Post 16 Education Consultation Meeting

SLIC hosted a discussion meeting on 7th December to look closely at the Scottish Government’s proposals for Post 16 Education in Scotland and to help formulate the response. Entitled Putting Learners at the Centre– Delivering our Ambitions for Post-16 Education, the proposals could have far-reaching implications for libraries in different sectors. The summary of proposals was the basis of our debate, which was led by David Scott of Dundee College.

 The concerns raised included:

 Learners

  • This changes the demographic in colleges and younger learners need support.
  • Aspirations of the young people themselves will not be met by what is contained in the paper.
  • Colleges might not be able to offer courses as cheaply as private providers in education market but they offer other things like libraries, careers advice, additional support needs, etc, which the younger learners are even more likely to need that current learners.  Lots of voluntary organisations have pulled out of access level training because of costs and it is unclear if there is a market which is robust, quality and able to pick up slack.
  • Concern was expressed about the higher drop-out rate amongst young learners and the plans to penalise institutions if their retention rates slip.
  • Younger more vulnerable users will mean that libraries have a larger demand as the learners can’t buy resources for themselves and can’t necessarily study at home. It will cost the college more, for example, as they will need more liaison officers to keep students engaged and enrolled.

 Partnership working with other providers for adults

  • Structural changes and reduced capacity will have an impact on vulnerable areas and groups where previously they have been well-served by local authority community learning and development provision and this helps keep people in learning.
  • Need to look at the profile of 16-19 year olds on a regular basis to ensure that the real problems are being addressed and the type of library service who support these individuals may be very different from the types of services we currently plan to provide or do provide.
  • The vulnerable group of youths are the ones to have concerns about – they won’t go to college who don’t have skills or confidence and they will suffer disproportionately. They need a special type of support and they can’t be shoe horned into the wrong institutions or they will fail to survive and retention rate drops will be punished. The library staff are the ones who sit down with them to do a literature search or who work with them at a pace which suits their learning style better.
  • They lack confidence and skills and won’t go to local colleges even if it’s down the road because they don’t think they’re good enough. Strategies will need to focus on who the learners are.

 Regionalisation

  • Most people will travel for specialisms but this has an impact on people in terms of time and money. In many parts of Scotland learners are often local and take a pick from the curriculum because they are looking for a local solution.
  • Economic deprivation is a real issue because the transport costs aren’t refunded at a time which makes it possible for families to support the learners in the meantime.
  • Budget cuts are driving a regionalisation agenda and makes the delivery of curriculum and qualifications much more focused.
  • Progression routes of access to education at any age affected by this.
  • Non-certificated courses will be one area greatly affected, if this is introduced, and this is the starting point for many, before they develop the skills and confidence to progress into formal education.
  • The issues about IPR, copyright and licensing are considerable when sharing resources/VLEs across regions.
  • Teaching joint course might be an attractive option but it doesn’t necessarily mean a cost reduction and there are huge issues about support and quality.
  • The licensing models haven’t changed so it might be useful for Scottish Government to help pressure change by the publishers. SHEDL is a model but it is under pressure and expansion will be limited as the straightforward publishers’ content is already included and the licensing for other services/publishers will be much harder to negotiate.

 Learning

  • Concern as expressed about a narrowing of the curriculum and education is defined as narrow vocationalism.
  • Need for consistency of decision making about funding for the same courses across Scotland and there were example around the table of variation.
  • Capacity in colleges, the community, local authorities, private and third sector is all reduced, so clear routes and funding for those outside the main college focus need to have other alternatives.
  • This requires funding support for courses other than core skills or qualifications over SCQF level 6.

Rhona Arthur, Assistant Director

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‘Library staff are the signposts to learning’

So said Principal of City of Glasgow College  Paul Little as he welcomed delegates to his college. The SLIC annual FE Libraries Conference took place there on Thursday 24th November, shortly before the new supercampus building development was announced.

Once again the programme was planned in partnership with Scotland’s Colleges CoP and the JISC RSC Scotland.
‘Learner Landscapes: the future of FE Libraries’ opened with a topical debate around Scottish Government proposals for post 16 education reform which Tom MacMaster summarised neatly for everyone. It was clear from the feedback that the proposals were generating worry among the FE community but nevertheless offered some opportunities for library services too.

Tom MacMaster

Moving on, the annual FE Libraries survey was launched by Director of SLIC, Elaine Fulton, who discussed  findings which revealed increasing use of online resources and technology such as QR codes as well as more Saturday opening in response to learner demands. Everyone received a copy of the survey in Conference pack which is also available to download.
Karen Stevenson, Library Management System Coordinator at Glasgow University, reprised and updated her presentation  given to a CILIPS audience in Glasgow earlier this year and discussed developing a mobile strategy for the library, something which more of our members are starting to think seriously about.
From Boston College we welcomed JISC award winner Daisy Fulton accompanied by Bran Lanbourne who introduced delegates  to their use of QR codes in library induction in a very enjoyable presentation. Our exhibitors, 2CQR, CLA, Demco Gresswell, OCLC and PTFS looked on as Daisy discussed her prize winning project.

Daisy Fulton, Boston College

Following a networking lunch, beautifully catered for by Rhona of the catering company franchised to the college, and a look round the exhibition it was straight into a QR exercise in the College’s Learning Curve, before Mark Clark and Joan Walker of the JISC RSC Scotland took some time out with delegates to discuss recent advances in eBooks technology.
After more refreshments we heard from OCLC on their Webscale discovery project and CLA on the new licensing arrangements planned for the sector. Gordon Hunt, our super able chair for the day had one last duty after that which was to pick our prize draw winners with the assistance of Jill Evans. Congratulations to Stephanie Rae of Jewel and Esk College who won first prize of a Kindle!
Did the delegates enjoy it? Let them speak for themselves:
“Sessions were highly relevant and engaging; active session on QR codes overcame possible post lunch slump; good buzz in the room all day!”
“This was one of the most engaging events I’ve been to, the programme was fantastic, the venue is easy to get to, the food was good, and Gordon Hunt was a great chair”.
“It was an excellent event with a well balanced programme”