Lessons from technical education in Denmark

by Sally Dicketts

Last term I travelled to Copenhagen with the Gatsby Foundation and two other college principals to look at how Denmark does vocational education and see what lessons we can learn from their experience. Colleges in Denmark tend to specialise – I visited an engineering college for instance. In Denmark, as in the UK, there is a general prejudice in favour of academic education – at 16 plus only 20% choose further education but at 19 plus, almost half of all students are in vocational education and adults continue to pursue vocational routes throughout their careers. I visited a IT training facility where the students following a technical IT programme ranged from 19 to 48 years old.

The Danish system is based on four year programmes leading to a license to practice; there are no fees and learners receive a small stipend. The standard and extent of adult education is very good. On the downside, the Danish system is heavily regulated: the social partners – business, unions, local and national government – determine what programmes colleges can provide and there is less scope for entrepreneurship and choice.

The Copenhagen experience is interesting in view of the three major developments to hit our sector – the government’s industrial strategy, the review of 18 plus provision and the forthcoming T-levels.

I recently discussed the future of post-18 education with other college principals in a debate chaired by Philip Augar, chair of the independent panel that is advising the government. The review offers lots of exciting possibilities for us on higher education. However, most HE providers have seen applicant numbers drop by between 20 and 30% this year. The market is tightening and becoming more competitive which means many of the newer universities are increasingly trying to enter our market and competing directly with our colleges. This will be a great challenge to us to make clear the distinctiveness of our higher education provision, built on our Learning Philosophy and our understanding of learners’ attributes.

Top tips for exam success

Got your exams coming up soon? If you are feeling nervous or stressed, help is at hand! We’ve got some top tips to help you on your route to success.

1 Keep revision sessions short and sweet
Want to boost your concentration? Research shows that 20-30 minute spells of revision, mixed with short, frequent breaks, work best.

2 Exercise your way to success
Don’t be tempted to save time by missing a trip to the gym or a sports game with your friends. Physical activity increases your heart rate, which makes the blood circulate faster. This gets more oxygen to your brain, increasing productivity and reducing stress.

3 A room of your own
While revising, you need a quiet space, where you can avoid distractions for a few hours. If you are at home, keep the TV and music off (or play relaxing tunes at a minimum volume). Revising in a coffee shop is not a good idea as you may get distracted.

4 The early bird catches the worm
Keen to give yourself a headstart on work for the day? Then set up your alarm clock to start revising early in the morning – this will help you do all the work you’ve planned for the day.

5 Spice up your revision
Drawing colourful learning maps will help you to memorise facts. Colourful notes are easier to memorise than plain black and white ones. Give it a go!

6 Make notes
The best way to memorise information is by making notes over and over again. At least three sets of the same notes in a run up to the exams will help you memorise the required information.

7 Practice makes perfect
Learning more about the exam format and the type of questions asked can be very helpful. Ask your teacher for some past papers (or Google them) to help you practice.

8. With a little help from your friends (or family)
Ask people around you to test you and give you feedback. Why not give your revision notes to your mum and ask her to test you?

9. Reward yourself
Finding the right balance between study and leisure will help improve your marks. Go to a cinema with friends after a productive day of revision or treat yourself to some chocolate.

10 Think positive
Remember to keep things into perspective. Plenty of people did well in life without getting an A* in every single exam. Work hard but take the pressure off yourself.

Supporting your son or daughter on the road to exam success

Sixteen year old Adele Tumilty completed her work experience with Activate Learning. In this guest post, Adele gives us her views on how parents can support young people during the exam season.

If your son or daughter is sitting an exam any time soon, they may be feeling nervous, stressed or even angry. These emotions, although difficult to deal with, are understandable.

If they have used their time well to prepare, they are likely to get good grades. But what can you do to support them?

You probably know that as a parent or carer you have a key role in your child’s success – helping keep things in perspective, remaining positive and encouraging good study, nutrition and exercise habits.

Parents or carers want to help but sometimes it can be tricky to support young people during the exam period. With that in mind, here’s a handy list of practical tips, prepared for parents by parents:

  • Give your son or daughter access to a quiet space where they can work by themselves
  • Encourage them to start revising early to ensure they have enough time. You could offer to work with them to test their knowledge in an informal way
  • Help your son or daughter to understand the importance of hard work and revision, but also help them keep the importance of results in perspective
  • Promote sport and exercise as a healthy habit to relieve stress. For example, going for a brisk walk or playing football with some friends can help boost your son or daughter’s wellbeing
  • Let them know that you are there for them to talk to, but don’t pressure them into it.
  • Help young people explore the different options available to them. You could offer to accompany them to an Open Event or Taster Event at our colleges, or encourage them to have a chat with our impartial Careers Advice team. Learn more about their chosen career so you can help them with the choices ahead. You could also talk to them about friends or family who have develop a fulfilling career with a range of different qualifications and grades

Exams season can be a tough time, but if your son or daughter remains focused and perseveres with their learning, and with your added support, their chances of success will be greater than anticipated.

Your views matter

Activate Careers provides impartial information, advice and guidance services, to help learners and potential learners make informed decisions about their future.

We are part of Activate Learning, and also provide services to schools, colleges and other organisations beyond the group.

Young studentsWe are always looking to improve college life for our learners, their parents/ carers and the wider community.

We are keen to hear from parents/ carers on your views about the careers advice your child has received. This short survey will take less than five minutes to complete. It will help us shape our careers advice provision and continue making a difference to the lives of young people.

If you have any queries or would like to make an appointment, email Activatecareersteam@activatelearning.ac.uk

Thanks for your co-operation.

Making the most of Open Events

Open Event parents picAutumn. The season of fallen leaves, Halloween, nights drawing in and counting the sleeps till Christmas.

With the festive break around the corner, planning your son or daughter’s education may not feel like a priority right now. But trust me, September 2016 will be here before you know it. From one parent to another, time flies when you are busy. Whatever they aspire to be, researching their options and making an informed decision can make all the difference, helping to turn these into a reality.

An Open Event is an opportunity for you to find out more about the colleges that your son or daughter may be interested in attending. The format varies from college to college, but typically includes a chance to speak to staff and current students, tour the facilities and ask questions.

Continue reading “Making the most of Open Events”

Next steps after Results Day

It’s not easy being a parent – arguably the most important job in the world, and it comes with no instructions manual!

If your son or daughter is getting their GCSE or A-levels results this summer, you’ll be keen to support them as best as you can. This means you may find yourself having important conversations about their future.

We know opening the envelope with their results can be an anxious moment for many young people, with their future career aspirations dependant on their grades. We also know that on occasion their results may not be what they expected.

At Activate Learning, we support every young person to find an exciting career pathway in an industry that they’ll love.

If you want to help your child continue their career pathway, whatever their results, good careers advice and guidance is key. Why not come along to our free advice events this summer, to get dedicated careers advice, find out about sources of potential financial support and more.

The sessions are taking place at Banbury, Oxford and Reading, on:

• Thursday 13 August, 12-4pm
• Thursday 20 August, 10am-6pm
• Friday 21 August, 10am-4pm

Can’t make any of these dates? Why not come and see us later this month? We are open Monday to Friday, and will be open until later on Tuesdays and Thursdays until late September.

What next? Helping your young person at a career crossroads

Is your son or daughter in Years 9, 10 or 11 and undecided about their future? Sometimes the most exciting things may happen unexpectedly, but it’s also good to have a plan. Guide your son or daughter to the right career track, because their future starts today.

Here at Activate Learning we want to give you a helping hand, so you can better understand the options out there and how to support your teenager.


Continue reading “What next? Helping your young person at a career crossroads”

Surviving revision: tips for success

As we head towards June, it’s that time of the year when thousands of students across the country are getting ready for their exams.

If late night cramming, teenage nerves and too much coffee all sound familiar to you, chances are your son or daughter is one of them.



Want to give them a helping hand, but not sure how? Simply take two minutes off whatever you are doing now to learn how revising the Activate Learning way can make a big difference to their results:
Continue reading “Surviving revision: tips for success”