Thursday, 30 August 2018

Response to and comments on Birmingham Councils Community Cohesion Strategy Green Paper


Once again Birmingham City Council seeks the views of the public on how it should develop its work.
The Community Cohesion Strategy for Birmingham Green Paper (Forward together to build a fair and inclusive city for everyone) provides eight guiding principles within which the Council will develop it’s Cohesion Strategy. It wants to know are these are “fit for purpose and what do you think we [the Council] require to complement our frontline work or personal experiences?”
My major issue with the document is that it relates to Council services and not community or Neighbourhood development, so here are my responses to the eight principles as well to other questions posed in the document.
Mainstreaming community cohesion
The green paper starts from the principle that community cohesion should be imbedded in council policy and practice, which it should. That it should be influence practice and design of services, which it should. What this ‘mainstreaming agenda misses is that communities exist outside the Council’s structure and operation.
The engagement of Neighbourhoods is ‘accommodated’ in another consultation. So while cohesion needs to be acknowledged as an important component in the development of services within Wards and Constituencies (Districts) these ‘border constructs’ restrict development within and between communities that are self-determining and not necessarily Ward or District focused.i.e the Council isn’t Community
Connecting places, people and communities to share knowledge, exchange ideas and drive local innovation.
The link between this consultation and the Neighbourhood Engagement (Working Together In Birmingham’s Neighbourhoods) is never closer than in this objective. Mainstreaming cohesion must acknowledge the role of communities and neighbourhoods in discussing and resolving their issues. Enabling and encouraging them to identify what is good in their community / neighbourhood, what works and what needs improving. If you are to develop cohesion you need to connect to people, and not just selected, or a selection of, representatives. If you are to connect to people, it needs to be in their community / neighbourhood. If you start conversations with neighbourhoods concerning service provision the conversations will focus on service provision, if you focus on services in Wards / constituency the conversation and activity will focus on services, cohesion becomes a secondary issue.
Connecting and exchanging ideas that promote cohesion and mobilise social action, Connecting places …critical in building confidence and tackling local challenges together.
Connecting people must start with their community / neighbourhood and not the constructed administrative ‘borders’.
Borders change and people may not relate to the Ward / Constituency.
One part of the Ward / Constituency may have stronger community links / groups and therefore tend to dominate conversation / consultation. Focusing on community / neighbourhoods enables individuals to develop skills and confidence in participation.
There are more Neighbourhoods in this City than Wards and some of our Wards are so big one end of the Ward may not have a ‘relationship’, and may have different issues, than the other end.
Nurturing and supporting aspiration of young people, Young people from all social backgrounds should realise their ambitions
Engaging young people within the consultation is crucial if we are to build the next generation of community activists.
They cannot, however be expected to take part in current / traditional consultation which tends to be ‘boring’ and full of established community egos and leaders.
There are models of youth participation and consultation that should be adopted. Not all youth groups have been closed and the remnants of the youth service needs to lead on the engagement and consultation of young people. They need to be listened to and suggestions acted upon, within an ongoing consultation process.
Tradition shows that the concerns of young people and ‘established’ community groups are not dissimilar. At some point in the future the groups can come together to discuss their issues, they will want to come together to discuss their issues, and that’s when community activism really takes off.
A city where everyone has a strong sense and understanding of their rights and responsibilities:
Rights and responsibilities are two different concepts, developing people’s responsibilities involves listening to them and ensuring that they are valued. Encouraging people, as citizens, to become active and not assume that the ‘City / Council’ will take responsibility.
This assumption is a ‘hangover’ from bygone era when the Council had money and behaved in a paternalistic manner. It is the biggest hurdle to developing responsibilities, and the appreciation of rights, as the paternalistic behaviour deskilled people and ‘obliged’ them to see the Council as a resolver of problems and a provider of services. Re energising deskilled communities is not easy and will take time, it needs to be done one step at a time, small steps and in partnership with other communities.   
I’m not sure what they meant by tackle issues that exist within and between communities and promote understanding of our diverse communities” Some communities resolve their own issues without Council intervention. In these cases, the Council needs to listen and learn not control or lead or mainstream. The skills within Neighbourhoods and Communities needs to be acknowledged and built on, engagement leads to recognition and inclusion.
Eliminate all forms of inequality in Birmingham. Challenge practices and social norms
Birmingham City Council cannot eliminate inequality. It can however provide services that encourage actions that begin to form an ‘united whole’, a unity and togetherness of citizens. It can encourage communities to engage together to resolve issues, local and inter community, without it, the Council, and its officers, taking a leadership role.
There can be guidelines and milestones for Council engagement and involvement in activities ensuring officers and community groups comply with such practices in an operational sense and not just writing it on paper policy and processes.
 If the Council is to be a catalyst for change “practices and social norms” of some Council officers and members need to be challenged and addressed. eg.  Selecting ‘favoured’ groups to consult with [regular suspects syndrome] or deliver activities. Some previous practices have caused division in communities, this needs to be acknowledged and addressed if cohesion is to be achieved and inequality challenged.
Communities need to be trusted and listened to, activities, peer learning and communication facilitated and not led, actions developed and delivered in communities by communities. 
Benefits of economic growth should be shared and accessible to everyone. Working with partners at a local, regional and national level will seek to ensure that economic strategies are inclusive and impact locally; addressing the distinctly social, economic and cultural challenges and opportunities
If this is to happen the ‘City’ and Council needs to stop focusing on the City Centre development and attracting London firms to new office blocks at the expense of other areas of the City.
Major industries have closed or left the City. Estates that were built to accommodate these factories remain with many residents detached from major development.
Our education system is stifled by externally imposed antiquated objectives; regurgitating knowledge in tests and exams with little consideration as to what are basic skills for the 21st Century, literacy and numeracy remain crucial but how do we teach IT skills in establishments whose IT is not as contemporary as that in the student’s pocket or home.
If the economic strategies are to encourage more building in the City Centre what is being offered to those in the City who live an hour away by public transport or whose skills are not ‘fit for purpose’.
If the economic strategy is identifying the skills gap what is being done to address the skills that are missing. Is this issue really one of cohesion or is it that we need to be asking different questions and proposing different, radical solutions?  
Does the Commonwealth Games 2022 and HS2 address these issues?
What are the inequalities we face and what are the solutions needed to address them.
Imbedded historical activity in deprived areas that has not achieved progression. Some of the Wards / areas that were poor 20/30 years ago remain poor in spite of millions of pounds of public realm programmes being delivered in the area.
Programmes that aimed to resolve immediate but not imbedded issues; providing some skills development but not raising aspirations and overall achievement.
Public realm programmes that have not and do not develop appropriate and sustainable skills in individuals from those communities. Therefore, the circulation of money is very short, public money spent in the community, leaves the community, the public realm ‘Pound’ circulation is less in these areas than in others.
What mechanisms or systems do we need to improve our current methods of addressing inequalities?
This consultation is very similar in the questions it asks, although it is much shorter, to the Working Together In Birmingham’s Neighbourhoods consultation.
This is another example of the silo mentality of Council delivery. You cannot separate some of the issues raised in this consultation to those of governance, locality, neighbourhood engagement and service development discussed in the Working with Neighbourhood Consultation.
How will the two consultations, and subsequent reports, be presented and how will any decision be implemented?  
Any comments you wish to express regarding the paper that we need to include.
‘Vision Wheel’, p5
Much of what was Council services have now been outsourced or provided by other organisations; Academies, Children’s Centres etc. that are outside the Council’s control.
While contracts can include cohesion aspirations how easy are they to enforce and can / will the council remove or cancel a contract if targets for engagement are met but cohesion is not improved?
This impotence of enforcement, entrenched into core policy development, ensures that the Council cannot meet its objectives regarding cohesion.
If, however, the Council focused on the ‘making it happen’, element of the ‘Vision’ it could concentrate on cohesion objectives that are not related to service development facilitating community engagement, development and learning.
This wheel could have been written 20 years ago. For those of us who can remember Council document and policy that far back there is little difference between objectives in this document and in the 1990’s.
Over the years the terms have changed; hard to reach, disenfranchised, poor skills , etc. These problems still exist, we still have poor communities, the same poor communities as identified throughout the 1980’s and 90’s. Council and public realm funding programmes, equality and cohesion activity has failed, and it can’t all be blamed on the post 2010 recession.
New questions, honest answers are required.
“Annual Stocktake Summit” p5  
Why isn’t the Council considering utilising crowdsourcing data and opinion as part of its ‘trawl’ of what is going on and not relying on traditional conferences, restricted public realm data, officer interpretation and reporting process to develop new (old and regurgitated) programmes to address the issues.
“Community: The voluntary, community and faith sector organisations are well placed to provide leadership in identifying and supporting community-based solutions. Local Councillors in their community leadership role will deliver on Localism by working with communities and local organisations to design place-based approaches that shapes council policy and practice.”p6
Local Councillors are not community leaders, although some see themselves as such.
Councillors cannot deliver localism only residents and citizens can do that.
Councillors need to encourage engagement from the various communities and organisations in their Ward, they need to facilitate such engagement and listen to the needs, however their involvement only relates to service provision. Any development outside that should be undertaken by encouraging communities to identify and resolve issues through their own skills and knowledge.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Beyond (Un)Employment - 'The Hack' and its outcome

BEYOND (UN)EMPLOYMENT Ted Ryan – RnR Organisation
Beyond (un)employment is a collaborative learning circle where we will collectively build intelligence and real-time, evidence-based perspectives on the future of (un)employment in our city.”1

Funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung and delivered by a network of Impact Hubs across Europe, ‘Beyond (Un)employment’ is an international collaborative project exploring the future of employment.
The Birmingham element of the programme recruited individuals from a variety of backgrounds and interests who, over the six months of the programme, have identified specific issues they wish to explore.

BACKGROUND – to this proposal
My focus was not on the specifics of employment but the preparation, education and learning that individuals undertake to participate within a labour market.
I wanted to explore an alternative to the subject-based curriculum offered within education, and investigate if Critical Analysis Skills could form an integral part of a curriculum. In addition to this, I wanted to explore how an individual continued to learn, beyond statutory or institutional involvement. Are we forever bound to accredited learning or are there other ways of learning, lifelong learning, through non-accredited routes?

The activity was segmented into five ‘component’ challenges
  • Exploring the development of alternative ways of facilitating learning, relevant to the needs of gathering and consuming information in the 21st Century.
  • Identifying an environment where children and young people acquire basic knowledge within a process of learning how to learn and how to develop skills, how to make informed choices. (This can have an impact on how they choose the appropriate employment for themselves.)
  • Developing ‘Patch’ learning throughout a life time, acquiring skills relevant and appropriate to your needs and interests.
  • Questioning the role of ‘institutions’ and accredited qualifications, exploring alternative accreditation and ‘standards’ e.g. Open Badges (there are others)
  • Developing an eco-system of simply learning and implementing it.

This proposition was developed during the Beyond (Un)employment Hack in October / November 2017.  As Cllr Ian Cruise, Birmingham City Council, had indicated a willingness to explore the issues outlined above, discussions focused on exploring how some of the components could have a practical implementation within specific areas within Birmingham  
There is a dichotomy of information – one the one hand achievement in Birmingham Schools and FE Colleges is improving, with more establishments being awarded outstanding category yet the LEP and WMCA continually talk about the low skills of the area; City and Region.
Some of the outer ring areas of Birmingham are facing major issues of economic reprofiling. The industries that these estates served are gone, school achievement may be improving but the economy that these communities served and befitted from has been replaced by the new digital economy.
The aspiration of previous generations to work in the major industries has no place now and has not been replaced by a drive towards digital.
Deprivation is hidden in such Wards, Longbridge, for example, is ‘mid-range’ (20/40) within Birmingham. It is within the bottom 10% of deprived wards within the country (2015 Index of Multiple Deprivation)

A more in-depth analysis of Longbridge Statistics indicates some LSOA2 (Lower-layer Super Output Areas) in the Ward are of national average deprivation, between 30-50%. While other areas are ‘well within’ the bottom 10%.
Some of these areas are specific outer ring estates, serving specific schools. The free school meals data from these school as given on https://data.gov.uk/ reinforce this statistic, with all the schools on the estate having free school meals in excess of 50%, with an indication that, over a six year period, it is as high as 70%.
The South West of Birmingham became a focus for discussion during the ‘hack’ days.

During the ‘hack’ days, the initial outline of exploring a non-subject focused curriculum focused on how such a curriculum could be delivered within a mainstream school that is subject to inspection and Progress 8 assessment.
Discussion took place about the development of ‘other learning’, appropriate to the needs and circumstances of the young people, addressing issues that would enable students to develop Critical Analysis Skills, relevant to current and future labour market requirements.
Discussion acknowledged that 30% of students within the school are registered with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).

Initial issues were agreed as
  • Addressing outer ring post-industrial estate issues – aspirations and expectation of individuals, families and, by implication, the young people. This is related to the closure of the major employer in the area, MG Rover. While this happened over 10 years ago, there is significant evidence from other areas within the UK of long term issues, related to learning and employment issues, in areas where dominant industries have closed.
  • Identifying relevant skills for young people that are relevant to the current and future labour market.
  • Matching the possibility, indeed necessity, of developing different skills with the current or future, non-negotiable, external inspection and assessment process.
  • What is the skills gap that is so often referred to by the GBSLEP and WMCA economic data3 and development literature.
  • Peer learning and support.
  • Family and adult learning provision Developing mentoring / support and inspiring programme for young people
  • Leisure/youth provision.
  • Links to FE, different curriculum provision for 14-16.
  • Research success in schools with similar demographics.
  • Realistic expectation and time line of development and potential delivery – while there can be external discussions and ideas, it is necessary to acknowledge the ability of the schools to not only ‘buy in’ but also to develop a programme including
    • asking staff who are giving 110% to give a bit more.
    • acknowledging the potential lack of ‘wriggle room’ within assessment.
    • funding / finance / budget.
    • potential partners’ silo mentality

In these discussions it was agreed that the school, while potentially leading on these issues, could not undertake such an extensive programme alone, and therefore, additional partners and programmes needed to be identified and nurtured - this would include the identification of successful schools in outer ring estates in comparative areas
Such partners and research would include
  • Birmingham Education Partnership (BEP)/ Birmingham City Council 
  • Whiteheath Centre Rowley Regis nd other home tutoring programmes - Home tutoring service – possible other services to be reviewed.
  • Successes in Outer Ring estate schools - Ongoing success of students from lower socio-economic groups who have succeeded at school, therefore making the school a success, but is it sustainable?
  • South West Birmingham Employment and Skills Board
  • Careers and Enterprise, The Access Project, Gatsby Foundation report Exploring mentoring interventions - Developing peer and role model mentors
  • Knowledge Based Curriculum - Potential impact on alternative provision
  • Widening links to other Education Providers in the area – Bournville FE College, Other training providers, Princes Trust, Prospects, Colmers Farm, Turves Green (Boys and Girls) Kings Arc and St Thomas Schools
  • Other adult and community learning providers and development agencies
  • Youth service, voluntary sector organisations
  • Health and well-being provision, including mental health support issues.


Continued Exploration
  • Curriculum Delivery – potential activity 
  • Wider community learning opportunities 
  • Increasing aspirations / access to work / skills related development


On-going research
  • Identify if a school was willing to explore these issues and become involved in further activity.
  • Identify other / current provision – MATs, BEP,  etc. 
  • Curriculum wriggle room within ‘Progress 8’ defined activities and subjects.
  • Other wider provision – adult provision, out of hours activity, leisure, sport and youth activity. 
  • Staff training requirements and needs.
  • Community engagement - what do the young people and community want in related to skills development and support?; we often develop programmes to address identified issues, perhaps we need to ask the individuals what they want. What quick wins can be developed to impact on some of the issues and engage communities in a dialogue of development?


1 Impact Hub Birmingham Web Site definition and outline of programme
2 LSOAs (Lower-layer Super Output Areas) are small areas designed to be of a similar population size, with an average of approximately 1,500 residents or 650 households. There are 32,844 Lower-layer Super Output Areas (LSOAs) in England. 
3 Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership Economic Strategy and ESIF development plan as well as West Midlands Combined Authority initial proposal both outline a skills gap in the area.  














Saturday, 19 August 2017

Basic Skills, General Knowledge and Pedagogy, 2017 and beyond.

Basic Skills, General Knowledge and Pedagogy, 2017 and beyond.
Introduction
As part of the Beyond Unemployment project at Impact Hub Birmingham I set myself the task of defining how individuals choose or acquire employment. What skills do they develop, What expectations do they have, what aspirations, and how do they acquire these ‘skills’?
I simplified this musing to three fundamental questions
    1. What defines new/current ‘basic skills’, what skills and experiences are to be taught, what is underpinning knowledge for ‘everyday’ experience or employment needs?
    2. In today’s ecosystem of accessible and available information, what constitutes general knowledge?
    3. How are we going to modify the pedagogical approach to accommodate how people learn and what they do with that learning?

Taking the long view
Having arrived at these three questions I began to ask myself additional questions. What are basic skills? Is general knowledge a cultural construct? How do we teach learning? Is employment, and the expectation of individuals, always based on where they are educated?
I embarked on an exploration of the roots of learning, skills acquisition and developing expectation. I set parameters of the exploration to ‘state defined learning and provision’, where the learning provision influences or supports employment. I can only describe what follows as a brief romp through education legislation, followed by a personal, political perspective of the intent of the process. I would, however, argue that, if we are to consider how systems change in education impacts on employment, we must first identify the system and the principles of its foundation. This begins in the 19th Century.

19th Century Beginnings – Origin - Definitions
The majority of education-related legislation in the early part of the 19th Century related to factory and employment legislation - children working in factories, children working outside school and the age at which education would be provided to all children.
 The 1870 Education Act created School Boards and set the school leaving age at 12 yrs, although that was not compulsory till 1880. The Act can be argued as being child-focused, and aimed to get children out of factories. While factory owners were initially against the Act, as it removed cheap labour from their employment, there was a change of mind as education began to produce more skilled individuals who could read and write. Increased basic skills had an impact on employment, ability and output.
Elementary education, created because of the 1870 Act, was not a universally equal provision. Chitty, 2007, outlines that some school boards “significantly altered the legislators' original concept of Elementary schooling in terms of buildings, equipment, curricula and age range” by establishing higher classes, or separate higher-grade schools for older pupils who showed ability and commitment. A few Boards went still further and created a new type of evening school for adults. Higher elementary schools often received a higher rate of grant than the ordinary public elementary schools, on condition that they provided a four-year course for promising children aged 10 to 15. The curriculum included drawing, theoretical and practical science, a foreign language and elementary mathematics.

Early 20th Century – setting the scene over 100 years
The 1902 Education Act created the Local Education Authorities (LEA), local and accountable bodies to run education with the new local authority structure. The Act initiated and consolidated the number of schools for specific provision: State aid for endowed Grammar Schools, Municipal or County Schools built upon the tradition of the ‘higher Schools’ for those who were going to remain in education. Elementary education would remain for the rest. “From now on there was to be no confusion: two systems, each with a distinct educational and social function, were to run parallel to each other, and there was to be no place for the higher-grade schools and classes which were deemed to have strayed into the preserves of secondary and higher education. The vast majority of children were to be educated in elementary schools where they would remain until they reached the statutory school-leaving age”. Chitty C (2007) Eugenics, race and intelligence in education identified in Derek Gillard Education in England 2011
The Act can be seen as framework setting, developing an education structure and promoting national efficiency in the increasingly mechanised manufacturing industries. It was focused on developing skills for the world of work, defining curriculum content, especially at post 11 level, to meet employment need and the employment potential of children who would inevitably end up in manufacturing or industry. The higher-grade schools continued to offer a wider range of subjects for those not entering manufacturing but remaining in education, progressing into lower management roles or higher education.
The 1918 Education Act raised the school leaving age to 14 (not enforced till 1921), and continued defining the skillsets and employment potential/direction for school-aged children. This Act consolidated the developmental and social role of education. It reinforced the continued need for craft skills for boys and home craft skills for girls, based on their employment prospects, clarifying the role of ‘Elementary’ education - basic skills for those who would leave and go into service or industry.
Higher skilled individuals, more often from the middle/upper classes, would benefit from the now state funded grammar schools, and benefit from an education system beyond the official school leaving age.
Consolidation had the effect of creating two types of state-aided post 11 school: the endowed grammar schools, which now received grant-aid from LEAs, and the municipal or county ‘secondary’ schools, maintained by LEAs. Many of the latter were established in the years following the Act, and others evolved out of the higher skill schools.
Throughout the 1920s the Hadlow committee reports of 1926, ‘31 & ‘33 continued the refining of the education process, defining the 3-phase system in education: 5-7 infant, 7-11 junior, 11+ secondary.

So the system is set...
From 1918 the education system, and the curriculum offered, was focused on supporting economic activity. Children ‘destined’ for manual labour were provided with the ‘basic skills’ of English and maths but were also provided with an understanding of industrial or housekeeping skills, depending on gender. 
Children from the ‘administrative’ social classes were ‘stretched’, and experienced a wider range of skills suited to their post-education positions within the economy. Even in this system, education for girls still focused on housekeeping skills, in preparation for their position as wives in the male dominated society.
There were some exceptions to the principle of education being preparation for employment/role in society, Henry Morris being but one example. Despite the relative wealth of the University, Cambridgeshire was one of the poorest counties in England. Education provision was in a poor state outside of the City of Cambridge. There was a lack of funding and no separate secondary schools. Children of school age (3-14) were educated in their village school, in one room and by a single teacher. Henry Morris, Secretary of Education for Cambridgeshire in the 1920s and 30s, envisioned integration between secondary and community education, accessible by all those living in the villages and small towns around Cambridgeshire, coining the idea of 'village colleges'. He described this idea as "raising the school leaving age to ninety", and firmly believed that education, both formal and informal, should be a lifelong process. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Morris (education)
And so we arrive at the 1944 Education Act, finally distinguishing between primary and secondary schools, equalising funding issues and raising the school leaving age to 15 (with powers to raise it to 16, not implemented till 1973) - a new tripartite system, Grammar Schools, Secondary Modern Schools and Secondary Technical Schools, and introducing Comprehensive Schools, an amalgam of all three. Pupils were allocated to the most appropriate school via the 11 plus, having little impact on the numbers entering the grammar system and girls were allowed to continue in secondary education. The Act also developed an adult education provision, benefiting from the learning and development that had taken place in Cambridge and other authorities.
However, while there had been modifications and widening of access, initiated by the 1944 and subsequent Acts, I would argue that the social purpose of education, and therefore schools, had not changed. It was crucial to the perpetuation of the social and economic order, creating parameters of achievement and by consequence of family engagement, individual aspiration. In other words, a young person’s aspirations within education would be based on parental educational achievement and employment expectation within the family’s social setting. Specific curricula were developed for particular social groups, and, while a ‘general education’ was purportedly offered to all, some had a wider and more focused ‘general education’ than others.
All participants received Basic (fundamental) skills, English and maths, and General knowledge, through a variety of core subjects: history, geography, science, etc. The depth and level of such learning and skills acquisition was influenced by the post-educational expectation and aspiration of the system (institutions), accepted by families and the students. Educational institutions throughout the 3-phase system focused on a varied skill development, cognitive and manual, relevant to: 
    • Manual workers: unskilled workforce. 
    • Skilled workers: manual activity requiring accreditation, predominantly male dominated, remnants of the ‘guilds’, and qualified through an apprenticeship.
    • Middle management: Administrative and management, at a variety of levels.
    • Senior management: leaders within industrial, financial or political fields, who would progress to Higher Education

Education remained gender biased. The above categories were predominantly male focused and girls/women had restricted access to learning and opportunity, receiving basic skills, general knowledge, secretarial or office related skills, with supplementary learning related to home making, housekeeping and maintenance, of a variety of levels, based on class and expectation - work or housewife.

So where does this fit into my initial questions?
For over 100 years education has been influential in the employment opportunities available to people.
Over that period the nature of manufacturing, housekeeping, secretarial and administrative work changed little. Then came the 1980s: Wapping – the News Corporation taking on the Unions, protected practices and old skills, the deregulation of the finance industry, a reduction in manufacturing and the growing impact of computer technology. If we need to choose a time where significant technological change began to impact on employment and the role of education, the 1980s is a reasonable point to start.  
There were some computers in schools in the early 80s, and even more by the end of the decade - none of these were of the level that industry was beginning to use. The segmented curriculum that had been established in the early part of the 20th century began to crumble.
The curriculum which is offered, and which remains as the core provision of schools, is resolutely entrenched in the ‘classical’ subjects developed over that 100 years: Maths, English, Science, foreign language, history, geography, arts activity, some Physical activity. Additional subjects, including computer science, may not be part of the traditional offer, but the pedagogical approach remains very traditional in planning and content (curriculum), if not in delivery.
Schools and learning structure are treated as a palimpsest. A blueprint of delivery, established in the 1870-1901 Education Acts has been built upon and modified, irrespective of exterior processes and influences. The technology personally available to and being used by students and school children at home is far superior to that which they are using at school.  The pedagogical approach has modified over the years, but still remains teacher/institution-lead, with the content and process dictated by external bodies, with some political influence. Access to IT and data means that people today learn in different ways to suit need and circumstance.
While we are aware of student-centric learning, a variety of learning issues and intelligences e.g. Howard Gardner, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_multiple_intelligences, the process remains focused on restricted research and regurgitation of data and information.
Finally, the nature of employment has changed, not just because of the onset of technology, but also because the nature of employment always changes, influenced by need, market forces, price and access to market. Governments don’t decide what employment is available, business does. The length of time an individual can expect to be in one form of employment has changed.
Education that prepared people for the employment appropriate to their class or status is no longer appropriate to a system that, while existing in elements of social order, does not have the same authority as it used to have. New opportunities and a new economy require new skills.

So back to my initial questions
We cannot define employment. In a society dominated by capitalist principles, employment is created by those that control the wealth and manufacture products and services to be sold. What we can do is provide individuals with skills to survive and live within the process.
Education does not need a system change - it has already done that over the years. It requires a complete redesign. We need to address the questions our ancestors pondered almost 150 years ago. We need to identify a skillset for individuals, acknowledge the social and economic circumstances, as they did then,  
identify solutions, and develop a system, a new system, as they did.
We need to acknowledge that the system they designed fulfilled the role they, and others, intended. But the nature of employment opportunities, and the role of education in furnishing a workforce with relevant skills, and the employment market with appropriately skilled individuals, has changed forever. We cannot legitimately use or internally change an education system that was designed to fulfil roles conceived 100+ years ago if we want to facilitate agency in an employment situation which has changed exponentially, and keeps on changing.
So, my questions aim to begin that process, addressing fundamental skills. Should they be wider than English and maths? What is general knowledge and do we understand how and what people learn? 
  1. What defines new / current ‘basic skills’, what skills and experiences are to be taught, what is underpinning knowledge for ‘everyday’ experience or employment needs?
  2. In today’s ecosystem of accessible and available information, what constitutes general knowledge?
  3. How are we going to modify the pedagogical approach to accommodate how people learn and what they do with that learning?



Ted Ryan August 2017 

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Beyond (Un)employment - first thoughts

April 2017 
In the same week as the first session of Beyond (Un)employment the Greater Birmingham and Solihull ESIF subcommittee (European Funded programmes) issues a call for applications under Priority 1.1 Access to Employment for Jobseekers and Inactive People. https://www.gov.uk/european-structural-investment-funds/access-to-employment-for-jobseekers-and-inactive-people-in-greater-birmingham-solihull-oc12s17p0739 
In the outline of the call the specific objective of the priority is clarified as 
“focused on those who are long term unemployed and who are less likely to move back into work than people who have been unemployed for less time. The additional support from this investment priority will help long term unemployed people to tackle their barriers to work and move into sustainable employment. The main result target focuses on moving participants into employment (including self employment) on leaving. There will be a quantified result target set for this result indicator in each category of region”.
This definition is similar to the priorities for employment programme, Government and European funded, I have been involved with over the past 25 years. 
The priority in this programme, and the priorities in other programmes already commissioned, ignores the changes in employment practice over those 25 years.
It ignores the changes on at least three basic levels;  
  • the reduction of people engaged in work that is now mechanised or digitalised, 
  • the skill level of those in digitalised and mechanised employment
  • those in the ‘gig’ economy. 

Unemployment is clearly defined as not being in paid, ‘sustainable’, employment. Such projects and definitions deal with absolutes, you are in paid, ‘sustainable’, employment (over 16hrs per week) or you are not.
Funding programmes and delivery priorities are but conduits through which Governments and societies develop skills and provide access to the labour market. Their purpose focuses on removing an individual from state benefit rather than developing appropriate skills for an individual to choose how they participate in economic activity, activity that may have a social impact as well as a fiscal footprint.  
The thinking we did in our first session was crucial to how we can begin to challenge the entrenched view of ‘employment’ training. Long may it continue. 


While I quoted the current GBSLEP call the purpose of the piece was not to criticise activity in Birmingham, although some analysis of previous activity and impact would be interesting as part of the Beyond (un)employment sessions, I was emphasising the focus on a specific definition of employment. 
Irrespective of GBSLEP’s relationship to DWP, and any previous delivery, an examination of ESIF calls for employment related funding from a variety of ESIF areas will identify the same issue.
Coventry and Warwickshire, Leeds, Lancashire have had calls focusing on improving basic and lower skilled employees as well as market relevance of Education and Training provision.
Other core Cities, Sheffield, Greater Manchester, Liverpool focus on NEETS; intensive support to engage with and compete in the employment market, higher skills and workforce development.
Provision is designed around the funding available and the definition of employment within that funding.

My point remains
“Unemployment is clearly defined as not being in paid, ‘sustainable’, employment. Such projects and definitions deal with absolutes, you are in paid, ‘sustainable’, employment (over 16hrs per week) or you are not.
Funding programmes and delivery priorities are but conduits through which Governments and societies develop skills and provide access to the labour market. Their purpose focuses on removing an individual from state benefit rather than developing appropriate skills for an individual to choose how they participate in economic activity, activity that may have a social impact as well as a fiscal footprint.”

My hope for Beyond (un)employment sessions is that while we explore provision we begin to look at impact and not just output.

Impact on the individual – how they change how they adapt to the new economic world, what are the new basic skills they require.

An analyse of why, having spent millions on employment programmes in some areas, do individuals remain in poverty and unemployed.
How do we provide individual focused programmes, which encourage knowledge and skill development when the funding and measurement says JOB = 16hrs+.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Storm is coming - 2 weeks to go

Waiting For The Storm
Some Labour members hark for a return to the just a smidgen left of centre policies that won three elections, policies, it could be argued, that continued and developed previous Tory policies, and which started some new ones.  
“We did it for the ‘common good“, “we made some improvements”... and then it all went wrong - the 2010 election and then 2015.
Following the decision to suspend campaigning following Monday’s horrendous events in Manchester, the campaign now resumes, and we need to be prepared for the storm that is coming.
The mantra ‘If we don’t earn it we can’t spend it’ is now ingrained in Tory policy development, as well as in people’s thinking, policies that expect the economy beyond Brexit to shrink, although they are not shouting that one too loud.  The Tory manifesto makes it very clear that getting through Brexit and planning for a smaller public sector so as to ride out post-Brexit economic issues is the Tory party main aim, through ‘strong and stable’ government and good management of the economy.
The Storm Is Coming
Now we are into the last two weeks before the election, two weeks to influence those that have not made their minds up and, while we may complain about the press coverage of Labour Party activities and policies, the Tory party have been ominously quiet in the way they are portraying Labour activities.
They use ‘Strong and Stable’ as a simple mantra that will embed itself into people’s thinking – Tory = strong and by implication Labour = weak - they haven’t had to say it too often, they just keep repeating it - ‘Strong and Stable’
Theresa May is going for ‘ordinary’ amongst the voters - her minders are even letting some people have a go at her.
This is so different to the slick (and slimy) Cameron approach to attracting people to the Tory cause and now, post Manchester, she is showing that she is strong.
This approach will change from now on. Michael Fallon, Secretary of State for Defence, on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC One on Sunday 14th May, had a brief dalliance with Corbyn and the IRA, rightly slapped down by Emily Thornberry, Shadow Foreign Secretary. This foray is now being repeated by Unionists and in the media - The Sun on Monday and The Daily Mail on Wednesday – it’s but a sign of things to come.
If Labour members want to take the Tories on in the ‘centre’ ground, and win back votes with policies that replicate ‘middle’ road principles, but telling ourselves we are doing them for the principles of social value, it’s too late - the Tories are mopping up that ground, and the storm is coming
The Tories will criticise and question Labour policies in the manifesto. They may question how they will be funded, without providing any evidence themselves, beyond running a strong and stable economy, as to how they will pay for their own manifesto promises. They will also go for a full personal onslaught and ‘assassination’ of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, and not on future possibilities, but on their past activities. They will question not their ability, values or intellect in relation to policies and governing, but their personal ‘fitness’, based on past meetings, campaigns and stances they have taken.
This ‘assassination’ will be nothing to do with a fairer Britain, developing a country where those with the least, those who can do the least, can be accommodated and supported by those with more, who can do more.
This assassination will be about winning, winning in ‘Labour’ areas, winning people from UKIP, just bloody winning.
The storm is coming......
What Can We Do?
  • Get the young vote out - 57% of 18-24 year-olds didn’t vote in the 2015 General Election
  • This election is about people, policies and the next 5 years, not personalities. Labour members should not ‘buy into’ the personality premise - if we make it about personalities we add to the energy in the Tory story. 
  • Don’t accept the defeatist premise - continue to make an argument for a better, fairer, ‘stronger’ United Kingdom for all people, and not just those who can afford it.
  • Don’t give up on Labour as a left of centre party - you may be uncomfortable with it, but this country needs a strong left of centre political party - it needs to care for people, support people and provide people with aspirations through care, education and learning for everyone and not just those who can afford it. 

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Data that should be open but 'we' don’t know that it’s there

Draft of presentation I will be giving on Friday 3rd March 2017 at WMODF Open Data Day event at Innovation Birmingham 
After Friday this Blog will also appear on the RnR Organisation website www.rnrorganisation.co.uk 

Data that should be open but 'we' don’t know that it’s there


Asset based community development is capable of generating data into service development to influence and improve service development decision making and I am interested in developing a process that incorporates this.

The first conundrum to be addressed is the fundamental difference between service development and delivery, and asset based community development (ABCD). In very simplistic terms, service provision is measured in what is offered i.e. provision, what is done i.e. delivery, and who it is done for, the patient / user. This is a deficit model addressing identified need.

ABCD, on the other hand, works with communities, neighbourhoods and localities, 
acknowledging the skills and experiences of participants and community members. The process identifies learning and training needs, engages in decision making utilising locally-sourced data and intelligence, and accommodates these resources in a new decision-making process that can have a measurable impact on outputs and outcomesThis difference is clearly outlined in Dan Duncan's New paradigm for effective Community Impact (diagram 1). 
Diagram 1

What fascinates me is the potential ABCD has for generating data, data that is not collected within the current linear decision-making process that dominates public realm funding. This process generates public realm programmes through direct provision or commissioned activity delivered by either private or voluntary sector organisations (diagram 2)

Diagram 2

The data used to inform this decision making, I would argue, is restricted to the data that public realm processes generate. It rarely seeks additional, wider data from wider sources, i.e. community assets. 

Our Three Field Model, which we have written about in the past,  identifies compartmentalised provision within statutory, voluntary and community sector activity (diagram 3)

Diagram 3

This representation of the model explores the potential links between activities within identified 'Fields'.

If we view the 'Three Fields' from another perspective, we can explore how the data generated by activity is circulated and used (diagram 4)

Diagram 4
  
This view begins to explore the pivotal role of Field One in generating and accumulating data and developing services in Field One and Two, and how little of the data in Field Three is assimilated into the process. 

I would argue that the majority of this data is related to community groups being involved with Field Two delivery -  this perpetuates the restricted data collection / analysis / delivery cycle. Very little data is collected from Field Three processes. Is this because of the lack of knowledge or understanding within Public Realm decision makers of the activity and its impact? Is there an inability within the public realm process to measure such activities against set targets?

Too often ABCD, community activity, volunteering, is seen as a solution to austerity and public realm budget cuts. It's not. ABCD utilises peoples values and beliefs in their own communities. 
Activities that aren't known about and aren't measured may have an impact on public realm targets. These activities will continue to take place because there will always be people who care and are willing to do something.

What interests me is how can we introduce the data ABCD has the potential to generate into the decision making process for public realm services without destroying people's enthusiasm and value systems?