Love at first sight? Helping shape The Education Training Foundation

On Friday the 23rd of January 2015 I attended the first Practitioner group consultancy forum for The Education Training Foundation. This has been formed in response to ensure their consultation process is reflecting the views of all who work within the Further Education/ Lifelong Learning sector. I along with others in the group are to help be their “critical friend” in shaping this new professional body.

Who was there?

I met up with some twenty-five or so people whose roles varied within the sector. Between us we have a range of experience from newly qualified to recently retired. The Practitioner group is a mixture of Further Education College teachers, Adult Community Learning teachers, Assessors and many more.

What did we do?

An agenda was given out prior to the meeting that was based around discussing what the Practitioner groups role would be in this consultancy process. Therefore I sort of expected I would be subjected to some ice-breaker activities and then given instruction on what we as a group were to discuss in the forum. I am happy to report that it was not the case, we got stuck in straight away and it was clear we would be defining our role within this consultancy process.

They provided us with the data from the results of the on-line consultancy survey done before Christmas. In total nearly 3000 people working within the FE sector responded. However according to the data in ETF’s One Year On report there are approximately 110,370 teachers working within FE Colleges alone. I find myself wondering why are not more voicing their opinions on a professional body? Is it because they do not want or feel they need one?

We looked at the key questions from the survey and considered the data against it. Some of the parts we discussed were respondents thoughts on what support was wanted from the ETF. These ranged from forms of effective CPD and recording it, gaining QTLS, the cost of membership and what pastoral support will be given from the ETF.

It was also interesting to note the difference in percentage of chosen job titles under Lecturer, Tutor and Teacher. It was clear that many felt they fitted under different headings, yet we all teach. Why are we still unsure of our title in FE?

What’s next?

Through the survey responses and our own views we ascertained that we needed to look more deeply into what we really wanted the ETF to be about and what it would offer us. Some of the focus points are:

  • How could the ETF provide support and resources that are subject specific?
  • How will the QTLS process be done? It is apparent that how it was achieved through the Institute for Learning was not wanted again.
  • Further Education needs stability therefore we don’t want to buy into the ETF and then have the rug pulled from under our feet again like it did with the IFL. How will they ensure this does not happen again?
  • How should CPD be delivered and recorded under the ETF?
  • What should the cost of membership be and should it be compulsory?

In addition to this during a brief twitter conversation later in the day the subject of The College of Teachers came up. I had not considered it myself as I just assumed further education would not be part of it anyway. A few FE teachers on twitter questioned why? I suppose it does seem odd considering it has the word ‘College’ in its title. It was suggested during this brief discussion that maybe the CoT could work alongside with ETF. It certainly would be interesting to explore the matter more.

The next Practitioner consultancy meeting will be held in March. I look forward to seeing what happens next and sharing it back with you.

#teacher5aday the story so far…

Ok so on the 10th December 2014 I made some promises to myself for #teacher5aday (see here). Obviously you are all desperate to know how I am getting on, no? Tough, here is my update.

Connect

My main focus was to reconnect with my family, primarily my children. I am happy to say through spending more quality time at bedtime with stories and doing more activities it has been a success. My daughter has reduced her ‘Kevin the teenager’ attitude and my son is less obsessed with the word ‘no’. I am not saying for one minute things are perfect but certainly a great deal calmer than before.

Exercise

I actually had not considered doing this as I hate the idea of exercise classes or huffing and puffing on one of those tread mill things. However it turns out I managed to get back swimming with my children and ventured into the world of jogging with my son this weekend. So watch this space!

Learn

I am trying to refresh myself on playing the guitar. I am a bit rusty so I think it is fair to class it as learning. In addition to this I am currently learning how to create online resources at college in order to meet FELTAG requirements. So far I am quite enjoying the challenge.

Notice

I have started to notice more how supportive the team I work in is at college. Partly because I have written about it in my contribution to the second #ukfechat guide book (due out soon), but also because like most of us coming back after Christmas it can be quite exhausting. It seems we all seem to be ‘cheerleading’ each other on with words of encouragement, updates on how many working dates till half term and a never ending supply of chocolates and biscuits (I might need to up the jogging).

Volunteer

This is a tough one as I hardly have any spare time. However I suppose I volunteer my free time to students when they need additional support and I have down tools to give a sympathetic ear to friends that need to ‘sound off’. I would genuinely love to volunteer time to a charity and I am determined I will, but it needs to be something that I can do with my children.

If you have not done so already it might be worth considering #teacher5aday yourself.

Quality not Quantity

Recently I have been concerned about the thought process of students wanting to do a Child or Health and Social care courses. Having spoken to other teachers in various Further Education settings this seems to be the general consensus too. Whilst the majority that are enrolling express a desire to be a fully qualified Early Years Practitioner (EYP), Teaching Assistant, Nurse, Health Visitor, Social Worker to name but a few, many will say they are not sure what they really want to do. Often it is thought that working with children under five or caring for the elderly is an easy option. It is not. Further information can be found here.

I can still recall past placement experiences when I got to watch qualified EYP’s (or Nursery Nurses in my day) talk about their nights out and ignore the children playing. Shout at the child who failed to use the potty in time, throw any old activity out without thought. Obviously these examples of poor practice were reported by myself. I have also worked in care with children and young people with disabilities. I have been left wondering who was caring for who at times due to poor choices of care staff and have ‘blown the whistle’ due to obvious financial abuse. Even now with various systems being made more robust, changes in legislation and the presence of Ofsted and CQC we still hear of this going on.

Which brings me to my personal view on training students, I am sure I am not on my own. In Further Education we need to not just enrol students onto the courses, but be given the flexibility to hold back students who we feel are not quite ready. We need to not be held to ransom over funding and staffing cuts should recruitment targets not be met. What I and many others want is quality, not quantity. You can see this reflected in the Nutbrown Report.

Having read @cherrylkd‘s blog on her meeting with Tristam Hunt she said that he explained his hopes for ensuring EYP’s are trained to level 3. In addition to this he wanted Sure Start centres to be rebuilt with professionals such as Health Visitors to be at hand. Our area is poverty stricken so it would be good if these proposals came in. Here are some statistics from 2013 if you are interested.

As I said Further Education needs more time to ensure the students selected for courses (more importantly ones that involve care) are ready. The pressure to meet targets can impact on this greatly. A more robust and selective process without the pressure of targets and funding would allow for this. The students that are not quite ready or unsure could be supported through courses designed to help them work out a career path. 

I hope the Sure Start centres do keep up as they offer so much to the community. From a personal point of view I’ve supported parents in a Sure Start centre whilst doing community teaching. The parents wishing to improve maths and English in order to not feel ashamed when they cannot help their own children with homework. As an assessor I have assessed an outreach worker doing a level three in Early Years and watched her support children and their families in deprived areas.

There is also the age-old saying ‘pay peanuts you get monkeys’. That isn’t a fair one. If it were true I would be one heck of a monkey! I remember being paid £3.80 an hour back in the late 90s. This leads me to another point, pay. There are EYPs and Care Workers out there caring/ educating children and vulnerable adults, human beings! Why can someone kicking a football around get paid ridiculous amounts of money when they get paid so little?

This is just my own personal view and I am happy to hear others, either in agreement or not. I truly hope we can start to improve post compulsory education to support the education of young children and ensure the care workforce is properly trained and qualified to help raise the standard of care.

Online Marking – Friend or Foe?

Over the past few years I’ve marked work both online and by hand. This year it was decided that both the awarding bodies we use within our department (CACHE and BTEC) will have students submitting all their work online.

Last year we trialled BTEC on our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) – Moodle. There were some issues, the most troublesome was that you could not mark all the assignments before submitting them back to the student. This meant the students got their assignment back as soon as it was marked which impacted on the internal verification process. It also meant you had to mark all in one go in order that all students received assignments back all on the same day. In addition to this, annotating work was also a laborious process. You had to save the students assignment, annotate and then upload the annotated assignment along with typed overall feedback.

As any teacher knows marking is a mammoth task when you have several classes to teach on various subjects and at differing levels. No matter how well you try to plan assignment submission dates it is still never perfect. This particular online marking process was adding to the already heavy workload. So alternatives were considered. Which brings me to this year, everything is being submitted via an Eportfolio called Onefile.

Now don’t get me wrong I’m not moaning about its concept at all, I am all for saving my back (and the planet) by not bringing mountains of paperwork home to mark. In addition to this students being able to submit work electronically fits in very well with FELTAG requirements. However one of the numerous things that concern me is the quality of feedback. I’m sceptical about it being as good as it was when we did it just paper based. Annotating work is still the same issue as we had with Moodle, although in Onefiles defence they have partly provided a solution. Students can type their work into an evidence box.

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Which is good as I can annotate easily by highlighting and placing comments in. However I am beginning to find quite a few students are treating it like texting messaging. Paragraphs and sentence structure for example can be non-existent in some cases. There is also no marking requirement to downgrade if they do not do this. In addition to this not all students want to do it that way. Many prefer using Word or handwriting work to upload. Also assignments vary with methods of assessments such as posters, videos, presentations, displays to list but a few.

Students (and teachers) can see instantly how many assignment tasks they have via a task icon on their homepage.

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This tends to send them into a panic, leading to them ploughing through the tasks and making many submission errors – the wrong document, failure to attach and sometimes plagiarise. Although it is helpful to see where you are time wise in submitting assignments and for teachers marking assignments. Assignment tasks are also colour coded, they stay highlighted in blue and turn red when you have missed deadlines. I’m not sure if I prefer a pile of papers to plough through or a never-ending task box!

I think what is required to make this particular type of online marking more effective is lessons at the start of the year. Help students understand the dos and dont’s of it. As for annotating the only solution I can think of at present is to check students work in class and annotate at the same time.

If anyone has had similar experiences or advice/ suggestions I would be very grateful to hear them. Thank you.