Farewell NNCO, Hello NCOP

Hello Readers,

As everyone is beginning to wrap up for the year saying goodbye to 2016 and looking forward to all that may be ahead in 2017, Linking London is no exception. Our National Network of Collaborative Outreach (NNCO) will be coming to an end at the end of this year and we are now starting to look ahead and plan all the work Linking London will be doing in the New Year including our new project under the National Collaborative Outreach Programme (NCOP). In this blog post we look back, take stock and highlight some of the key outputs from our NNCO.

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Our NNCO has been one part of Linking London’s work over the last two years and has enabled us to work collaboratively with partners to support all colleges in London. Providing advisers with information, advice and guidance as they work with their level 3 students and focus on supporting progression to higher level learning.

Over the course of the NNCO project, Linking London has been able to provide workshops and information sessions for advisers, personal statement support and checking for learners, a website dedicated to London advisers, plus resource booklets and guides. We have also been working with our university and college partners who have developed innovative and collaborative projects funded by their formula funding associated with the NNCO.

So here we are in December 2016, with only a few more days to go before the Linking London office closes for the Christmas period and we end the NNCO project … but we didn’t want to go before we highlighted some of the useful tools, information and resources that have come out of the NNCO work that will be available to you post December 2016…so here we go:

  • HECAIL (Higher Education College Advisers in London) Adviser website: your one-stop shop for advice and guidance to help you support college learners as they explore their options, apply and progress to higher level learning.
  • UCAS Personal Statement Tool: supporting level 3 college learners who are applying through UCAS
  • Adviser Events: you can access the event reports and presentations from all the NNCO adviser events we ran
  • Printed Resources: here you will find all the NNCO resources we have developed including, a good practice guide to admissions, four subject-specific adviser guides, and HE in FE London mapping.

And finally here are a few examples of the collaborative project work that has come from our partners:

  • Reaching East Reaching London Dashboard map: an online tool containing information about schools and colleges in London, learner profile data, achievement data and outreach data.
  • GetAHEAD: an online personal development planning tool aimed at adults in the workplace who are interested in study at a higher level.

All that remains for us to say is we hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and we look forward to working with many of you in 2017. The Linking London team will be blogging again in the New Year.

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THE WEEK OF BTECS, DATA AND BIG GOODBYES

Hello readers

This will be my final blog entry as Linking London’s Support Officer! As of Monday I will be moving on to pastures new. But never fear! The team will blog fortnightly in my absence, until a new officer is hired to take of the mantle of our weekly update within the blogosphere.

Pearson's David MacKay at our BTEC Meeting

Pearson’s David MacKay at our BTEC Meeting

This week we held our first BTEC Practitioner meeting of the academic year, which featured presentations from Brunel,  Birkbeck’s outreach team, and Pearson UK. In addition we were delighted to welcome Hugh Joslin from the University of Greenwich, who presented some of the key findings of Linking London’s latest data report on the progression of college learners to HE, which provides data up to the academic year 2014-2015.

Did you know that:

  • 76% of the BTEC cohort in London are classified as living in an area of educational disadvantage
  • When tuition fees rose for the 2011-2012 cohort, London college learner progression fell from 58% to 45%
  • Students from the most deprived areas of London progress at a higher rate than students from our most affluent areas

Hugh will be presenting the findings of the data report after our next Board Meeting on 7th December- lunch will be provided for attendees.

On Wednesday Director Sue and Project Officer Emily attended HEFCE’s event: ‘Widening participation together: Achievements of National Networks for Collaborative Outreach’ at Prospero House. The event showcased the key achievements of the NNCO scheme, celebrating successful projects and exploring how we can sustain collaborative working going forward.

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Emily has been preparing for our own NNCO End of Project event, which will be held on 5th December, and will feature partner presentations from (among others) UEL and GSM London . We will also be launching our 4 NNCO Subject Specific guides at this event, which examine entry requirements, career prospects and course provisions for Art & Design, Business, Computing and Psychology.

Emily and Andrew continue to provide Personal Statement support to learners through both workshops and our HECAIL personal statement portal.

Andrew and I answered our third partner LMI query using our EMSI analyst tool, helping Middlesex University investigate areas of London industry and job growth.

On a final note I would like to say a HUGE thank you to all our partners for their support during my time at Linking London. Thank you for reading my blogs, tweets and news updates over the past year.

My biggest thanks go to Sue, Andrew, Emily and Stuart, who work tirelessly to fight for social mobility through education, and have been the best team I could hope to work with.

More from the team in 2 weeks. Goodbye all, and good luck for the future.

THE WEEK OF IAG, NNCO & NCOP

Hello

As usual this week has been a busy one for the Linking London team. We are thrilled to (quietly) announce that our joint NCOP bid with Access HE and Aimhigher London South has been successful. This means that together we will run one of the new HEFCE funded National Collaborative Outreach Programmes, starting in January next year. Following this good news we met with our neighbouring networks on Monday to discuss more detailed plans for the project.

On Tuesday we held our first IAG Practitioner event of the academic year, which featured speakers from CLC, Goldsmiths University of London, and the Student Loans Company. The event was extremely well attended (there were barely enough seats) and discussions included modes of outreach, degree apprenticeships and unconditional offers.

Wednesday was the date of the ‘Evaluation of the National Networks for Collaborative Outreach (NNCOs)’, which was held by London Metropolitan University.  Emily, our NNCO Project Officer, described the key points raised at the event upon her return:

“Overall all networks have had the focus of working in partnership collaboratively to help learners find out about HE and progress. As a result better relationships have been forged, learners and advisers have had their understanding and knowledge enhanced, and engagement has increased. The additional money from HECFE has enabled lots of innovative activities to take place.”

On Thursday Andrew (Deputy Director) met up with Birkbeck’s Caroline McDonald (Head of Widening Access and Retention) to discuss the university’s work with BTEC learners and their innovative Birkbeck Skills Programme.

On a final note we have been sending out even more copies of Andrew’s Studying Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professions guide for Access learners this week. Any Linking London partners who would like copies of the guide should contact our team as soon as possible (info@linkinglondon.ac.uk) – they are proving rather popular!

More from myself and the team next week.

THE WEEK OF NEW PUBLICATIONS

Hello Readers

Our Director Sue made her second partner visit of the academic year this week – she visited King’s College London on Monday afternoon, and later in the week attended a meeting with London Councils where their associate membership of Linking London was renewed for a second year.

Sue and Deputy Director Andrew attended a book launch on Thursday evening; they contributed a chapter to the publication: ‘A Race to the Top: achieving three million more apprenticeships by 2020’.

BOOK LAUNCH

BOOK LAUNCH

The two were up bright and early on Friday morning to attend the final ESRC HIVE PED event ‘Where do we go from here?’. The event was hosted by our partners Greenwich University and Sue featured as a panel member!

HIVE PED

HIVE PED

Back in the office Andrew has been working on our collaborative IAG offer, which will support partner colleges with HE events and personal statement surgeries. His Access to HE Student Guide for Nursing, Midwifery & Allied Health has finally arrived and we are thrilled with the look (and the content) of the publication. Boxes have been sent to all partner colleges which have a Health Access provision.

NEW STUDENT GUIDE

NEW STUDENT GUIDE

The entire team (apart from Stuart, who is still away on honeymoon) attended our NNCO Steering Group Meeting, along with representatives from the University of Westminster, Birkbeck, Goldsmiths, Bromley College and UEL. This was our second to last steering group meeting, as the NNCO finishes at the end of the year. However, Emily and I have been busy preparing NNCO Guides for each of the subject specific events we have held (or plan to hold). These publications will be launched at the close of the project in December, and will cover Business, Art & Design, Psychology and Computing. Emily is also making the final plans for our upcoming NNCO Learner Journey event, to which places are still available if you wish to attend and have not yet booked.

On a final note, Emily visited our partners at GSM London this week to discuss their ‘Strengths Based Leaning’ scheme. We hope to find ways of incorporating this positive approach to students and their abilities (as opposed to the normal deficit model) into our HECAIL personal statement tool. There are a total of 34 identifiable strengths including empathy, positivity and focus.

More from myself and the team next week.

THE WEEK OF OUR 10 YEAR ANNIVERSARY

Hello Readers

What a week it has been. Yesterday we marked 10 years of the Linking London partnership with an anniversary celebration at Senate House.

We were thrilled to see so many of our valued colleagues and partners together in one space, and it was brilliant to catch up with contacts both old and new over wine and canapés – a chance to let our hair down and mark a decade of valuing collaboration over competition.

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The turnout for the evening was tremendous, and we were delighted to welcome both the Master of Birkbeck, David Latchman, and the former Director of HEFCE, John Selby, to speak to our assembled guests.

John highlighted the challenges that still face vocational learners today, and the work Linking London has done towards easing their progression to higher education, focusing on learner’s strengths as opposed to their weaknesses. David praised our Director Sue for her hard work in sustaining the partnership, and said how proud he was that Birkbeck have been our host throughout the last decade.

Sue herself then said a few words, thanking the partners for their support over the past ten years, and recalling the history of Linking London for the assembled audience. When she first started, Sue had no team and no office – she had to cart her paperwork around Bloomsbury in a plastic bag! Now we are far more comfortably situated, and have 5 members of staff, 42 members and 32 associate members.

We have fought for vocational learners through the financial crash, tuition fee hikes, the removal of funding and changes in government. We believe we are stronger together, and will remain as long as our partners need us.

While we bask in the glow of last night’s festivities, I will leave you with ‘Linking London in Numbers’ – some statistics highlighting what our partnership has achieved over the past decade. Here’s to the next 10 years!

42 partners in the network

53 publications written

305 twitter followers

319 staff development events held

93% of attendees rated this year’s events as good/excellent

1,300 contacts on our database

3000+ learners supported through our IAG offer

4,425 staff members have attended our events

250,000 college learner journeys have been tracked.

THE WEEK IN HEADLINES – APPRENTICESHIPS, PROGRESS 8 AND LONDON SUCCESS.

Hello Readers

The summer is nearly over, and the Linking London office is gearing up for a brand new term of staff development events. Yet though term is yet to begin, the news never sleeps, and so we once more have collated a summary of the week’s educational news for your reading pleasure.

Apprenticeships

Once again apprenticeships are making headlines: FE Week reported that 16-18 apprentices have had their funding cut by roughly 30%, with learners in more deprived areas of London seeing cuts of up to 50%.This revelation led former HE minister, David Lammy, to criticise the Prime Minister (again in FE Week), describing the cuts as “devastating for young people in deprived areas”.

Linking London has also noticed a decrease in sponsored degree programmes, with providers reclassifying their ‘work and learn’ qualifications as apprenticeships to avoid the new levy.  If the government’s apprenticeship target is only met by reclassifying existing programmes and cutting funds to others then surely the achievement will be undermined by the cost?

Progress 8

GCSEs have featured heavily in the press over the last week, partly due to results day, but also because of the new GCSE grading system, Progress 8, since the first qualifications under the new scheme are due to be awarded next year.  The Telegraph dedicated a feature to the new grading system, explaining the relationship between the previous A-C  grades and the new numerical ones:

“It is thought that roughly the same number of students will achieve a grade 4 and above as currently achieve a grade C and above, while the top 20 per cent of those who get a grade 7 and above, will get a grade 9. Grade 5 – equivalent to a low B or high C – will be the new benchmark for a “good pass” required by league tables, where currently the required grade is C.”

When mapping 2017 entry criteria Linking London has noticed some institutions equating 4 as the C ‘baseline’ equivalent, and others cite 5 as the criteria. When unis compare A-C grades with 1-9 ones who will the comparison benefit? Will it be easier or harder to achieve the grade necessary to progress to FE, and thus HE? Only time will tell. If you want to know more about Progress 8, TES have created a guide to the new qualification.

Capital

London is officially the most educated city in Europe, according to the BBC. In terms of graduate numbers “It is above anywhere in the European Union and unlike anywhere else in the United Kingdom”. We have always known London was an intellectual hub, but it is heartening to have our thoughts confirmed. Linking London exists to support institutions in the capital, who in turn support these vast quantities of students, gradually increasing social mobility through the power of education.

More from the team next week.

THE WEEK OF EXAM RESULTS

Hello!

This week the education press has been awash with Results Day facts, figures and theories, so we thought we would offer you a bumper blog post on all things results-day-related.

A Level Focus

A Levels have, predictably, been the focus of the results day headlines, partly this will be because BTEC learners do not have an official results day, and partly because A Levels are always the focal qualification in progression features, as they are seen as the ‘norm’.

So what were the A Level Headlines this year?

The Evening Standard Reported that the “gap between girls and boys getting the top grades at A-level has fallen to its lowest for at least 10 years” In fact more boys achieved the coveted A* grade than girls this year.

Although a record number of HE places have been offered this year, the BBC has reported that fewer students achieved the top A* and A grades than in 2015, though the overall pass rate stayed at last year’s figure of 98.1%

The Telegraph produced a useful chart which depicted the best and worst performing A Levels of the year. Pass rates for History, Economics and Politics have plummeted, while Maths and Language subjects have seen strong pass rates in 2016, despite reports that Language A Levels are declining in popularity.

What about BTEC?

Articles featuring BTEC learners have, as previously mentioned, been rather thin on the ground.  Luckily Pearson, the BTEC awarding body, is one of Linking London’s partners, and their team kindly provided us with the findings of a recently published Social Market Foundation Report ‘Passports to Progress’ which focuses on vocational qualifications

100,000 students progressing to HE now have a BTEC qualification – double the amount recorded 8 years ago.

This means 1 in 4 HE learners has a BTEC.

Between 2008-2015 the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds entering HE with A levels increased by 19%, compared to the 116% increase seen by BTEC learners from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Overview

To summarise A Levels have retained their pass rate but not the top grades, though the gender gap is narrowing and progression to HE is strong.

Although BTEC students have largely been absent from the news a quarter of students progressing to HE hold a BTEC qualification. More students from disadvantaged backgrounds are entering HE than ever before (the TES reports they are 81% more likely to apply than 10 years ago) and this widening participation success is largely due to the BTEC qualification. As the SMF report states: : “For young people taking A levels, prospects for progression into higher education depend heavily on where they are from. For young people taking BTECs, or a combination of BTECs and A levels, entry rates are much more even across areas”

That’s all from our Results Day special, more Linking London news next Monday.

THE WEEK IN HEADLINES

Hello Readers

Though most of the headlines over the past week have been devoted to the Olympic gold-medal-rush (congratulations Team GB), hidden amongst the column inches devoted to sporting spectacle have been some education stories which could have huge implications for our sector. This week our blog unpacks some of the biggest education stories of the past seven days.

National Student Survey

The results of HEFCE’s 2016 National Student Survey were published last week, with 86% of undergraduates in the final year of Higher Education responding that they are satisfied with their university programme. Out of Linking London’s partners, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama was within the top 20 institutions for student satisfaction, and UEL were named as having one of the largest increases in satisfaction year on year (up 5%).

Several Further Education Colleges achieved 100% student satisfaction for their HE provision. Many of Linking London’s FEC partners provide Higher Education qualifications, and we hope this success in the National Student Survey will shine a brighter light on the importance of the provision colleges offer for HE students. Our colleagues as the Association of Colleges were also thrilled, with David Corke, Director of Education Policy at the AoC, stating on the their site:

“The colleges that provide higher education work very hard to ensure they are providing a quality service to their students and the local community and it is gratifying to see that students themselves say they are pleased with the education they receive.”

Apprenticeship Levy Update

On Friday the government published guidance on how the new Apprenticeship Levy would operate. The update is available to read in full here. TES have also published a handy 9 point guide to the update and its implications for the sector. Although the report indicates the levy is still set to be introduced next April, FE Week has reported that the CBI’s director for employment and skills doubts the new system will be ready for successful delivery by the deadline.

Our NNCO website HECAIL contains a free guide to Degree and Higher Apprenticeships, while Linking London members can access the partner area of our website to find our other published resources on Apprenticeships.

A Level Results Day

As we all know, A Level results day is fast approaching this week, and many publications have featured stories telling students how to survive the day – whether their results are better or worse than expected.  The Independent’s ‘A-level results day: the 5 things students should not do’ could be useful for advisers who are trying to calm anxious students, and the Guardian has a feature dedicated to Clearing success stories which some may find helpful. For readers seeking a summary of UCAS Clearing and UCAS Extra, we have a guide available in the ‘After Application’ section of our NNCO website.

That’s all our headlines for this week, more news from us to come next Monday.

THE WEEK OF SPORTS & EDUCATION

Hello!

Unless you were hiding under a rock this weekend (or holed-up the Lake District as I was) you will have noticed that the Olympics have started. We awoke this morning to news of a first gold medal for team GB (well done Peaty!), and the BBC coverage is eagerly reminding viewers that they too can participate in the sports they are witnessing on screen.

Since the sporting world is dominating the media headlines worldwide, our blog post this week also has a sporting focus, and examines the world of sports education. Andrew, our Deputy Director, has almost completed a new Sports publication, which details entry requirements, graduate career prospects and course specifications for undergraduate sports students.

In the guide’s opening paragraph Andrew explains why this guide is such a topical publication, and relevant to contemporary Higher Education:

“The London Olympics and Paralympics in 2012 only increased the nation’s appetite for sporting endeavours, boosting the already popular pastime even further. As a result greater numbers of students are opting for Sporting qualifications within Higher Education, and a greater number of universities now supply sporting courses.”

Look out for the publication at the beginning of the autumn term. In the meantime we have collated some Sports Education statistics (using our EMSI LMI tool and what uni.com) for your reading pleasure.

There are 60,374 sports related jobs in London.

The Sports Industry within London is predicted to grow by 2.4% by the year 2020

The London average annual earnings for sporting careers? £21k (the national average is only £16k)

The number of Sports & Exercise Science HE acceptances has risen from 9,255 in 2007, to 15,205 in 2015

The number of applications for Sports & Exercise Science courses rose from 49,905 in 2007, to 71,230 in 2015

Sports Undergraduates have an average of 17 teaching hours per week

71% of sports students are male

And finally, on the hot topic of employability, 96% of Sports & Exercise Science students are employed 6 months after graduating.

That’s all from us this week, more next Monday.

THE WEEK IN EDUCATION NEWS

Hello Readers

The summer months are quiet ones for the education sector. The time when students and teachers alike flee the classroom to enjoy the sunshine (well, some of the time), and when we hunker down in our office to busily prepare resources and events schedules for the coming term.

So rather than repeat last week’s post, and reel off the extensive list of conferences, workshops and publications we are working on, I have decided to use this week’s post to examine the latest educational news, and how it ties in to the work of Linking London.

The Brexit Backlash

The majority of the Education sector voted to remain in the EU, but we were in the minority as the referendum results revealed. Much of the sector is still reeling, asking what Britain’s exit from the EU means for Higher Education.

Britain’s future in the Erasmus scheme has been thrown into doubt, with the head of the programme refusing to guarantee British participation beyond next year. We also heard this week that new Prime Minister Theresa May is considering placing heavier restrictions on student visas, allowing only the very best foreign students’ access to British Universities. Many of our partners have issued statements reassuring current EU applicants that they are still welcome, and that the immigration status of current students remains (as yet) unchanged.

HEI leaders from 24 EU countries have signed a statement acknowledging the imminent Brexit, but calling for collaboration to continue in spite of it:  “We as European university leaders wish to reaffirm our commitment to international cooperation and exchange in this turbulent time for Europe. We are strongest when we tackle issues collaboratively”.  These sentiments on the power of collaboration are shared by the Linking London team – through our collaborative partnership we aim to make our members stronger, and better prepared for the future of the sector.

The Future of FE

HE in FE is often overlooked, yet around 159,000 learners are studying HE at college.  Currently many FE practitioners fear the implications of the HE Bill, and are concerned that the Office for Students could price colleges out of the HE sector.  Many of our partner colleges provide HE for students. If they were no longer able to afford an HE offer this would be a serious blow to disadvantaged London students who rely upon their local provision.

Social Mobility

Finally this week there has been much discussion regarding the relationship between social mobility and education – a topic close to our hearts, as Linking London was founded to pursue improvements in student achievement, social mobility and social justice.

Alan Milburn, Social Mobility Commission Chairman, believes: “It will be impossible to make progress in improving social mobility until the educational attainment gap between less well-off and better-off children is closed.”

We welcome Mr Milburn’s comments on the importance of education to social mobility – Linking London operates on the belief that through education learners can overcome class barriers and realise their ambitions.

More news, updates and commentary next week.