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.
In the past month, technical learning has come back to the forefront of education. The annual party conferences have once again generated some interesting debates, particularly with Ed Miliband setting out his plans for a gold standard vocational qualification called a “Tech Bacc”, which we fully support.
On my first day at school, as a slightly shy but eager five year old, I would never have guessed just how much of my life would be devoted to education. My career may have spanned 35 years but in reality education has been my passion and my focus since that first day at school.As a student, undergraduate, teacher, lecturer, parent, principal and CEO I have been both consumer and facilitator. I have enjoyed it enormously and been heartened. There is no doubt that education transformed my life for the better. Heartened because it is such a pleasure and privilege to see learners develop and succeed and to work alongside talented and committed colleagues. I have particularly loved the world of FE and skills and the opportunities it gives people despite the challenges and frustrations of the many policy changes and, particularly, the undervaluing of the work the sector does and the cuts to funding.We learn so much about ourselves through our education: we learn who we are and who we want to be, and where in the world we want to be it.We often speak about the need for a robust education system but our time spent in school is so very fragile: one ill thought remark, one uninformed choice, one uninspiring careers session, one misplaced stereotype and a young person might find themselves heading down a path to unemployment.Which is why, in my position as CEO of the Edge Foundation, I have felt privileged to be part of a movement that seeks to ensure that every young person can achieve their potential, whatever their talents and ambitions.I have always been a firm believer in learning by doing and in the benefits of combining knowledge with action and working in FE and being at Edge has allowed me to take that belief and create something meaningful out of it.It has been a pleasure and an honour to lead such a unique organisation over the past four years and to see the organisation raise its profile and develop strong partnerships with other like- minded organisations. I have no doubt that Edge will continue to be at the forefront of thinking and best practice in technical, practical and vocational learning.What I will miss most of all are the stories we hear from people who have carved out their own paths to success, people who have fought against stigma and expectation, people who have taken a vocational route and reaped the rewards that come with following a path of your own choosing.Although our primary audiences are opinion formers and policy makers, our work has always had the learner at the heart of it. Whether we are supporting innovation in curriculum delivery, or creating new institutions, celebrating vocational success or commissioning research – everything Edge does is to benefit future generations, so that young people have the skills they need to be successful in the world beyond education – I am told such a world exists and I look forward to exploring it!Jan Hodges OBE is chief executive of Edge, the independent education charity dedicated to raising the status of technical, practical and vocational learning