Bill Scott's blog

Thoughts on learning, sustainability and the link between them

Monthly Archives: December 2010

The Academy Revises its Professional Standards

📥  Comment

The Higher Education Academy has embarked on a process to revise its professional standards framework, last agreed in 2006.   The Academy notes:

Over the past four years, in addition to an emphasis on initial professional development, there have been calls for a stronger focus on continuing professional development and the place of teaching in institutional reward and recognition procedures and structures.  In light of these calls, and following the Browne Report (2010) which confirmed the continuing role of the UKPSF in ensuring that institutional provision "meets a nationally recognised minimum standard" (pg 48), we are undertaking a review of the UKPSF.

The aims of the review are to strengthen the framework ensuring it remains fit for purpose, and to develop appropriate enhancements to the framework (eg. links with reward and recognition processes)

I'm writing about this because sustainability gets a mention.  Actually, rather a significant one as it has been included as one of the 4 professional values.  The details are set out in the UKPSF_Consultation_document_Nov10, and my response to the consultation is here: HEA UKPSF CONSULTATION

The problem is, however, that this has been done in such a jargon-ridden, insider fashion that it can hardly achieve its objective of reaching and influencing all those members of universities who know little (and do less) about sustainability.  Where are the Plain English folk when you need them?


DfE Statement

📥  News and Updates

I'm pleased to see that the DfE's position statement on sustainable schools is now published online.

A personal disappointment is that the work that we did for the DCSF on the evidence for the benefits to young people of sustainable schools, and for EE/ESD more generally, hasn't yet been flagged up alongside the emphasis on energy and water reduction, and somewhat bizarrely, on Tropical Yorkshire.  I understand that this will happen in the New Year.


Watching the Swirling Snow ...

📥  News and Updates

... from the 12th floor of Centre Point on Friday afternoon was only one of the pleasures afforded those of us lucky enough to be at the latest meeting of HEFCE's sustainable development steering group.  This was a workshop rather than a normal committee meeting – and much the better for it.  I can only hope that it was as useful to the Council as it was stimulating.  I obviously speak personally , but feel it is a sentiment shared by others who were there.  This is a forum that brings together HEFCE officers, vice chancellors, estates directors, the NUS, members of university Councils, academics, the business sector, government, and NGOs. The focus was how to renew HEFCE's current SD strategy (running from 2005 – 2015).  The structure and formal of the day helped us release and share creative ideas.  It was certainly good to hear from the Council of its own determination to renew the strategy and give it greater bite, and to work with the sector to help institutions to do what universities are well (and perhaps still uniquely) placed to do – to help society decide how to evolve when faced with existential challenges.


Welcome to another Dr Scott

📥  News and Updates

For an academic parent there surely cannot be a grander occasion than to see one of your children be awarded his PhD.  To the University of Liverpool, then, and the somewhat faded ART Deco splendour of the Philharmonic Hall.  It was a wonderful day that could not be marred even by the Vice Chancellor's woeful speech.  My son's thesis has the best opening line I have ever read, and his research must be at least ten times better than my own modest efforts almost 40 years ago, so who says standards are falling everywhere?

A Council of Despair

📥  New Publications

I am reading a paper from the 3046th (sic) Council of Europe meeting on Education, Youth, Culture and Sport which sets out the Council's yawningly predictable "conclusions" on ESD.   The report "highlights the key role of education as a prerequisite for promoting the behavioural changes and providing all citizens with the key competences needed to achieve sustainable development".   See what I mean?  This mechanistic stuff makes it clear why so many can earn a good living vilifying ESD.  Of course, it says all the right and very worthy things, doing so in that woeful EuroLingo beloved of Insiders across the Continent: it starts by having regard to A, pauses to recognise B, then remembers to emphasise C, pauses again to consider D, and finally gets round to inviting E.

However, it never really makes up it's mind whether it is promoting ESD as yet another adjectival education bent on having an inevitably marginal influence (a sort of Trojan mouse), or whether it's arguing for a fundamental change to education itself.  Either way, in failing to remember to promote 'Climate Change Education', it has missed the latest zeitgeist.  Hard to see why they bothered.


What's Allowed to Count as Citizenship Education?

📥  New Publications

The DfE's School Research News reports today on two school citizenship reports.  The first is  Citizenship Education in England 2001-2010: young people’s practices and prospects for the future: the eighth and final report from the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study. The other is  Young People’s Civic Attitudes and Practices: England’s outcomes from the IEA International Civic and Citizenship Education Study. Both emanate from the NFER.

What strikes me (on a first skim) about both reports is how limited what is to allowed to count as citizenship seems to be.   Take these quotes:
Signing petitions and electing student/ school council members were the most common forms of political participation.
Fund-raising for charities and good causes were the most commonly-reported activity, although, as they got older, there was also a notable increase in the proportions that helped in their local community.
Intentions to vote became stronger as the cohort became older.
[Citizenship Education ... ]
And these:
Pupils in England had comparatively greater knowledge of topics such as civic participation, civic identity and civic society than of civic principles such as freedom, equity and social cohesion
Alongside pupils in other countries, pupils in England had a low level of interest in social and political issues.

Like other pupils across the globe, pupils in England were much more likely to participate within their schools than they were to take part in community activities.

[... Civic Attitudes ...]

Umm.  Lots of scope for development ...


Blog to Blog

📥  News and Updates

My esteemed New Zealand colleague Bronwen Harward has sent me a recent blog about the London student protests on 9th December.  She posed a few questions about how we view young people in the UK today.  Here's my response:

We don't listen to young people much – "seen and not heard" dies slowly despite all the pedagogy.  I wonder what the schools (of all those protesting 14 year olds) are doing about these issues.  My guess is not a lot, if anything, as it is clearly current affairs and falls between the history and citizenship stools.  Anyway, it's "political", isn't it.  They'll probably be helping the police, of course, if the Oxfordshire incident ( reported in the Guardian: ) is typical.  I think it's all really rather pretend-French, and I'm caught between deploring (all the violence) and admiring (the motivation to protest). Mind you, I think that their message is very confused, and I suspect off-putting to other voters.  But so is the government's (though not so off-putting, perhaps).  At heart, this is about how do we, as a society, fund our universities so that the best of them remain / become world-class (international league tables / overseas income / nobel prizes / rich and generous alumni).  No one seems to question that (universal) goal, even though it only really can be an aspiration for 20 (?) institutions.  The rest is about how to divide up the cost. If I were young I'd maybe see it as the baby boomers at it again, scrabbling to haul up the ladders of social mobility before it costs them too much and blights their retirement.  I suspect that the top universities are quietly confident that it will make little difference to applications – what else is there for the brightest young people to do?  They cannot all go to Harvard or Sciences Po.


Tomorrow Today – more like Yesteryear

📥  New Publications

I have been browsing Unesco's latest coffee table book: Tomorrow Today.  This is a heafty tome for which only strong (and rich) coffee tables need apply.  It sells for a cool $125.  However, with one or two exceptions, I thought it rather deja vu – more Yesterday Today than Today Tomorrow.


Big Society 0 – Big Brother 1

📥  News and Updates

Yesterday's Guardian carried a story about a 12 year old schoolboy in the Prime Minister's constituency who has been campaigning against the closure of youth facilities in his town.   The Guardian reports that, on Thursday, he had his collar felt (or heavily breathed on, at least) when an officer from the Thames Valley police visited his school to have a chat.  His offence (actually only the vaguest possibility of an offence at this stage) was to use Face Book to call for a picket of the PM's constituency offices to bring the issue of poor youth facilities to a wider audience.  The school allowed the police to talk to (that is, interview) him on school premises without informing (that is, asking) his parents.  Unsurprisingly, the boy said he found the experience scary.  If you read the Guardian piece you'll see why.

Worth a dozen citizenship lessons, I suppose; but I wonder what he learned.


The World's Worst Questionnaire

📥  News and Updates

I confess that I have had to change my mind about this dubious accolade  which had previously been awarded to Unesco for plumbing new depths of impenetrability.  This was before I saw the latest effort from UNECE in its efforts to persuade governments to report on their  "implementation of the UNECE strategy for education for sustainable development".  So, see ReportingFormat e if you are feeling particularly resilient today.  If your eyes (and brain) don't glaze over within 30 seconds, you're stronger than I am.  How this egregious nonsense was allowed out of UNECE beggars belief.