Ofsted seems to have its trolleys in a tangle over IAG

(c) Tony Davis

Let me pose a fascinating thought challenge about the purpose of Further Education & Skills provision and why, of late, Ofsted seems to have its trolleys in a tangle over IAG. Before I do, however, I’d like to ask a couple of questions. Does achieving their qualification guarantee learners a job or a university place? Of course, unless there’s some sort of special relationship in place, the answer is no.

While it should go without saying that qualification success is something of a Maslovian fundamental, recruiters are looking for something else. I know you may be well ahead of me here, but this has some really profound consequences for the way we plan our learning experiences.

So here’s the thought challenge: the whole purpose of FE & Skills provision is simply to enable our learners to write a 500-word personal statement. That’s it. That’s our job. And by this, I don’t mean crafting the grammar and cliché avoidance.

When teachers are driven by qualification success rates rather than the provision of life-changing experiences, pedagogy can end up being ring-fenced to ‘telling and testing’. Do any of your remember Mr Gove’s ‘Stock of knowledge’ speech? This translates to: ‘Just remember it long enough to answer the exam questions’. And we all know how long that sort of memory-based knowledge lasts..

Long-term memory isn’t a goal (dear Ofsted) and it isn’t achieved by ‘telling and testing’. The things we remember long-term are experiences. So if you want your learners to remember your lesson, don’t think about writing a lesson plan, think about designing a ‘learning experience’.

Look at curriculum design through this lens for a moment: every lesson is a learning experience, and every six weeks or so there’s a particularly strong, say, shared experience – something learners are continually looking forward to, and something they’ll never forget.

Now picture the moment when they come to write their personal statement. These 500 words must show how the learner developed and used the skills that are important to the recruiter. This can be really difficult if all the learner can remember is endless Kahoots.

We’ll be discussing all of this and more on Friday, February 24th in the online session: Achieving Grade 1 for Employability Skills. You can find more details here: www.ccqi.org.uk/employability. Do please join us if you can and tag any of your colleagues who might be interested, and/or share with your own networks if you’re able.

Here are a few comments that might give a sense of the impact this session could have:

  • ‘Paradigm shift’. Runshaw College
  • ‘I’ve been inspired to be more creative and dream bigger.’ Wakefield College
  • ‘Like opening a door to new possibilities.’ East Coast College

By the way, I do agree with Ofsted’s, admittedly rather aggressive, new stance on this subject. Just before Christmas, around 75% of reports I read had IAG as a weakness. Don’t be caught out! Make it unforgettable.


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