Efficient, flexible learner journeys
As we set out within our Putting Learners at the Centre consultation, we are committed to placing learners at the heart of our reforms, ensuring they have access to a flexible and fair system which provides a wide range of opportunities to progress through their learning.
We highlighted the range of significant work that has already been carried out in this area, including the publication of the Careers Information, Advice and Guidance strategy; the introduction of 16+ Learning Choices; the development of the Talent Scotland Graduate Placement Programme; the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence and last but not least the commitment within Opportunities for All to offer an appropriate place in post-16 learning for all 16-19 year olds.
We also discussed and raised proposals to gain advanced entry to university from school and the potential offered by the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework as a means to help deliver smoother and better progression into and through learning. We also additionally discussed the role of SCQF in our proposals to increase the volume of articulation from a college HNC/D course into the second or third year of a university degree course.
Whilst a number of other related areas were also raised, the specific consultation questions relevant to this section were as follows:
1. How can we ensure delivery of an appropriate place in post-16 learning for all 16-19 year olds? What are the priority actions?
2. In considering the proposed package of measures for improving the learner journey, where should the focus be to improve pathways for all learners? What actions are required to make progression more coherent for learners?
3. How effective is the SCQF in promoting flexible learner journeys? Are there any barriers and, if so, how could they be overcome? How could the SCQF be used more effectively to deliver our aims?
4. What more can the Government and its partners do to encourage more articulation between colleges and universities?
5. What scope is there to make the transition from school to university more effective for learners, while reducing unnecessary duplication?
There was overall strong support on the need for efficient, flexible learner journeys, with further very strong endorsement of the benefits of improved collaborative and partnership working between all partners involved in supporting learner journeys and pathways.
A starting point provided by respondees was the importance of incorporating issues around transition from school when taking forward the Opportunities for All commitment, particularly the transition from school to college. There was a call for the continued backing of, for example, school college partnership activities which help schools meet the Curriculum for Excellence commitment to vocational opportunities and also feed into later discussions and decisions about post-16 learning options.
Many respondees merged their question 1 response with the later question 6 on how best to ensure delivery of the Opportunities for All commitment to the most vulnerable learners. Priority actions therefore tended to focus on the provision of soft skills support; clear pathways through learning options and a continuing focus on literacy and numeracy. The development of technical skills and work ethos were also suggested.
This very positive and strong focus on the learner experience was reflected in the nature of concerns that were raised around progression. Whilst the idealised view or aim of learner progression would be a smooth journey to employment, respondees were keen to point out that in practice this was not the case for all learners. Many made the point that progression was often neither linear nor vertical and instead was frequently achieved, particularly for those with additional support needs, through the repetition of courses (or course levels) and through linked learning in the home or community. There was specific concern that if a narrow definition of progression was carried through into, for example, funding arrangements or legislation, it would result in some learners being unfairly penalised.
The responses on the question of advanced entry to university from school, via a baccalaureate or Advanced Higher, or from college to university via articulation elicited similar technical responses, but markedly different attitudinal responses depending on the area of the post-16 education system from which they were responding. Technical issues centred around whether the SCQF was sufficiently focused on content and performance to provide a strong enough basis for transition, as well as the difficulties in the associated 'mapping' or bridging programmes into degree programmes that might be required. The majority view on the SCQF was that, although it was an excellent and respected framework, its full potential was yet to be realised.
Sectoral divisions in responses were also apparent on the broader question of encouraging more articulation between colleges and universities, where college respondees tended to support, and universities tended to oppose, the use of legislative measures to achieve this. Alternative approaches such as building on the existing regional articulation hubs or setting a condition of grant around the creation of articulation agreements were proposed, as well as suggesting additional funding could be made available to support the collaborative development of articulation agreements across all colleges and universities.
Whilst views differed, responses demonstrated throughout a positive awareness of and focus on the needs and experience of the learner. Suggestions received which further evidence this included ensuring that effective bridging programmes were in place to support the learner transition from college to university; that articulating students did not displace school leavers and that articulation be a learner choice rather than a requirement. A small minority of respondees felt that the quality of teaching across the post-16 landscape could usefully have been considered within the consultation, a point that recurred in responses to the performance, governance and accountability chapter. There was also considerable consensus and endorsement of improving the learner experience through the availability of accessible information, advice and guidance throughout the entirety of the learner journey.
We welcome the very positive response we received from respondees on the collaborative activity required to ensure efficient, flexible learner pathways, in support of our aims to improve sustainable provision, jobs and growth and life chances.
We acknowledge respondee concerns around the participation and progression of more vulnerable learner cohorts; we also acknowledge the further exploration of issues surrounding use of the SCQF and the differences of view within the post-16 system in relation to articulation. We will therefore continue to explore these and other identified issues as we take forward our reform activity and will factor in concerns raised within our equality impact assessment activity.
We will ensure that the senior phase of the Curriculum for Excellence is enhanced to support better transitions from school, whether this is into college, university, training or employment.
We will also consider what can be done to promote progression through the system by developing clearer pathways and continuing to improve our information, advice and guidance.
We will produce new guidance on community learning and development and we will consider whether legislation could be used to strengthen the role of CLD.