Introduction

    Welcome to the Wales Wide Web

    October 25th, 2007 by Dirk Stieglitz

    Wales Wide Web is Graham Attwell’s main blog. Graham Attwell is Director of the Wales based research organisation, Pontydysgu. The blog covers issues like open-source, open-content, open-standards, e-learning and Werder Bremen football team.

    You can reach Graham by email at graham10 [at] mac [dot] com

    Wales Wide Web

    Open Educational Practices

    May 28th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

    Good presentation at Open Education Global Conference, April 24th, 2018 – based on a paper by Catherine Cronin & Iain MacLaren (2018), Open Praxis, 10(2). They define Open Educational Practices (OEP) as the Use/reuse/creation of OER and collaborative, pedagogical practices employing social and participatory technologies for interaction, peer-learning, knowledge creation and sharing, and empowerment of learners. Open Educational Practices.

    Catherine Cronin has also posted References and Links from the presentation in an open Google document.

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    A European Framework for Quality and Effective Apprenticeships

    May 24th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

    buildingengineerA European Framework for Quality and Effective Apprenticeships (2018/C 153/01) has been published in the Official Journal of the European Union. The Recommendation aims at increasing the employability and personal development of apprentices and contributing towards a highly skilled and qualified workforce responsive to labour market needs. Quality apprenticeships, the EU says, also help encourage active citizenship and social inclusion by integrating people of different social backgrounds into the labour market. The framework sets out 14 criteria in relation to working and learning conditions as well as to framework conditions aimed at providing a common understanding among Member States and supporting their efforts to reform and modernise apprenticeship systems that provide an excellent learning and career pathway.

    Apprenticeships are understood as formal vocational education and training schemes that

    a) combine learning in education or training institutions with substantial work-based learning in companies and other workplaces,
    b) lead to nationally recognised qualifications,
    c) are based on an agreement defining the rights and obligations of the apprentice, the employer and, where appropriate, the vocational education and training institution, and
    d) with the apprentice being paid or otherwise compensated for the workbased component.

    The Framework sets out the following criteria for living and working conditions:
    1. Written agreement
    Before the start of the apprenticeship a written agreement should be concluded to define the rights and obligations of the apprentice, the employer, and where appropriate the vocational education and training institution, related to learning and working conditions.

    2. Learning outcomes
    The delivery of a set of comprehensive learning outcomes defined in accordance with national legislation should be agreed by the employers and vocational education and training institutions and, where appropriate, trade unions. This should ensure a balance between job-specific skills, knowledge and key competences for lifelong learning supporting both the personal development and lifelong career opportunities of the apprentices with a view to adapt to changing career patterns.

    3. Pedagogical support
    In-company trainers should be designated and tasked to cooperate closely with vocational education and training institutions and teachers to provide guidance to apprentices and to ensure mutual and regular feed-back. Teachers, trainers and mentors, specially in micro-, small and medium-sized companies, should be supported to update their skills, knowledge and competences in order to train apprentices according to the latest teaching and training methods and labour market needs.

    4.Workplace component
    A substantial part of the apprenticeship, meaning at least half of it, should be carried out in the workplace with, where possible, the opportunity to undertake a part of the workplace experience abroad. Taking into account the diversity of national schemes, the aim is to progress gradually towards that share of the apprenticeship being workplace learning.

    5. Pay and/or compensation
    Apprentices should be paid or otherwise compensated, in line with national or sectoral requirements or collective agreements where they exist, and taking into account arrangements on cost-sharing between employers and public authorities.

    6. Social protection
    Apprentices should be entitled to social protection, including necessary insurance in line with national legislation.

    7. Work, health and safety conditions
    The host workplace should comply with relevant rules and regulations on working conditions, in particular health and safety legislation.

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    Issues in developing apprenticeship programmes: UK and Spain

    May 22nd, 2018 by Graham Attwell

    soundtechAfter years of running down apprenticeship schemes through a policy focus on mass university education, the UK, in common with other European countries, has in the past few years turned back to apprenticeship both as a strategy for providing the skills needed in the changing economy and as a way of overcoming youth unemployment especially or those with low school attainment.

    The turn to apprenticeship has gone through a number of phases. In its earliest incarnation there was a tendency to just label any vocational work based programme as an apprenticeship. This did nothing for the reputation of apprenticeships either with young people or with employers and there was widespread criticism of the quality of many of the courses on offer.

    Two years ago, the government undertook yet another shakeup of the apprenticeship programme, introducing a training levy for large companies and placing a focus on higher level apprenticeships including degree programmes.

    Yet this reform has also run into problems. Despite setting a target of three million new apprenticeships by 2020, there was a near 27% fall in the number taking up trainee posts in the last quarter of 2017.

    The number starting apprenticeships dropped to 114,000 between August and October, down from 155,700 in the same period in 2016. That followed a 59% drop in the previous three months after the introduction of the apprenticeship levy in April last year.

    The biggest drop came in “intermediate” apprenticeships, the basic level, which dropped 38% to 52,000. The highest level of apprenticeships – known as degree apprenticeships – rose nearly 27% to 11,600. Schemes for adult apprentices were worse affected than for those young people, falling by just over 30% compared with 20%.

    Last week, the UK House of Commons Education Select Committee heard evidence from the Further Education minister Anne Milton, the quality inspectorate Ofsted, the Institute for Apprenticeships and the Education and Skills Funding Agency on the quality of apprenticeships and skills training.

    What seems remarkable from the TES report on the issues emerging from the meeting is how much they parallel problems in other European countries attempting to develop new apprenticeship systems, such as Italy and Spain. Indeed, nearly all of the issues also emerged in our study on apprenticeship in Valencia, Spain, all be it in different forms. This first article provides a quick summary of some of the issues raised at the House of Commons, together with a look at their resonance in Spain. In later posts I will look at some of the issues separately, particularly in reference to developments in the Dual System in Germany.

    Higher level apprenticeships

    According to the TES, high up the agenda were degree apprenticeships. While degree apprenticeships may raise the prestige of apprenticeship funding, this does little for the lower skilled young people looking for what in the UK are called intermediate level qualifications. Similarly, in Spain the new FP Dual apprenticeship programme has gained biggest traction at a higher apprenticeship level, demanding good school examination results for entry.

    Despite the fact that Spain has a decentralised regional system for approving new apprenticeship programmes and the UK operates a national system, in both countries there seems to be significant issues around the level of bureaucracy in getting approval for new programmes and for the management of programmes.

    Judging quality

    In both countries too, the quality of apprenticeship programmes appears to be variable. Paul Joyce, deputy director for FE and skills at Ofsted, said there was a “very mixed picture” in terms of the quality of apprenticeships, adding: “It is certainly not a universally positive picture in terms of quality.” He said that of those providers inspected so far this year, “round about half are ‘requiring improvement’ or are ‘inadequate’, so it’s a very mixed bag”.

    In Spain with no inspection system and few attempts at any systematic evaluation it is difficult to judge quality. Anecdotal evidence suggest also a “very mixed picture” in part due to the lack of training for trainers.

    The role of Small and Medium Enterprises

    The House of Commons Select Committee heard from Keith Smith, director of apprenticeships at the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), who said there was an aspiration to give employers more control in the system.

    He added: “For small businesses, we need to be really careful we provide them with the right support and infrastructure to do that. They’re not the same as big levy-paying employers, they don’t have the same back-office support.

    “We’re trying to design this very much with micro-businesses in mind. So, if it works for micro-businesses, it will work for all small businesses.”

    Despite that, there would appear to be little take up from small businesses at present, possibly due to lack of knowledge about the new system, or because of the bureaucracy involved.

    Similarly in Spain, there is limited take up by small businesses, Whilst in reality vocational schools are in charge of the system, the curriculum for apprenticeship programmes is developed in partnership between the schools and the companies.

    More support needed for disadvantaged

    Apprenticeships and skills minister Ms Milton said she will do what she can to break down barriers for disadvanataged people, including lobbying other ministers on issues such as travel discounts, an apprentice premium and the benefits system. After education secretary Damian Hinds yesterday refused to commit to the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge of transport subsidies for apprentices, Ms Milton was also coy on the issue.

    In Spain there is continuing confusion over support for apprentices. With the adoption of the FP Dual system largely in the control of the regional governments, different regions have different policies, some stipulating pay for apprentices, some of training allowance and others not. Similarly, in some regions transport is paid and in others not. Sometimes it depends on agreements between individual employers and vocational schools.

     

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    Academic Archers: abstract for the 2019 conference

    May 18th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

    Archers Logo Wheat Colour Long.jpgFor years, Jenny Hughes and I have been promising ourselves to submit a paper for the Academic Archers Conference. And this year we have finally got our act together. You can read the short abstract below. But first, for non UK readers what is the Archers? According to Wikipedia:

    The Archers is the world’s longest-running radio soap opera. The British production, which has aired over 18,600 episodes, is broadcast on Radio 4, the BBC‘s main spoken-word channel. Originally billed as an everyday story of country folk, it is now described as a contemporary drama in a rural setting.

    Five pilot episodes were aired in 1950 and the first episode was broadcast nationally on 1 January 1951. A significant show in British popular culture, and with over five million listeners, it is Radio 4’s most listened-to non-news programme. With over one million listeners via the internet, the programme holds the record for BBC Radio online listening figures.

    The Academic Archers is an experimental form of academic community with The Archers as a lens through which wider issues can be explored. The web site (which includes videos from the 2018 conference) explains: “As a community we share our knowledge of the programme, our research interests, and a lot of laughs, creating the academic field if you will, of Ambridgeology. In all that we do, are values are to be ‘curious, generous and joyful’.”

    And so on to our abstract:

    Education and careers in the Archers viewed through the lens of gender and class

    The paper will explore attitudes to education and educational participation and achievement in The Archers through the lens of gender and class.

    There has never been a teacher in the cast of the Archers. The nearest is Jim, but as a retired Classics professor, he is something of a parody. Does the Archers have a problem with education?

    Attitudes to education and to the choice of future career are largely determined by class. There’s the split between the cathedral school and the state school. Shula and Elizabeth’s kids attend the Cathedral school, the Brookfield children the other. Ruari is so precious he is a boarder – too good for the Cathedral school?

    Higher education remains a relative rarity in Ambridge. Phoebe, Alice and Pip are the exceptions, although the Fairbrother’s rugby playing background suggests they too may have attended university. Apprenticeships are for the less academically able, such as Johnny.

    Parental background largely accounts for choice of career. Few offspring have flown the nest to a completely new occupation. Indeed, it is notable that Ambridge still lacks a single person working in Information Technology.

    And what of children with SLD? The only child with Down’s Syndrome was ‘removed’ from Ambridge to the big city to better meet her educational needs despite educational policy promoting integration in local, mainstream schools?

    The question is to what extent The Archers reflects changing attitudes to education in rural areas of the UK and continuing divisions through class and gender?

    About the authors

    Both Jenny Hughes and Graham Attwell are lifelong Archers listeners. They work for Pontydysgu, an educational research organisation based in Pontypridd. Their research includes the training of teachers, the use of technology in the classroom and careers education.

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    Coding for the young (and not so young)

    May 16th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

    It is encouraging to see more courses being developed for young people to learn to code. The latest comes from the Technical University of Graz who are s starting a MOOC about coding with kids (in English) using Pocket Code in June.

    The course is designed for children and young people (age group 10-14 years) as well as teachers of all subjects. The main content includes creating your own games, interactive animations and apps with Pocket Code. At first, the structure and functionality of the app get presented. The participants learn how to use basic programming concepts such as conditionals, variables, events or parallelism. It is up to the children whether they take the course on their own or together with their parents.

    Free registration is now open.

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    Coming soon – Pontydysgu.eu

    May 15th, 2018 by Graham Attwell

    We are well under way redesigning the Pontydysgu website. It is not so easy.

    According to the archive the present site was launched in September, 2006. The WordPress site superseded on an older blog, the Wales Wide Web which was based on Plone and was itself three years old. We managed at that time to manually download at least some of the old post and reload them to the new WordPress site. WordPress was very different in 2006. It was still primarily a blogging site and to create a more magazine look, we had to manually code the different pages using post categories. According to the dashboard there are now 2330 posts, 93 pages and goodness knows how many links and images as well as multimedia files hosted on Pontdysgu.org. And Akismet claims it “has protected your site from 1,509,125 spam comments already”!

    For the new site, we have chosen to use the WordPress Sense theme, preserving the magazine look. Sense seems more of a framework than a theme, with huge amount of functionality, which we are trying to get our heads around. We have designed on paper a new structure fr the site which will hopefully make it easier to find things. Once we have the menus in place we can begin the process of migrating old content to the site. Although WordPress supports XML export and input that does not really solve the problem. As I said before we used categories or allocating posts to different pages. But was also used categories as well categories. And there are now over 120 of them. There is a plugin to convert categories to tags, which is what the non-navigational categories more properly are. But we still somehow have to try at least semi automatically to get the old content onto the new navigation structures.

    We also need to move the attachments and pictures over to the new site. And I guess we should take the opportunity to check for broken links and try to repair the. I am betting there will be a lot by now – many of which will be due to sites no longer existing.

    Of course some of our plugins have aged over time. Our podcasts are supported by Podpress which no longer seems to be supported. So all those will need moving to a more modern plugin.

    And so it goes on. We don’t have a release date yet, but I would like to get something up and running in the early summer. We will keep you updated with progress and will shout for help if we get stuck!

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