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Care Leavers and employability (WS06)

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This workshop looks at the application of a model of Recognition of Prior Learning supporting looked after young people. It includes learning on the use of Peer Mentoring. Contributor: CELCIS

This workshop looks at the application of a model of Recognition of Prior Learning supporting looked after young people. It includes learning on the use of Peer Mentoring. Contributor: CELCIS


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  • Thank you for coming to our presentation ‘Recognition of prior Learning and Looked After Young People’. I am Alison Hennessy, a researcher for CELCIS, and this is Tam Hall, a youth justice worker with West Lothian Council. The study was carried out by CELCIS, and was funded by Education Scotland. We used a slightly earlier version of the MSMF toolkit developed by the Learning Enhancement and Academic Development team at GCU, the SCQF partnership and Skills Development.Training was provided by GCU. The research study I am going to tell you about was carried out by CELCIS, and was funded by Education Scotland.
  • Formative RPL is an informal process, which allows learners to understand the level and nature of their skills and learning, in order to use that knowledge for personal development.The person undergoing RPL profiling works with an advisor to draw out and reflect on their experiences and skills.RPL therefore represents a possible method for recognising achievements obtained beyond school and college.Potential benefits of RPL profiling include widening of career and opportunity awareness, motivational benefits and increased self esteem.
  • The SCQF is a framework which links the full range of qualifications available in Scotland.Layered behind the chart are detailed ‘level descriptors’, which define the levels of each qualification in terms of areas such as knowledge and understanding, practical skills, and being responsible and working with others.The framework also allows comparison between Scottish qualifications and those from other countries, and it has the capacity to recognise all forms of learning, including learning that takes place outside the classroom.It is possible to use the SCQF for RPL, and it has been successfully used with The Scottish Social Services Council since 2006, and an early version of the toolkit used in this study, was successfully piloted with school leavers in 2009.The research detailed in this presentation explores whether the existing materials could be useful for young people from a looked after background.
  • CfE is the revised curriculum for early years and school education, and has been introduced in stages since 2002.The curriculum aims to help learners develop the skills they need for learning, life and work, and has a strong emphasis on the development of well rounded individuals.The outcomes of CfE are encapsulated in the 4 capacities: to enable each pupil to become a successful learner, confident individual, responsible citizen and effective contributor. These areas are not examinable in the traditional ways, so it is clear that new ways of recognising achievement are necessary.Experiences and Outcomes are a series of paragraphs/ statements which describe the expectations for learning and progression in all areas of the curriculum.Some curriculum areas, including some aspects of numeracy, literacy and health and wellbeing, are the responsibility of all professionals working with the child/ young person.
  • In 2011, 16,000 children were looked after in Scotland.1/3 of them are looked after at home, the remaining 2/3 are looked after away from home, either by foster carers or prospective adopters, in kinship care, or in residential care.Regulations and guidance to the children Scotland act 1995 states that Children who are looked after should have the same opportunities as all other children for education, including further and higher education, and access to other opportunities for development.Statistics linking social work and educational data have highlighted relatively poor educational outcomes for looked after children, including exclusion and attendance rates. Many young people leave school younger, and with lower qualification levels than their peers.The recent parliamentary inquiry into the educational outcomes of looked after children acknowledged that, while efforts had been made to close the attainment gap between looked after and non looked after children, the gap remains unacceptably wide.However, many young people who pass through the care system do go on to achieve in life, in spite of poor beginnings.
  • In Celebrating Success, the authors interviewed 42 adults and young people who had previously been looked after, and went on to be successful. Success in life was defined by 2 criteria: they were able to make and sustain meaningful relationships, andThey were engaged in some kind of work, education, training, or meaningful activity.The participants were invited to reflect on the factors that they felt were critical to their success. These were…These factors are all ones which encourage resilience. Resilience is a psychosocial term which helps people to resist stress, cope with change and uncertainty, and to recover faster and more completely from traumatic events or episodes.Many looked after children are not resilient, so activities which build resilience are a valuable resource.RPL has the potential to build resilience. Many of the factors which contribute to resilience and success are possible benefits of RPL profiling.The questionnaires and interview schedules used in the research were designed to address these factors and benefits.
  • Advisors were recruited from W Lothian and East Ren and received training. They included teachers, social workers, youth justice and more choices more chances key workers, and a community learning and development worker.Advisors completed profiling with young people of their choice.All of the advisors worked with young people from a looked after background, however, experience in using RPL was not an essential requirement.An advisor training day, run by Ruth Whittaker, was organised to introduce the professionals to the RPL toolkit, explain the pilot and research components of the project, and to prepare them for profiling.13 advisors attended the training day, and 8 completed RPL profiling.13 yp consented to taking part, and 12 completed profiling.Profiling took place in the period Feb 2012 to May 2012, and was punctuated by 2 half day support sessions.
  • Open discussion and observation took place at the training day and support sessions. These were set up to include presentations and activities, with plenty of space for feedback and relaxed group discussions.Questionnaires were completed by advisors and young people before profiling, and by the young people after profiling.Everyone was interviewed after profiling, and 8 advisors and 8 young people took part in the research evaluation.Questionnaires and transcribed interview data were coded into themes by hand, and organised using Nvivo qualitative analysis software. Several main themes emerged, which were loosely based around the questionnaire and interview questions, but additional themes emerged.
  • The purpose of the research was to answer the following questions:
  • As mentioned earlier, the toolkit used in the study has been piloted elsewhere, and has had many changes since it was first used. I have brought the latest version of the toolkit here today.The toolkit is presented as a brightly coloured, tactile and user friendly folder. Its aim is to build confidence/ resilience through skill recognition and time with a mentor, link prior learning to the SCQF and CfE, and help with choices for the future.Following feedback from previous pilots, it was felt that profiling should take place over at least 2 sessions.
  • A total of 30 my experiences cards list skills associated with common activities, eg work experience or, the card you see here, caring for others.They tick the skills that represent their actual experiences, and then tot up the symbols in this section here.In the next section, who do you think you are, the young people can count up how many symbols there are from all the cards, to find out their skill personality.Eg. A thinker, or a practical worker..This is not designed to be a scientific measure, but rather a magazine-quiz type exercise, which gets the young people thinking about themselves in a fun and relaxed way.
  • This section was not in our study, but is in the current version of the toolkit. The young person chooses one of the occupation or activity cards that they selected in the ‘my experience’ exercise, and explores this further.
  • The young people read through the statements and select the ones that are most accurate for the main activity or occupation they have chosen in the my examples section. Each colour represents a different level within the SCQF, but the yp is not aware of the colour coding.
  • This section, also in the updated toolkit, helps young people to understand the level descriptors and use them for application forms or CVs.
  • This section was in the toolkit we used, and gives an informal nominal SCQF level with supporting statements. The young people could fill in a final profile, which they could take away with them as informal proof of their wider achievements.
  • Before starting the research component of the project, cards detailing possible CfEEs and Os for each of the my experiencecards were developed. Advisors could work with the young people to identify whether any of the Es and Os were met for the chosen activity, and if so, at what level.Advisors could either work with paper copies, by ticking off the Es and Os, or, if the young person had a glow account, they could go into ‘My Experiences and Outcomes’ and log their achievements there.
  • The purpose of the research was to answer the following questions:
  • Were advisors able to adapt to their role?Advisors came from a variety of backgrounds within children’s services. Most had some experience of mentoring and supporting the education of lac, but only one had prior experience of RPL. Here, Tam is talking about the advisory experience.
  • Young person engagement was high, and the advisors and young people reported that they were especially keen on benchmarking their skills with SCQF.e.g. one advisor said ‘I was quite surprised when she agreed first of all to take part in this study, and then she turned up every week, which was quite something, because that wasn’t the pattern before.”It has been previously reported in the literature that resilience of young people may be increased by working with mentors, partly due to engagement in the activity, and partly due to engagement with an attentive adult.Neither the young people nor advisors were engaged with CfE, and in fact only 2 carried out the benchmarking. The cards were tagged onto the end of the toolkit, so perhaps integration into the main body of the toolkit, along with additional training, could increase the understanding of professionals in this area. e.g. one advisor commented ‘what schools are trying to do is benchmark skills with CfE, so this would be absolutely brilliant to help them do that.’In its final report from the Inquiry into the educationalattainment of LAC, the ed and culture comm recommended that a method of reporting wider achievement within CfE should be developed, so this part of the profiling may well become more valid in the future, when more people are aware of CfE.Several advisors and yp maintained that they had become more aware of their existing skills, and, although it was not addressed in the interviews or questionnaires, some advisors commented on increased self awareness of the yp. This led professionals to discuss the poss of young people using the RPL profile as a tool to help complete an SQA PDA unit on self awareness.All of the young people felt nurtured and supported. Advisors knew the young people to varying degrees prior to RPL profiling. Opinions were split on how important this was. It was suggested that the toolkit could be used as a getting to know you tool.Some advisors saw the process as an opportunity for the yp to gain recognition from friends and family, and also as something to help with job applications. A common theme at the training days and interviews was a desire for formal recognition of the process. One advisor pointed out that, without a formal recognition, going through the process could actually reinforce the fact that the young person had no/ few qualifications.e.g. one advisor said ‘this is what you would have got if you’d stuck in at school.’ Many advisors indicated an increase in self esteem for the young people. Most of the yp did not notice this themselves, but one advisor commented that the effect was so subtle that it is likely that the young people were not aware.All of the advisors felt that the yp were motivated to progress what they had learned about themselves in some way. Effects appeared to be quite subtle, but one yp did enquire about going to college, and the toolkit was thought to be a good way of increasing the aspirations of yp.
  • RPL profiling gave some yp the opportunity to consider different career choices, and reinforced the choices of others. Overall, advisors reported that increased awareness of career options occurred more than increased awareness of opportunities.This might be because giving detailed career advice is outwith the experience of many of the professionals involved in the study. A section in career-guidance could be included in the training, and the Amazing Things booklet provided to advisors at the start of training.Many of the positive indicators of resilient and successful individuals given in the literature were fulfilled by profiling. It therefore seems likely that the toolkit would be good for use with looked after children. It was felt that the flexibility of the tool may suit the client group. It was seen as a good introduction tool, which could offer an alternative approach to the interview style one-to-one interactions between professionals and yp.The multi-agency accessibility of the project was seen as an advantage.Recognition of wider achievement should close, not widen the gap between young people from an advantaged and disadvantaged background. The RPL toolkit provides an interest base derived from every day activities, so yp from a looked after background will be able to obtain recognition for skills obtained in every day life, and not be disadvantaged by a lack of extra-curricular activities.Advisors in the study came from a variety of backgrounds, and all reported that the training and support had been both enjoyable and informative. They reported that preparation was key to their own confidence with the toolkit. A benchmarking exercise at the first support session showed that advisors understood and were able to apply the benchmarking process.If you are interested in a more detailed review of this work, it has been published on CELCIS and Education Scotland websites.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Recognition of Prior Learningand Looked After Young People www.celcis.org
    • 2. Recognition of Prior Learning:• represents a possible method for recognising achievements obtained beyond school and college;• potential benefits of RPL profiling include widening of career and opportunity awareness, motivational benefits, and increased self esteem.
    • 3. The SCQF
    • 4. The Curriculum for Excellence:• aims to help learners develop the skills they need for learning, life and work, and has a strong emphasis on the development of well-rounded individuals;• encapsulated in the four capacities: successful learner; confident individual; responsible citizen; effective contributor;• experiences and outcomes describe the expectations for learning and progression in all areas of the curriculum.
    • 5. RPL and Looked After Children:• in 2011, 16,000 children were looked after in Scotland;• statistics linking social work and educational data have highlighted relatively poor educational outcomes for looked after children;• looked after children, in common with many other children with unstable pasts, are often not resilient.
    • 6. RPL and Looked After Children:• factors contributing to the success of adults and young people who had previously been looked after include: – having people who cared about them; – experiencing stability; – being given high expectations; – receiving encouragement and support; – being able to participate and achieve. • Celebrating Success, 2006
    • 7. Pilot:• advisors were recruited from West Lothian and East Renfrewshire and received training;• advisors completed RPL profiling with young people of their choice;• thirteen advisors attended the initial training day, and eight advisors completed RPL profiling;• thirteen young people consented to taking part, and 12 completed RPL profiling.
    • 8. Research Evaluation:• open discussion and observation took place at the training day and support sessions;• questionnaires were completed by advisors before RPL profiling;• questionnaires were completed by young people before and after profiling;• advisors and young people were interviewed (separately) after profiling.• eight advisors and eight young people took part in the research evaluation.
    • 9. Research Questions:• what were the outcomes of undertaking RPL profiling?• did the young people find it useful in clarifying learning and training ambitions?• were the materials suitable for use by looked after children?• were advisors able to adapt to their role?
    • 10. The MSMF Toolkit:
    • 11. Working Through the MSMF Toolkit: Step 1 ‘My Step 7 ‘My Step 6 ‘My Skills’ Experience’ Future’ Skills activity activity Profile Activity Step 2 ‘My Step 5 ‘SCQF Experience’ Benchmarking’ Optional CfE Review activity activity Step 3 Step 4 ‘My ‘Who do you Examples’think you are?’ activity
    • 12. ‘My Experiences’ Cards: • young people choose 2 or 3 of these cards (out of a possible 30); • they tick the skills that represent their actual experience; • in ‘who do you think you are? Young people count symbols to find out their skill personality.
    • 13. Who Do You Think You Are?
    • 14. My Examples:
    • 15. SCQF Benchmarking:
    • 16. My Skills:
    • 17. My Future:
    • 18. MSMF and CfE:• links between Experiences and Outcomes and ‘My Experiences’ activity cards;• identified experiences and outcomes can be selected by hand, or can be entered onto a young person’s Glow account. They can be used to help the young person to express their skills on their skills profile.
    • 19. My Experience Cards – Links to CfE:• identify relevant experiences and outcomes and levels, and record these in the skills profile.
    • 20. Perspective of an Advisor. Tam Hall, Youth Justice West Lothian Council.
    • 21. Research Questions:• what were the outcomes of undertaking RPL profiling?• did the young people find it useful in clarifying learning and training ambitions?• were the materials suitable for use by looked after children?• were advisors able to adapt to their role?
    • 22. Outcomes of Profiling:• engagement with process;• increased self esteem;• getting recognition;• increased skills/ self awareness;• increased motivation and ambition;• feeling nurtured.
    • 23. • career and opportunity awareness;• suitability of materials for looked after children;• were advisors able to adapt to their role?
    • 24. Group Activity:• first impressions – what are the pros and cons of using this toolkit?• what are the potential benefits for your client group?• what would you like to see for the future?
    • 25. Summary of Findings:• many of the resilience building and success promoting factors previously associated with RPL profiling occurred during the pilot;• although not all of the young people experienced all of these outcomes, benefits for many of the young people included: • engagement with the process; • increased skills/ self awareness; • feelings of being nurtured; • recognition of skills; • increased self-esteem; • increased motivation and ambition.
    • 26. Findings:• advisors reported that increased awareness of career options occurred more than increased awareness of opportunities during RPL profiling;• advisors and young people stated that the materials would be suitable for use with looked after children;• advisors were able to adapt effectively to the role of RPL advisor with the training and support given, irrespective of their professional background.
    • 27. Next Steps:• one and a half day training course being run by CELCIS at Glasgow Caledonian University on 23rd April and 18th June;• toolkit training by SCQF;• formal accreditation;• use with other SQA accredited awards, such as PDA on self- awareness;• study on views of end users;• potential application within Scottish Government Learner Journey Project;• potential use by colleges as part of the pre-application stage;• value of making the toolkit electronic and interactive;• relationship building with universities and colleges.
    • 28. Contact details:• alison.hennessy@strath.ac.uk• Tam.Hall@westlothian.gov.uk• CELCIS: www.celcis.org.uk• GCU(LEAD): R.G.Whittaker@gcu.ac.uk• SCQF: J.Cavanagh@scqf.org.uk• Publications: http://www.celcis.org/resources/entry/recognition_of _prior_learning_and_looked_after_young_people