing the learning & skills digest Informed Scotland. The 100th issue was published in April and the tenth anniversary was celebrated in May.

Informed Scotland subscribers have been kept up to date with learning & skills across the landscape throughout 2022.

As well as the monthly digests, I provided Annexes containing the recommendations from Prof Ken Muir’s report on school education reforms, and the actions from the new Adult Learning Strategy, both published by the Scottish Government.

I also produced the tenth annual Organisations & People Special in August. This now has links to over 420 organisations – more than twice as many as in the first edition in 2013.

Many thanks to each subscriber, from large national organisations to concessions, new and long-standing, for your continued interest, feedback and for spreading the word about the benefits of being kept well informed. Special thanks to all those who’ve been subscribing since issue #1 – it wouldn’t still be here without your early faith in its potential!

On social media I’ve kept over 4,400 followers regularly updated via @InformedScot on Twitter – thanks to all our engaged followers. In response to recent developments I’ve just ventured onto Mastodon @[email protected]. It will be interesting to see what happens with these and other similar platforms over the next 12 months. Thanks also to those who’ve shared and commented on my posts on LinkedIn.

The Learning & Skills Events Calendar, a popular resource pre-pandemic, has taken small steps out of pandemic hibernation as more in-person events have returned. Send us your face-to-face event details for inclusion.

It was a pleasure to continue working with London-based associate Elaine Hendry of emh connect, mainly on the quarterly Skills Research Digest that we’ve produced jointly for Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy since 2017. We also worked together on desk research projects for EVERFI to inform developments by two multinationals: an insurance company’s new programme for schools, and an ecommerce firm’s new online science and maths resource for school pupils.

I’ve enjoyed providing research, copyediting and proofreading services to clients old and new. Particular thanks to Hannah of the British Educational Research Association (BERA), and to Ross at the Commonwealth Secretariat. Thanks also to supportive fellow members of the Chartered Institute of Editing & Proofreading (CIEP).

Working from home continued until April when I finally returned full-time to Evergreen Studio coworking space in Edinburgh’s Old Town. It’s good to be back working alongside enterprising, hardworking people – 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 – see what made the list for 2021 – any predictions?

Finally, thanks to media & communications student Ross Nisbet for providing this year’s ‘festive’ photo of a frozen (aptly named) Ross Fountain in the gardens below Edinburgh Castle.

Email [email protected] for more information about any of the above, to subscribe to Informed Scotland, or to discuss how we could support your work in 2023.

Informed Scotland November 2022 – Cost of living crisis & wellbeing

Two themes featured across the learning & skills landscape in November – the cost of living crisis and wellbeing – with the former undoubtedly affecting the latter.

Wellbeing was also a main theme exactly a year ago, although then the driver was the Covid-19 pandemic.

This year the impact of the pandemic is only one aspect driving the relationship between learning & skills and the physical and mental health of individuals. Relevant reports to highlight include Thriving Learners from Mental Health Foundation & Colleges Scotland on college student wellbeing, and, as teacher strikes take place for the first time in almost 40 years, Education Support’s Teacher Wellbeing Index 2022.

November was a busier, more prolific month than the last couple, producing numerous items worth exploring:

The next issue will be the Dec/Jan edition out in February 2023. However in January look out for the tenth annual stocktake of Learning & Skills ‘Hottest Topics’ from Informed covers in 2022.

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

Informed Scotland October 2022 – Energy transition & net zero

A year ago, ‘Climate change education’ made the Informed Scotland cover. It was pushed there by actions (such as these by Education Scotland) to coincide with Glasgow hosting COP26.

This year, Energy transition & net zero is on the cover while COP27 is taking place. However, this has less to do with COP27 and more to do with the growing demand for skills for transition, and the economic and social imperative to act on energy costs.

Announcements and initiatives include Just Transition Funding for 22 skills and research projects in north-east Scotland, a new Social Enterprise Just Transition Fund, a new Scotland Net Zero 2045 Future Leaders training programme supported by Skills Development Scotland, and Innovate UK’s Driving the Electric Revolution Challenge funding for 16 projects, including Engineering Development Trust’s Industrial Cadets.

Reviews and reforms continue to occupy minds across the landscape:

Other items to highlight:

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 September 2022 – Discussion, review, reform

Skills gaps and workforce shortages continue to cause concern.

And more sectors and organisations are considering how to navigate and mitigate the impact of the cost of living crisis. ‘Poverty’ features in five separate items in this month’s issue, from Education Scotland, College Development Network (CDN), Youth Scotland, Audit Scotland and Scottish Sports Futures.

However, the words of the month were discussion, review and reform. The processes and outcomes of the following are likely to shape much learning & skills debate over the months ahead:

Also look out for:

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? 2022

The 10th Informed Scotland Organisations & People Special has just been published to coincide with the start of the 2022–23 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. Listings include:

  • 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

There are now links to over 420 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 senior appointments, promotions and retirements.

11 organisations changed their names since the 2021 edition, including: UHI colleges, most notably Lews Castle College UHI, which is now UHI Outer Hebrides; Children’s University Scotland – now Curiosity Collective; Construction Scotland Innovation Centre – now Built Environment – Smarter Transformation; and Royal Caledonian Education Trust – now Forces Children Scotland. One organisation closed, Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland, which only opened in 2018.

All new subscribers receive a copy, then the monthly issues keep them updated about further changes throughout the next 12 months.

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

Informed Scotland June 2022 – The skills shortages challenge

The ongoing problem of skills shortages was the focus of much attention in June. Their impact on recruitment, staff workload, business output, profitability and growth, and even the ability to meet net zero targets and manage energy costs, is highlighted in a range of reports, including:

A wide range of other themes was covered in a busy month for interesting publications. Take a look at:

Plus there was the usual batch of statistical reports and surveys, including on school leaver destinations, student academic experience, graduate outcomes and the work in schools to close the poverty-related attainment gap.

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.