I am halfway through this course at the Tavistock Clinic and have found it extremely beneficial for both my social and personal life - it's well worth looking at: Emotional factors in learning and teaching: counselling aspects in teaching
Transition in the National Curriculum – progressing through the key stages and raising the participation age.
Following the interesting discussion addressing transition through the key stages, at the Westminster Forum event on the new National Curriculum I would like to add to John D’Abbro’s comments about readiness for transition – particularly readiness for GCSEs. John is head master at the Rush Hall Group, and was the head in Jamie Oliver's Dream School and questions why students have to do GCSEs at 16..
I would also like to discuss some ideas about how RPA programmes of study could be more accessible for those who are still not ready to engage with formal education.
I have been working with small alternative providers who, like the Rush Hall Group, take those vulnerable learners for whom mainstream education does not work. I am concerned that the quality judgments we are expected to make about the providers do not take into account the needs of their cohort of learners and whether these young people are actually ready for the stage of education they are expected to access.
Many of these young people have emotional and social barriers to learning which mean that their primary concerns are often how to feel safe and how to get food. Their behaviours often seem aggressive or adverse because they are reacting to primeval impulses from their reptilian brain in relation to the trauma or neglect that they have suffered.
Progression for some of these learners is often very small and nothing to do with academic achievement; such as removing their hood when they come into the classroom, or making their own way to the bus stop. They are not ready to take their GCSEs or other major tests at 16 when their hormones are exploding on top of all their other problems. They need time and they need stable trusting relationships. Their education also needs to be seen as relevant to their lives and expectations, and core skills embedded in real life projects alongside mentoring, therapy, regular meals, and the opportunity to feel safe at school and between school and home.
Hopefully the new National Curriculum will allow for some additional flexibility in the way schools provide for these young people, and that their transition to post 16 learning will not be hindered by non-achievement at GCSEs. Hopefully functional skills in English, maths and ICT will continue to be valued for progression. Hopefully whatever assessment criteria are eventually put in place will enable to teachers to develop their pedagogy rather than feeling under pressure to get all students to a certain level, even if they are not ready.
Having scrutinised the RPA guidance and funding guidelines, I gather that there will be opportunities within the new programmes of study post 16 for extremely flexible relevant learning to be developed, embedded in volunteering, work experience, enterprise schemes, lifeskills and keyworking sessions, as long as learners are working towards [or have achieved] Level 2 in English and maths. However any public communication about RPA only discusses learning in FE or school sixth forms, or apprenticeships, and usually implies that everyone will have to keep studying English and maths until they get a C at GCSE.
Hopefully small education, or voluntary sector providers, who have already built up trusting relationships with vulnerable young people will eventually be able to access post 16 funding. If they do they will be able to offer suitable and relevant opportunities for progression without the learners needing to make transitions to somewhere new and large, when they are not yet ready, and where they have to develop relationships all over again, but with much less support.