If you’ve seen the television advertisements exhorting us to Fire It Up, you would imagine UK plc is thriving with young apprentices, leaping out of bed at 6am, crackling with confidence and ambition. The £2.5million DfE campaign is designed to position apprenticeships as ‘cool’; the positive choice of the independently minded and entrepreneurial youngster who doesn’t follow the herd to uni, but electrifies the workplace with the blue lightning sparking off their shoulders.
Research into Project-based learning (PBL), involving long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with employers shows profound benefits for students says a report published today (19 Feb) by the education charity The Edge Foundation and the Royal Academy of Engineering. The Evaluation of University Technical Colleges report, produced by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), evaluated PBL and employer engagement in two phases. In this second phase of its research, three leading University Technical Colleges (UTCs) in Liverpool, Reading and Aston were examined in depth to explore the benefits of embedding these concepts in the curriculum and gaining strong and committed employer engagement over a sustained time period. Project-based learning is a key focus for UTCs and demonstrates a different way of learning, often via industry-relevant projects developed in collaboration with local employers, ensuring that students develop skills that can help them access pathways into employment. The report highlighted that PBL, which requires students to work to briefs and deadlines and use skills such as critical thinking and problem solving, appears to enhance their academic learning in subjects like English or history as well as technical subjects.
2014 seems to have been a particularly busy year for the Edge Foundation. With our 10 Year Anniversary, 7th annual VQ Day, University Technical Colleges and Career Colleges announcements and openings, our £1million Innovation and Development Grant, our Annual Lecture and The Skills Show, we have barely stopped.Our 10 Year Anniversary provided the overarching theme for the year and we took the opportunity of the Edge Annual Lecture to celebrate it properly.Matthew Crawford, author, mechanic and philosopher, flew over from the US to deliver the keynote speech and his thoughts on technical education and practical learning chimed well with our message that there are many paths to success.Panel sessions with principals, students and individuals who have benefitted from Edge investment brought to life the themes and ideas being discussed and further cemented the idea that when it comes to education, one size does not fit all.Another great success was The Skills Show. In our second year as a Premier Sponsor we managed to squeeze in quite a lot over the three days. The second Edge Research Conference took place and provided delegates with plenty of discussion points around vocational education.We held the Edge Challenge at the show, and David Humpston and Card Stack (now Indecks) were crowned the winners.With both Theo Paphitis and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg MP, attending, the finalists could have been forgiven their nerves but they all rose to the occasion and pitched their businesses like the true professionals they are. Congratulations!Thanks and congratulations also go to our partner organisations that manned stands and led 'Have a Go' activities: Myerscough College, London College of Beauty Therapy, Gazelle Colleges, the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy, the Edge Hotel School and University Technical Colleges all did a fantastic job of engaging the thousands of young people who poured through the doors of the NEC.Finally for 2014, I'd like to send our warmest congratulations to Bridgend College which has been awarded the Edge sponsored AoC Beacon Award for Practical Teaching and Practical Learning.The College's learning by doing approach to Forensic Science is exemplary. Students benefit from innovative practical teaching, learning and assessment. They have opportunities to work alongside experts in the forensic sector including the South Wales Police Force.The initiative is life changing, developing the students into self-confident young people ready to enter the worlds of work or higher education.Looking forward to the New Year we are excited. More Studio Schools, UTCs and Career Colleges will open; there will be more high-quality projects funded in the second round of the £1million Innovation and Development Fund and, with the campaign kicking off in January, VQ Day 2015 on June 10th will once again recognise vocational excellence across the UK.It will be another busy year with another round of activity that wouldn't be possible without the encouragement and commitment of our partners and supporters. We wish you all a relaxing break and look forward to working with you again in what we hope will be a very prosperous 2015.Jan Hodges OBE is chief executive of Edge, the independent education charity dedicated to raising the status of technical, practical and vocational learning
Reading BBC Education correspondent Sean Coughlan’s hilarious, but perceptive article What parents really mean to say about exam results gave me pause for thoughts amidst the headlines around the publication of this year’s GCSE results. Ranging from the faintly damming, ‘You tried your hardest’, to the consolatory ‘have you seen the car the plumber drives?’, it neatly highlights that while policy makers, researchers and others working in education might analyse percentages, crunch numbers and draw inferences from the statistics, the issue of exams and grades is a very human one.