Since the study commenced towards the end of July, there has been a very encouraging response from skills training, adult education providers and colleges in seeking to become involved – more than 30 expressions of interest which have greatly helped us start organising learner focus groups and provided some useful links to support our literature review. We’ve followed up a lot of these expressions of interest, but if we haven’t contacted you yet, please don’t assume we’re ignoring your offer of help; we will get round to everyone within the next fortnight and we are still welcoming further offers of participation. The first online meeting of the project Virtual Advisory Group took place on 30th September and this contributed a great deal of additional useful information and links to training groups and organisations and offender learning in particular.
The literature review is building on the FE study review, but we have not been surprised that relatively little new material from the UK or the rest of the EU has emerged, though there are some interesting research studies from US Community Colleges which will inform the project. The learner voice appears still to be a relatively under-researched area – and any links to research in the ‘grey’ literature would be welcome. The review will be further informed through a series of stakeholder interviews which are planned for October and these may be initially the most productive route to understanding the issues in offender learning.
The materials for the Learner Focus Groups are nearly finalised and will be trialled with an adult and community learning group in the week beginning 5th October. The draft materials build on the approach of the FE study; the main stimulus materials will again consist of a card sorting and prioritising exercise, undertaken in small groups, but with the items and language simplified: we have applied the NIACE smog index and adjusted accordingly!
The target is to reach at least 200 learners, covering a good geographical spread, a range of skills sectors, study levels, apprenticeships, adult & community learning and offender learning; we are happy to have interest from colleges, but trying not to duplicate the FE learner focus groups. The aim is still to hold the group sessions during October and November; we are provisionally planning sessions with training provider groups in Ipswich, Bristol, Southwark and Sheffield, adult and community learning groups in Stoke-on-Trent and Leicester and a group of Business Management apprentices in London. We still have gaps in coverage in Wales and Scotland and in offender learning, engineering and construction, but some very useful contacts emerged from the Virtual Advisory Group meeting which are now being followed up.