Will the post-16 education review ‘fix the foundations’?

Blog by Activate Learning Group Chief Executive Sally Dicketts.
Folllow Sally on twitter @sallydicketts

Foundations

Last week the government released the first details of its national review of post-16 education.

The 10-page report sets out a plan for “fewer, more resilient and efficient providers” which could include new Institutes of Technology and National Colleges providing training in industry specialisms.

The proposals stem the Government’s productivity plan – Fixing the Foundations – which aims to create a more prosperous and productive Britain.

While the detail on such sweeping reforms is scant at this early stage, we know that the vision will be achieved via a national programme of area-based reviews, starting in September.

Area-based reviews are not new to the sector, but they haven’t before been driven through with such an imperative for colleges to collaborate and merge.

Merger is part of our history at Activate Learning, where three colleges are now part of one group with centralised support services.

However, in the current climate I would question whether merger is always the best route for colleges needing to improve effectiveness and financial stability. Continue reading “Will the post-16 education review ‘fix the foundations’?”

If ‘top girls’ opt for jobs over degrees, what can schools do to prepare them?

Blog by Activate Learning Group Chief Executive Sally Dicketts.
Folllow Sally on twitter @sallydicketts

girls school blog pic

The headmistress of one of Britain’s best-performing schools predicts that in future more of the brightest schoolgirls will favour employment over university when they turn 18.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Clarissa Farr, headmistress of St Paul’s Girls’ School in London, suggested that it is becoming “acceptable for bright students not to go to university” and that heading straight into employment could be a “more exciting and faster route to the top”.

Her comments come at a time when more and more people are questioning the value for money of a university degree. With tuition fees of £9,000 a year, coupled with accommodation and other living costs, the average graduate will emerge from their education with up to £40,000 of debt.

Quite rightly students – and their parents – will want to ensure that university study will significantly enhance employment and long-term career prospects.

Cost however is clearly not the only driver for this shift in thinking amongst the upper echelons of Britain’s private schooling, where annual fees are around £23,500 a year.

Slowly, but surely, a paradigm shift is emerging. Big name employers, frustrated with the well-publicised skills gap between education and employment, are recognising the value of nurturing raw talent and shaping the technical and soft skills that they require in their employees.

Continue reading “If ‘top girls’ opt for jobs over degrees, what can schools do to prepare them?”

Our education model is rated by everyone except us

Blog by Activate Learning Group Chief Executive Sally Dicketts.
Folllow Sally on twitter @sallydicketts

The academic year draws to a close amidst a backdrop of uncertainty over the future of further education.

In a recent speech to the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, Skills Minister Nick Boles questioned whether the general further education model has a future at all. As the government seeks to reduce the national deficit, what Mr Boles referred to as the ‘unproductive parts of the further education sector’ will come under scrutiny.

Today’s budget will reveal how required savings of £900m to the BIS and DfE budgets will fall on FE.

Britain’s vocational education system is under-funded and under-valued and yet internationally it remains a highly prized commodity.

Continue reading “Our education model is rated by everyone except us”

If FE colleges are so dangerous, why send the most vulnerable?

A version of the following blog, by Activate Learning Group Chief Executive Sally Dicketts, appeared in TES on 12 June.

Folllow Sally on twitter @salldicketts

Further education has an image problem. That statement will come as no surprise to anyone working in the sector.

While many have no understanding of it at all, others perceive it to be a risky option.

We are used to responding to parents’ concerns about how their child will fare – leaving the relative safety of school for a semi-urban college campus where their son or daughter will face greater freedoms, follow a more flexible timetable and potentially mix with a more diverse student body.

Continue reading “If FE colleges are so dangerous, why send the most vulnerable?”

Will government grants develop grit in our young people?

Blog by Sally Dicketts, Chief Executive of Activate Learning. Follow Sally on twitter.

What makes some people give up at the first hurdle while others try, try and try again?

overcoming hurdles
Grit, resilience, perseverance – whatever you call it, most would agree that it’s an important trait and something we should be doing more to develop in our young people.

It has now attracted government backing, in the shape of a £5m character grants scheme designed to produce a nation of “resilient, confident young people…ready to lead tomorrow’s Britain”.

As part of the scheme announced by Nicky Morgan this week, premiership rugby coaches will work with pupils in secondary schools to instil the sport’s values in the classroom. This will include learning how to bounce back from setbacks, how to show integrity in victory and defeat and to respect others.

Continue reading “Will government grants develop grit in our young people?”

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.

Backpack-guy

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.

 

Exam

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”

Should we worry about increased anxiety?

By Sally Dicketts, Chief Executive of Activate Learning

Follow Sally on twitter @sallydicketts

The anxiety levels of teenagers are apparently on the rise.

Recent research suggests that young girls in particular are showing more signs of emotional distress.

Anxiety

Research by University College London and the Anna Freud Centre compared the mental health of more than 1,600 11 to 13-year old boys and girls in 2009 and 2014. The results found the number of girls at risk of emotional problems had increased sharply, from 13 to 20 per cent within five years. Meanwhile the level of other mental health and behavioural problems remained fairly static.

So what’s going on behind the statistics?

Although our levels of empathy decrease during adolescence, young girls are still more likely than boys to become attuned to feelings of distress in others.  They may not yet however have the capacity and skills to give support without being adversely affected themselves.

Those commenting on the research have suggested that the increasing pressure on girls to perform academically, coupled with anxiety over body image amplified by social media, could be behind the rise.

It begs the question as to whether today’s young people face more pressures than their parents’ generation did, or whether the culture in which they operate is heightening levels of stress.

As Eleanor Doughty wrote in The Telegraph online, many of the things that occupy teenage minds – exams, relationships, future ambitions – are unchanged. Social media has had a major impact on these way thoughts and feelings are shared, but that can be helpful as much as it can induce feelings of stress.

I am inclined to agree, and I don’t think there is yet sufficient research into the effects of social media to lay blame at its doors. I do however believe that children are growing up in busier homes where the growth in digital technologies makes it harder to compete for attention. We all want to be heard but we are losing the art of listening, and if you don’t feel listened to you can soon feel isolated. It is a point explored by Nancy Kline in her book, ‘Time to Think’, and an issue that educators should take notice of. We need to help young people develop good listening skills to support their social interactions and build their resilience.

I also believe that young people face a more fiercely competitive jobs market than generations before. When I grew up getting a degree set you apart from the competition. Today it has become commonplace and students are expected to achieve at least a 2:1 and must offer additional skills and experience to stand out. Candidates are competing in a global jobs market and one which offers much less job security than it did for their parents.

This research is significant for those educating young people in schools and colleges. It suggests that we need to be much better at detecting signs of emotional distress, which can get overlooked in light of more obvious behavioural problems.

It also adds weight to the argument for incorporating mindfulness techniques into our teaching and learning as we build young people’s resilience and help them take ownership of those things they can change, and let go of issues outside their control.

What can marshmallows teach us about student success?

Sally Dicketts is Group Chief Executive of Activate Learning.
Follow Sally on twitter @sallydicketts

marshmallow1

Picture the scene. You are left alone with your favourite sweet treat and told not to eat it – or at least told not to eat it for 20 minutes after which your self-control will be rewarded with double helpings.

You can’t leave the room, you can’t do anything else, just sit and wait.

Would you forego instant gratification for the promise of something better in less than half an hour?

Continue reading “What can marshmallows teach us about student success?”

When it comes to education, is the customer really king?

Sally Dicketts CBE is Group Chief Executive of Activate Learning

Follow Sally on Twitter @sallydicketts

English and maths GCSE

How many educators think about their students as customers?

If we did, would it change the way we deliver our products and services?

In the last few weeks English and maths have been hitting the headlines again.

A survey of business leaders by the Education and Training Foundation revealed that three-quarters of employers believe action is needed to improve English and maths skills.

Some complained that young recruits use text speak rather than full sentences, others said that poor spelling and communication skills are damaging their business.

Meanwhile a poll of 1,000 parents by ComRes for Teach First and Barclays revealed that parents value maths skills for their children, but struggle themselves. Two in five parents need to use their phone calculator to work out sums and a third feel anxious about supporting their child with homework.

Since September 2013, any young person who fails to get a grade C in GCSE English or maths must continue to study the subject until the age of 18.

As an education provider we want to attract and delight our customers. Yet the reality is that our customers don’t want to re-take failed GCSE English and maths exams.

Continue reading “When it comes to education, is the customer really king?”