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

Volunteers and Libraries

At two recent events in London in recent days, colleagues have expressed various views about the role of volunteers in libraries. The first was CILIP Council and the changing of the old Library Association statement on volunteers and job substitution to something a little softer. The proposal had been raised at the Branches and Groups Forum and CILIPS representative Sheila Miller made her views about volunteers very clear. Volunteers, as most library managers are aware, are not ‘free’; they have to be checked and this is expensive, they have to be trained and they require support. Speaking to Rory McLeod of the Standards Council recently he expressed it simply ‘3 hours input for 1 hours output’. Volunteering in Scottish libraries is nothing new – we already register over 36,000 volunteer hours per year and they are really helpful delivering housebound services, IT buddying, story-times and other activities like mystery shopping. The vexed question of volunteers is how do organisations like CILIP value the contribution of volunteering and balance that with the mandatory delivery of services?

The second meeting was the Public Library Statistics Working Party of CIPFA which considered whether library managers should start to record all the different types of volunteers – presumably to be able to evidence how many jobs are transferred to volunteers and any change in the customer satisfaction levels. This appeared to be dangerous territory again. Whilst it may be an unpleasant reality that some libraries may be run by volunteers, do we really want to flag this up as a viable service option. Libraries are a trusted brand, as highlighted in Bob Usherwood’s research of 2003, and we need to think about how we protect the value of our brand.