Friday, 27 May 2016

edition 225 of the newsletter


This week we focus on videos, specifically videos that help learners and tutors with Functional Skills. We've chosen three examples for maths (Pythagoras), English (Implicit meaning) and ICT (@if functions) and made them all available on the ForSkills YouTube channel.

Also this week, we have a couple of links to some interesting apprenticeships articles. Next week, I get a break as for many (including me) it's holiday time - back mid-June!

ForSkills YouTube Channel - click to subscribe. 70,000+ views, 100+ videos with over 100,000 minutes watched and a fast growing subscriber list, and it's all free - what's not to like?

As always, feel free to contact Jonathan Wells, the editor of this newsletter on 0191 3055045 or jonathan@forskills.co.uk

World class apprenticeships

An academic research report by Mieschbuehler, R. and Hooley, T of the University of Derby has been published.

The aim of this research was to identify world-class apprenticeship standards and to make suggestions as to how these could be applied to the English system.

By ‘world class’ we mean that the standards described are acknowledged to be among the best in the world. Thirteen indicators for world-class apprenticeship standards were identified through the research and these have been divided into four sub-sections: (1) training, (2) skills and expertise, (3) recognition and (4) progression

Click here to access the report.

Oliver Trailor of Runway Training posted an article on LinkedIn about his experiences of Apprenticeships - just a page or two and worth a look.

Monday, 23 May 2016

Edition 224 newsletter

Functional Skills reform programme
The ETF have published a 25 page document that is the summary of findings of the employer survey.

It's worth a read, but if you're in a rush, the key findings are:
  • Employees often "fear" maths (more so than English) and are often reluctant to engage with the subjects as they lack confidence and mastery of essential skills. This also applied to some teachers.
  • The maths skills of particular importance include basic maths (area, estimation, conversions, days, geometrical, magnitude, perimeters, scales, 10s, 100s, 1000s), percentages, fractions, ratios and mental arithmetic. Employers are less interested in what they consider to be academic mathematics (e.g. algebra, calculus, etc.).
  • English skills of particular importance include the basics of what is known as the “SPAG” group of skills (spelling, punctuation and grammar) were also frequently mentioned as being important, together with good communication skills – especially oral ones via telephone and in customer-facing and colleague-facing environments.
  • A comparison by size of employer in employment terms suggests that larger organisations (those with greater than 50 staff) are slightly less happy with the maths and English capabilities of their existing workforce. Larger employers also place greater importance on collecting and representing data using ICT, including spreadsheets, while small businesses appear more likely to view mental arithmetic skills as being of greater importance.
  • There appears to be a polarisation of opinion on the treatment of digital skills within English and maths. Some employers regard such skills as a distraction – almost an irrelevance – to the need to upgrade basic maths and English skills – while some argue that everything should be integrated into digital skills.
  • Half of surveyed employers (50%) had heard of Functional Skills qualifications prior to responding to the consultation, with the results indicating that larger employers are more likely to be familiar (64% familiar) than those with fewer than 50 staff (39% familiar).
The full report is here.

A link to the second phase survey for practitioners/providers of FS qualifications is here and will be open until Friday 24th June.

Monday, 16 May 2016

edition 223

The learner journey
It starts with initial assessment and diagnostics to produce an ISP.

The ForSkills system uses a sophisticated assessment engine that significantly improves accuracy and reduces the length of time a learner takes. It’s normally a two phase process lasting about half an hour each. In the first phase, the learner answers a series of screening questions before being given around 25 questions from a “bank of thousands”. The result that you get from this is an overall level and spiky profile.

After the initial assessment, learners can then take a break and move onto step 2 - the diagnostic part – this is 20 or so questions, delivered at the level indicated by the spiky profile. At the end of the diagnostic assessment, the system automatically produces an individual skills plan or ISP – others may call it an ILP.

The results of the initial assessment at step 1 also indicates the time taken by the learner, an excellent indicator of their engagement, and whether any of the additional learning needs (dyslexia and dyscalculia) were highlighted by the questions they answered – that’s not a separate test, the assessment engine works this out based on flagged questions.

The overall result also shows the spiky profile, ever so important to identify where the skills gaps are as we use these results to then construct a diagnostic test based on the spiky profile – there’s no point at all in asking questions and setting problems the learner can’t be expected to achieve, that’s not the case with all systems though, it’s best to check.

The e-learning loop

The-elearning loop is essentially stages 3 and 4.

From the ISP, the system will automatically deliver to the learner a series of e-learning resources that are mapped against the skills that the learner needs to improve. That’s essentially step 3 and step 4, a loop where the learner has a start point, they may watch a video, do some practice work, then a summative assessment in that skill, this measures progress and increases the amount of progression reported.

The picture below shows that typical loop for level 2 grammar.

Not everything is a test or assessment though, some of the activities within e-learning will be functional problems – using the skills in a novel way. And by going round this loop for each skill identified, a learner improves their confidence and competence.

The final step on the learner journey is exam practice and revision using interactive scenarios, longer exam type questions or past papers.  SkillsBuilder has lots of these!

Get in touch. for a copy of the A3 posters.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Edition 222 May 6th

Edition 222 - Friday May 6th 2016

A very significant piece of news in FE Week today is the apparent leaking of a new Skills White Paper that proposes the introduction of 15 "professional and technical education" routes that include work experience or apprenticeships.

Also today, we focus on the wide range of help videos that are available on the ForSkills YouTube Channel - click to subscribe. 70,000+ views, 100+ videos with over 100,000 minutes watched and a fast growing subscriber list, and it's all free - what's not to like?

As always, feel free to contact Jonathan Wells, the editor of this newsletter on 0191 3055045 or jonathan@forskills.co.uk

Skills white paper to propose a clear choice at age 16 - vocational or academic
This is a very interesting story for the sector that could have major implications.

FE Week report that the first skills white paper in a decade has been leaked. In it, there is a proposal for 15 new "technical and professional education" (TPE) routes into work.

Many in the sector will remember the 14-19 Diplomas - 14 vocational routes offered to learners across a region by specialist centres. They were rigorous, they included work experience and a requirement to study and pass Functional Skills maths and English and in retrospect, were generally very well thought of, especially by employers.

They failed mostly due to the complexity of the system when the coalition government removed the need for LA's to offer Diplomas to all learners.

The new TPE route feels a little like this and I think will be generally welcomed by learners. Can't wait to see the white paper when it is finally published!

Fun competition time
I've removed the titles and scale from the graph above - so here's the competition for fun only. What does the graph represent (clues are below) and as a tie break, how big is the value on the tallest column? Email me at my usual address.

There is no prize but I will personally make a donation to the charity of the winners choice so please say who that should be!

The ForSkills YouTube channel is a wonderful FREE resource for everyone, we've even organised all the videos into playlists to make it ever so easy to access. For example:
  • GCSE resources has 14 videos
  • ForSkills admin help has 12 videos
  • Exam tips and tutorials has 9
  • Functional Skills resources has 14

The skills based videos on YouTube are just a small selection of the content that subscribers receive so if you would like to upgrade to SkillsBuilder, get in touch.

We have great offers, we won't be beaten on price and we'll even carry over the unused part of your current subscription FREE OF CHARGE, but above all, SkillsBuilder is quite simply the best product and ForSkills the best provider.

And that's worth a lot!
Get in touch.

Edition 221 April 29th

Edition 221 - Friday April 29th 2016

A busy week for apprenticeships and the GCSE/Functional Skills route choice plus this week we also carry an interesting article on engagement.

Engagement is a key factor to improving success. Last year, the University of Sunderland published a report that showed learners who engaged with e-learning for just 15 hours improved their success rate by an average 9%. Click here to request a copy.

The study contained more than 4000 data points. It compared outcome results for Functional Skills from learners at the same training providers using ForSkills/Guroo, and the results were statistically significant. The article below about employer engagement reminds me that engagement is vital.

We also pick upon news about the CBI comments about the Apprenticeship Levy and the continuing row about GCSE in the pre-school sector.

Finally, a regular link to the ForSkills YouTube Channel - click to subscribe. 70,000+ views, 100+ videos with over 100,000 minutes watched and a fast growing subscriber list, and it's all free - what's not to like?

As always, feel free to contact Jonathan Wells, the editor of this newsletter on 0191 3055045 or jonathan@forskills.co.uk

Monday, 25 April 2016

newsletter April 22nd edition 220

Edition 220 - Friday April 22nd 2016

We understand from a number of regular readers that there was a problem with the email service we use to send the newsletter, and many didn't receive last week's edition. We have been assured that this is now fixed and normal service resumed.. We have included a couple of article repeats for the benefit of those who missed last week's.

Academy conversion, a lack of good careers advice, apprenticeship awareness and a curriculum that's too prescriptive are some of the problems surfacing at the moment - we try to bring together the threads.

Plus a brilliant upgrade route to SkillsBuilder with a supporting video and a reminder that not everyone has to do everything on-line - ask us for your paper based initial assessment sample.

Finally, a regular link to the ForSkills YouTube Channel - click to subscribe. 60,000+ views, 100+ videos, growing subscriber list, and it's all free - what's not to like?.

As always, feel free to contact Jonathan Wells, the editor of this newsletter on 0191 3055045 or jonathan@forskills.co.uk
Upgrading to SkillsBuilder - new video
There has been such a good response to the article last week that explained the SkillsBuilder upgrade plan that we've now added a video that explains more about the process and benefits.

The SkillsBuilder upgrade plan removes all the cost and uncertainty of change. As if getting access to the best maths and English solution from the best support team wasn't enough, the plan includes:
  • Transfer of unused bksb subscription or credits FREE OF CHARGE
  • Free training for your tutors and admin staff
  • Free branding to make your SkillsBuilder site "your own"
  • Free integration into existing MIS systems.
There are some sensible and reasonable T&Cs but most existing bksb® customers will qualify. Simply get in touch here to register your interest and we'll be in touch.

All trademarks acknowledged.



Paper based initial assessment
If you have learners who simply prefer to do their initial assessment on paper, ForSkills can provide you with a stock of maths, English and ICT initial assessment booklets.

Very easy to use and mark (using the supplied marking guidelines) the booklets meet all SFA/EFA guidelines for initial assessment and results can be uploaded to the learners SkillsBuilder account.

The PBIA are available from stock for just £1 each and subject to a £100 minimum order, are delivered free of charge.

GCSE isn't always the right route at age 14 - yet more

The story about choices at age 14 has moved into the schools sector now with Sec-Ed also picking it up. It will be no surprise at all to find this is simply the start of a big shake-up.

The press is alive with reports about unhappiness with Academies, not only about the policy of forcing all schools to become one, but also about what happens when they already are one and withdraw from the A level market!

It's a good job we have a vibrant FE and Training sector led by Knowsley College in that area. Further adding to the positive comment about the findings, Jonathan Wells published a linked in article here.

Read the BBC report here.
FE Week also carries an article
Radio 4 Today programme have an interview at 6.50am

Friday, 15 April 2016

Newsletter 15/4 edition 219

Edition 219 - Friday April 15th 2016

What a busy week it's been, we have been absolutely delighted with the response to the "Upgrade to SkillsBuilder" item that this week we've added a video about this.

We've also noted a distinct upturn in the interest in e-portfolios, so we thought that adding an article about the generic benefits of using an e-portfolio would be very appropriate at this time of year.

And a follow-on the House of Common committee on social mobility was an article written by myself and published on linkedin. It received a warm response so we provide a link in the article below.

And finally, a regular link to the ForSkills YouTube Channel - click to subscribe. 60,000+ views, 100+ videos, growing subscriber list, and it's all free, what's not to like?.

As always, feel free to contact Jonathan Wells, the editor of this newsletter on 0191 3055045 or jonathan@forskills.co.uk
e-Portfolios - do they really save providers time and money?
Recent research indicates that around 25% of large providers still use paper based portfolios to manage their (often very significant) apprenticeship programmes.

And of those that do, a significant proportion are using first generation systems supplied by their awarding organisation that help reduce paper, but lack the "any time, any place, any device" that today's generation of systems such as SkillsPortfolio have as standard using "app" based technology.

Providers using the latest systems report that improvements in assessors efficiency of 10% and reductions in their travel costs of up to 20% are common and that's before an overall improvement in data tracking and associated compliance improvement for Ofsted outcomes, SFA funding reporting and IV/EV audit.

If you'd like to see how the ForSkills Go App works within SkillsPortfolio, click here for a short video explanation.
Upgrading to SkillsBuilder - new video
There has been such a good response to the article last week that explained the SkillsBuilder upgrade plan that we've now added a video that explains more about the process and benefits.

The SkillsBuilder upgrade plan removes all the cost and uncertainty of change. As if getting access to the best maths and English solution from the best support team, wasn't enough, the plan includes:
  • Transfer of unused bksb subscription or credits FREE OF CHARGE
  • Free training for your tutors and admin staff
  • Free branding to make your SkillsBuilder site "your own"
  • Free integration into existing MIS systems.
There are some sensible and reasonable T&Cs but most existing bksb® customers will qualify. Simply get in touch here to register your interest and we'll be in touch.

All trademarks acknowledged.
Survey results
And don't forget that the 2016 Survey of Post-16 maths and English use has now been published.

The survey is the largest independent survey in the sector and over the 5 years has received more than 1200 responses.

Click here to download a copy of the published report.
House of Lords Committee on Social Mobility - more

Last week we linked to several articles reporting on the Committee findings. There was lots of comment about the findings, especially the idea that learners aged 14 should be given a choice at school instead of all being forced down a GCSE route irrespective of ability or learner need.

Further adding to the positive comment about the findings, Jonathan Wells published a linked in article here.

Read the BBC report here.
FE Week also carries an article
Radio 4 Today programme have an interview at 6.50am