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 PARTNER VISITS AND MANY RESOURCES

Hello!

Now that term has well and truly started, we have been out and about this week at a variety of partner visits and meetings, while organising publication of the resources we have developed over the summer period.

Sue (Director) and Andrew (Deputy Director) travelled to City and Islington College for the first partner visit of the academic year. Andrew also visited Goldsmiths University of London to discuss future collaborative work with Linking London partner colleges.

Back in the office Andrew has been putting the finishing touches to our new Adviser Guide to Sports HE, which will be completed ready for partner distribution next month. The updated student guide for Access Learners applying to nursing, midwifery and allied health professions courses is due in the office any day now, and multiple copies will be sent out to Access tutors at partner colleges over the coming week.

Sue attended the steering group for one of our NNCO projects – Reaching East and Reaching London – at UEL, and has been busy finalising the 2016-17 Linking London Business Plan. Sue also attended the HE in London Management Group along with Emily (NNCO Project Officer).  Over the summer several new resources have been added to the HE in London website, including a Higher Education Activity Planner and three case study films which are designed to help advisers plan their outreach activities.

Emily has been orchestrating the introduction of the personal statement tool to our NNCO website HECAIL, which was trialled in a very successful pilot scheme last year. She has also been preparing for the NNCO Learner Journey event which is taking place on the 17th October. Places are still available for any interested practitioners, and as an NNCO event it is open to both partners and  non-partners! To book a place please click here.

Finally, congratulations are in order for Office Manager Stuart, as he got married at the weekend!  Stuart has been with Linking London from the very beginning, and I’m sure you will all join us in wishing him, and his new wife, well.

More news and updates 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 BEFORE THE CELEBRATION

Hello All

We are now only one week away from our 10 year anniversary event at Senate House, where we will celebrate a decade of Linking London alongside our partners and colleagues.

EVENT BROCHURES

EVENT BROCHURES

COMMEMORATIVE PENS

COMMEMORATIVE PENS

We have held over 300 staff development events which over 4,000 staff members have attended, and have published over fifty resources.

As we begin the new academic year our events calendar is bulging at the seams, with IAG, Access and HE in FE practitioner group meetings, a college learner progressions event, an NNCO subject specific workshop, as well as both an NNCO event dedicated to the learner journey, and one to mark the end of the NNCO project.

Over the summer we have been hard at work increasing and updating numerous resources to help our partner institutions, as well as adding even more resources and news to our NNCO website HECAIL, and preparing to launch a revamped Linking London website.

We feel a lot of progress has been made over the past decade, and that we have achieved what we set out to do. However now more than ever the educational world needs collaborative partnership and support.

With the ever changing world of qualifications, area reviews, the unexpected Brexit, funding cuts and fee increases, the past year has certainly been eventful. We aim to support our members through this turbulent time, promoting collaboration ahead of competition, sharing best practice and opening channels of communication for the greater good.

Thank you all for your decade of support, and with your continued encouragement we hope to last another ten years.

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 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.

 

THE WEEK LINKING LONDON JOINED THE BLOGOSPHERE

Hello!

Welcome to the brand new Linking London blog; we are finally fully embracing the digital age and expanding our online presence. My name is Hannah, and I am the Support Officer for Linking London’s collaborative partnership. Each week on a Monday morning I will give you a peak into the heart of our organisation, allowing you to get to know who we are, and what we do, a little better.

So who are Linking London? We are a partnership of 40 educational organisations who work collaboratively to widen participation, increase social mobility, and improve social justice in education. The core aims of our partnership are to support recruitment, retention and progression to and through HE.

What do we do? We support staff in Higher and Further Education by holding staff development events, providing IAG support to partners, enhancing the relationship between HE and FE, commissioning and collecting data research, and providing information on qualification change and reform. Through events, research and resources, we aim to make the lives of our partners, and thus the lives of their students, a little easier. See below for photographs of some this year’s events:

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This week, in spite of it being half term, we have been busy in the Linking London office, working hard sustained by rather a lot of caffeine. You will have all heard about HEFCE’s new national collaborative outreach programme (NCOP), and I can confirm we have started work on a proposal, alongside our neighbour networks AccessHE and Aim Higher London South. Our Director Sue is working to secure vital learner data for the partnership – information which will aid us in supporting learner progression and student retention.

Emily (NNCO Officer) and Andrew (Deputy Director) met with partners OCN London, to discuss how Linking London can develop support and resources for vocational level 2 learners, and preparations are well under way for our NNCO conference on the 23rd June.

On a final note, as a decade of Linking London fast approaches (what a milestone) we can announce that we are moving! Never fear – we will remain in central London to support all our partner institutions; we are hoping to move just around the corner to Tavistock Square!

Next week I will report on our latest IAG Practitioner Group Meeting, along with any other office news. Please click follow to stay in the loop on all things Linking London – have a fantastic week.