Informed Scotland May 2022 – Adult learning & the young workforce

This edition marks 10 years since the first issue of Informed Scotland!

As long-standing subscribers and followers know, each year at this point I like to remind us all that in May 2012 youth unemployment in Scotland stood at a miserable 23.1%. It currently stands at a much improved 5.6%, which looks even more impressive when compared to the UK’s 9.7%. And yet challenges remain, albeit not all the same.

Developing the young workforce is still a hot topic, with more Young Person’s Guarantee funding announced, and numerous new initiatives to prepare young people for work or to help them make better informed career decisions.

Examples include City of Edinburgh Council’s new construction industry Skills Academy; Dundee & Angus College and Dundee City Council’s new RISE (Raising Interpersonal Skills for Employment) course; and a new School leavers toolkit published by Skills Development Scotland on the My World of Work website.

It was good to see adult learning as a hot topic in May, with publication of the long-awaited first Adult Learning Strategy for Scotland. To help subscribers, Informed 101 includes the strategy’s 23 actions in an Annex.

Other items to highlight:

Are you curious to see what was in Informed 1? Email [email protected] to request a copy with the latest issue – discover what you’re missing!

Want to keep on top of all the developments? Become an Informed Scotland subscriber.

Informed Scotland April 2022 – 100th issue of the learning & skills digest

Issue 100 includes key Covid-19 guidance and announcements up to 5 May.

With the Easter break in April and local government elections approaching, it was a relatively quiet month for learning & skills, with no major announcements.

There are a number of items worth highlighting, however:

It’s hard to believe that this is the 100th issue of Informed Scotland – and that next month will mark 10 years since the first edition in 2012! More on that in June. In the meantime, thank you to all those who’ve been subscribing since issue #1 – it wouldn’t have happened without your faith in its potential.

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

Informed Scotland March 2022 – Strategies & reforms

Issue 99 includes key Covid-19 guidance and announcements up to 11 April.

The hottest learning & skills topic in March was Prof Ken Muir’s eagerly anticipated report for school education reforms: the replacement of the SQA, the reform of Education Scotland and removal of its inspection function. We’ve provided subscribers with a helpful Annex containing his 21 recommendations and the Scottish Government’s response.

March saw the publication of several national strategies, all relevant to learning & skills. For Scotland there’s a new ten-year Strategy for Economic Transformation, a ten-year Workforce Strategy for Health and Social Care, a five-year Retail Strategy and a Blue Economy Vision for marine sectors to 2045. There’s also a new five-year strategy for UK Research & Innovation.

Numerous interesting reports were published, including:

Also look out for the Scottish Parliament Education, Children & Young People Committee’s new colleges regionalisation inquiry, ten years on from the creation of 13 college regions in 2012. Particularly interesting as three colleges are currently involved in the Rural & Islands College Merger Project due to be finalised in January 2023.

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

Informed Scotland February 2022 – Careers, computing & collaboration

February was a relatively calm month in learning & skills terms.

The most significant item was the report of the ‘comprehensive, end-to-end’ review of career services commissioned by Skills Development Scotland a year ago. The Scottish Government has given the green light to all ten recommendations, so the Career Review Programme Board is now taking them forward.

Other items of note included:

  • City & Guilds’ Great Jobs report, highlighting essential jobs and kicking off a campaign seeking to address the challenges to fill them
  • Education Scotland’s report on computing science in secondary schools, plus the Scottish Government’s £1.3m funding to support the subject in primary and secondary education
  • two reports on outdoor learning – Education Scotland’s ‘national thematic review’ by HM Inspectors, and YouthLink Scotland’s report on the impact of the Covid-19 Outdoor Education Recovery Fund
  • the Independent Commission on the College of the Future’s report on the importance of collaboration between colleges and universities
  • the UK Government’s somewhat controversial white paper on Levelling Up.

The following were also included, despite being announced in March. For very different reasons, it would have been remiss to make Informed subscribers wait for next month’s edition:

  • The Scottish Government’s announcement about school education reforms, alongside the publication of Prof Ken Muir’s eagerly anticipated report. A more detailed summary will be in next month’s issue.
  • With the horrors of the war in Ukraine occupying everyone’s thoughts, Education Scotland has created a helpful resource on ‘Teaching about conflict and war’ on the National Improvement Hub.

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

Informed Scotland Dec21/Jan22 – Attainment gaps & skills shortages

Issue 97 includes key Covid-19 guidance and announcements up to and including 10 February.

Closing the poverty-related attainment gap continues to be a stubborn problem. Achievement of Curriculum for Excellence Levels 2020/21 reported that the attainment gap in literacy and numeracy for primary pupils had increased. And the National Improvement Framework Interactive Evidence Report showed the percentage gap had grown for school leavers with one or more qualifications at SCQF 4+, 5+ and 6+. As a result:

Skills gaps and shortages remain a major concern for many employers. This time the spotlight was on engineering, digital, aquaculture and electronics:

Meanwhile, Audit Scotland published a critical report on Planning for skills, calling for the Scottish Government to take urgent action with SDS & the Scottish Funding Council on an integrated approach.

Other developments and reports to look out for include:

Themed weeks and events coming up include: Cyber Scotland Week 28 February–6 March, Scottish Apprenticeship Week 7–11 March and The SCQF at 21 Online Conference on 24 March.

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 copy of the latest issue.

Informed Scotland Learning & Skills Hottest Topics 2021

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

=1. COVID-19 – impact, support & recovery (1 in 2020)

=1. Digital skills & inclusion (3)

=1. Skills shortages & gaps – upskilling, reskilling & recovery (=5)

=4. Developing & supporting the young workforce (4)

=4. School education reforms (NEW)

=6. Climate emergency/change education & skills (NEW)

=6. Cyber security skills & resilience (NEW)

=6. Online & remote learning (2)

Ten topics share 9th place, including a few regulars: ‘Widening & fair access’ (in every list since the first in 2013), ‘Apprenticeships’ (only missed one year) and ‘Futures: education policy & manifestos’ (fifth year running). The others are: ‘Artificial intelligence & learning’; ‘Careers & career services review’; ‘Innovation’; ‘National Qualifications’; ‘New courses’; ‘Review of tertiary education & research’; and ‘Tech sector’.

Three share the top spot. Unsurprisingly, ‘Covid-19’ is at the top for the second year running, albeit with a shift from ‘impact & response’ to ‘impact, support & recovery’. Indeed, five of the top eight topics are there mainly due to the pandemic – the first four listed plus ‘Online & remote learning’.

‘Digital skills’ remains the only topic to have been in the top three every year since 2013 and this is its fifth time at the top.

‘Skills shortages’ has made every annual list except one but this is the first time it’s made the top three. The combination of Covid-19, Brexit, digitalisation/the fourth industrial revolution and the transition to a green economy have created a perfect storm for employers and the jobs market. As skills shortages & gaps continue to grow, expect upskilling & reskilling (and ‘new skilling’) to become even greater priorities in 2022.

Three topics made the list for the first time and all are likely to be back in 2022: ‘School education reforms’ made many news headlines in 2021. ‘Climate emergency/change education & skills’ was a predictable addition with COP26 in Glasgow. And after hovering outside the list for a few years, ‘Cyber security skills’ finally made it, with major developments including a new cyber resilience strategy for Scotland and a new UK Cyber Security Council.

Finally, demonstrating the broad range of learning & skills issues covered, among the topics that appeared on a cover for the first time ever were ‘Space strategy’, LGBT inclusive education’ and ‘Hybrid learning, teaching, working & leadership’.  

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 [email protected] to receive a recent sample copy and find out how to subscribe here.

2021 reflections & thanks

AJ Enterprises has been busy throughout another challenging year. Angela was fortunate to continue to work with and support some fabulous clients, associates and coworkers.

Informed Scotland subscribers were kept up to date with learning & skills across the landscape, including the impact of Covid-19. As well as the monthly digests, I published a Scottish Parliament Election Extra in April, available free to all, and the ninth annual Organisations & People Special, for subscribers only, in August. The latter now has links to over 400 organisations – more than twice as many as in the first edition in 2013.

Many thanks to each subscriber, from large 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.

On social media I’ve kept over 4,400 followers regularly updated via @InformedScot on Twitter – thanks to all our engaged followers. Thanks also to those who’ve shared and commented on posts on LinkedIn. And despite a very quiet year on Instagram, InformedScot now has over 800 followers.

The Learning & Skills Events Calendar, a popular resource pre-pandemic, has continued to keep a low profile, only listing a few rare in-person events plus themed weeks and days. This will be kept under review with the aim of resuming it in full when more face-to-face events hopefully return in 2022.

In November I was invited to come out from behind the scenes to lead the Q&A session of the 2021 David Raffe Memorial Lecture given by Prof Ewart Keep on the theme ‘transitions from learning to earning…’. Many thanks to Cathy Howieson and Linda Croxford of CES, University of Edinburgh, for the invitation, to Ewart for the excellent lecture, and to Prof Richard Andrews, Head of Moray House School of Education & Sport, for his fulsome praise of Informed Scotland in his introduction.

It was a pleasure to continue working with London-based associate Elaine Hendry of emh connect, including on the quarterly Skills Research Digest that we’ve produced jointly for Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy since 2017. 2022 will mark 10 years since Elaine and I each took the plunge and began producing learning & skills digests – me Informed Scotland and Elaine the UK Digest. More on that next year!

I’ve enjoyed providing research, copyediting and proofreading services to clients old and new. Particular thanks to Ross of the British Educational Research Association (BERA) as he heads for new adventures next year. Thanks also to supportive fellow local members of the Chartered Institute of Editing & Proofreading (CIEP), including Edinburgh group coordinators Margaret and Sarah.

Working from home was the norm for most of 2021. For the first few months, Isla McCrone continued the lifeline online coworking sessions she began in spring 2020. Thanks to Isla for helping to keep me and my virtual coworkers focused. I managed just four weeks back at my Evergreen Studio (pictured) desk before restrictions returned. It reminded me how much I miss coworking in the same space as other hardworking, friendly folk, so I’ll be back as soon as it’s safe to return. Thanks to Studio owner Robin for his generosity and understanding, and James for keeping the place going.

The annual Informed Scotland Hottest Topics in Scottish Learning & Skills will be shared here in January – see what made the list this year – any predictions?

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 2022.

Informed Scotland November 2021 – The wellbeing of all in learning & skills

Issue 96 includes key Covid-19 guidance up to and including 10 December.

Wellbeing was a main theme across the learning & skills landscape in November. Organisations are examining or aiming to support the (mental, physical and/or social) wellbeing of children & young people, students at various ages and stages, or teachers, lecturers and academics. For example:

Digital technology in teaching and learning was also a common theme. For schools, there were numerous items on the internet of things, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and robotics and cyber resilience. And for further & higher education, there was Jisc’s Teaching staff digital experience insights survey plus Universities UK’s Lessons from the pandemic: Making the most of technologies in teaching.

And as awareness of the pandemic’s impact continues to grow, these reports on the young workforce are also worth highlighting:

On the theme of ‘transitions from learning to earning…’, a recording of the 2021 David Raffe Memorial Lecture by Prof Ewart Keep is now available on the University of Edinburgh’s website. Informed Scotland’s Angela Gardner led the Q&A session, and was delighted by the ringing endorsement of the digest given by Head of Moray House School of Education & Sport, Prof Richard Andrews, in his introduction.

Finally, congratulations to everyone at the Children’s University Scotland charity following its relaunch as the wonderfully named Curiosity Collective, with its mission ‘to give children the freedom to explore a world of learning beyond the classroom’.

The next issue will be the Dec/Jan edition out in February 2022. However in January I’ll be taking the eighth annual stocktake of Learning & Skills ‘Hottest Topics’ from Informed covers in 2021.

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 2021 – Reviews, reforms & climate change

Issue 95 includes key Covid-19 guidance up to and including 5 November.

October was a quieter month than usual for learning & skills – the slimmest edition of Informed Scotland since October 2019 is testimony to that.

Reviews and reforms are occupying minds across the landscape. Skills Development Scotland published research and white papers to inform its Career Review. The Scottish Government published an ‘implementation framework’ and further announcements for its school education reform. And published its response to the Scottish Funding Council’s Review of Tertiary Education & Research.

Other items worth drawing your attention to:

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 the latest copy.

Informed Scotland September 2021 – Recover, reform & reskill

Issue 94 includes key COVID-19 guidance up to and including 11 October.

A few topics in particular took centre stage:

Education reform for the school sector, with a consultation to inform the review of Education Scotland and the SQA led by Prof Ken Muir having begun in earnest.

COVID-19 recovery, as the Scottish Government set out 40 key actions for education as part of its recovery strategy.

LGBT inclusive education, as Scotland claims to be the first country in the world to ‘embed’ it across the school curriculum. See the new website managed by Time for Inclusive Education. A UCAS report also examined the experience of LGBT+ applicants to university.

Skills shortages, with those demanded by the ‘electrification revolution’ in transport and energy highlighted in a report by the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, University of Warwick Manufacturing Group and Faraday Institution. And the annual Tech Nation Jobs and Skills report shone a light on the tech sector’s ever-increasing demand for skilled people.

The COP26 Climate Change Conference, with all sectors across the learning & skills landscape involved in some way. From Play Scotland‘s Moths to a Flame art installation, to The Moment with Children’s Parliament & Scottish Youth Parliament, a UN Conference of Youth, a Live at COP26 learning for a sustainable future course on FutureLearn, and a new online platform with learning resources to support Youth Work Champions.

Also look out for:

A date for your diary

Book your place at 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 takes place online on 3 November hosted by Moray House School of Education & Sport. Informed Scotland’s Angela Gardner will 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.