The draft strategy proposes a number of actions to be taken by the Scottish Government that will support all four priority themes. One of these is the development of a model of collaboration between schools, colleges, universities and employers. This will support cluster working, development of excellent teaching approaches and professional learning, and promote skills and resource sharing. The draft notes the range of existing centre and hub models in the UK and internationally from which learning can be drawn.
Question 16 sought views on the proposal for a model of collaboration, and on how this proposal should be take forward.
Q16. Tell us what you think of our proposal for developing a model of collaboration between schools, colleges, universities and employers. How should we now take this forward?
A total of 151 respondents provided further comment at Question 16, 79% of all respondents. This included 100 group respondents, and 51 individuals.
These comments indicate that the majority of respondents were supportive of the principle of a model of collaboration. Around 3 in 5 of those providing comment made explicit their support for the proposals, and comments from most other respondents implied support for the principle of greater collaboration. This included particular reference to aspects of the proposals which respondents felt would have a positive impact.
A number of those providing comment included reference to the importance of collaboration and coordination of action, discussed earlier in this report in relation to delivery of the strategy at Questions 7 and 8. Respondents suggested that the model should enable collaboration rather than create competition, recognising that multiple small competing interests is not productive. Respondents also referred to a number of existing partnership approaches having demonstrated the value of this approach, and suggested that there is growing recognition of this. At a lower level, respondents also referred to the depth of collaboration activity often on a case-by-case basis - the proposed model was seen as an opportunity to better harness this activity and goodwill to deliver better outcomes.
The importance of bringing together partners from across the full STEM pipeline was also highlighted as a particular strength. This included in relation to sharing of knowledge and (potentially) resources, aligning the education pipeline with skills requirements, and helping to demonstrate the diversity of opportunities available through engagement with STEM. This latter point was highlighted as of particular value to support transitions through schools, further or higher education, and work. Several respondents also saw the model of collaboration as a key opportunity to create more wide ranging and better coordinated approaches to tackling gender inequality.
The majority of those providing further comment at Question 16 raised issues, points for clarification, or suggestions for taking the proposals forward. This included a range of specific suggestions for the process of developing the model, and for the detail of the model itself. However, respondents also raised a range of broader considerations that will need to be addressed by development of the model. These are summarised below.
- The importance that the model is fully funded and resourced was highlighted by range of respondents across respondent types, including reference to the scale of resource used to establish international models such as LUMA. The issue of resourcing was highlighted particularly for the initial establishment of partnerships, with some suggesting that these should become sustainable over time. The potential role of Corporate Social Responsibility contributions from STEM industry was highlighted.
- A small number of respondents noted issues raised by teachers in relation to existing or proposed "LUMA style" approaches, and these included a particular focus on resourcing. Specific issues included lack of time within the curriculum for engagement work, a lack of teaching resources, the need for STEM engagement to complement the wider curriculum, and ensuring that all partners can see the value in collaboration and engagement.
- Resourcing was also raised for national and regional stakeholders, who may be expected to contribute across multiple regional partnerships. This included reference to the broad geographical reach of universities, and some questioned how local or regional partnerships will fit with the international focus of many universities.
- Several respondents suggested that the success of the model will be dependent on ensuring genuine buy-in to the collaborative model. This included reference to the importance of open communication across partners, and all involved recognising the contribution to be made by each partner. The latter point included references to ensuring that all schools within a cluster have an equal opportunity to participate.
- Several respondents suggested a need to consider potential barriers to participation for partnership in rural areas. This included reference to specific resourcing requirements for small schools with limited staff and resources.
- A science engagement respondent suggested that the issue of collaboration is already being considered by the wider Governance Review, and that it may be appropriate to wait for the outcome of the Review.
Some of those providing comment specifically addressed the process of developing and implementing the model of collaboration. This included a particular focus on ensuring that development of the model makes best use of existing structures and experience. This was most commonly raised in relation to ensuring a collaborative approach to developing the model which builds on existing collaboration activity (including reference to specific existing networks that could be used to pilot the approach). Several respondents highlighted the importance that development of the model can draw on the right kinds of knowledge and expertise, including some who recommended input from Innovation Centres to inform the development process. The importance of the collaborative approach was also related to some respondents suggesting that existing examples can miss one or more partners, and that a collaborative approach to development can ensure all are able to contribute.
Several respondents referred to similar models elsewhere in the UK and internationally, and the potential to draw on learning from these. However, it was also noted that some learning points may not be applicable to the Scottish context, dependent on the wider education and social context to assess.
Also related to existing collaborative working, a small number of respondents suggested potential value in mapping the broad range of current activity. These respondents suggested that this kind of exercise can inform development of the model for example by identifying areas of duplication or gaps in provision.
Several respondents suggested that there is a need to specify a clear purpose and set of objectives for the model, and for individual hub/clusters. This included some reference to previous experience having highlighted the importance of a clear objective to activity, and to enable partners to see the value of the model.
A STEM industry respondent noted the importance of implementation proceeding rapidly, reflecting a view that there is a pressing need for the resource.
Finally, respondents raised a range of more specific points on the detail of the model. This included some difference of views on how to balance the regional focus of partnerships, and a nationally coordinated approach. A number of respondents, across various respondent types, agreed with a regional approach to encourage key players to work together and coordinate initiatives with a focus on learner pathways and career choices. This included recommendations that a "bottom-up" approach is needed that recognises that different approaches may be required across the country. However, others noted that there needs to be a consistent national approach to STEM education and training, within which regional approaches can sit. This was highlighted as particularly important in the context of ensuring better connected approaches and minimising duplication. Also in relation to balancing the regional and national view, a science engagement respondent cautioned that the focus on a local or regional STEM industry should not occlude the wider (including international) opportunities that may be available to those engaged with STEM.
In addition to these issues, respondents also made a range of specific recommendations for the model for collaboration:
- The most common points raised by respondents related to existing partnerships or networks that could make a contribution to the model - or potentially for the basis of the model. This included reference to Developing the Young Workforce groups, Scottish Schools Education Research Centre ( SSERC), Science Centres, other centres or hubs with a STEM education focus, the STEM Ambassadors programme, STEM Insight Initiative, and Teacher Education Partnerships.
- Several respondents expressed strong support for improving and expanding engagement with employers - although this included suggestions that work is needed to reach out to employers who are not currently engaged. Specific suggestions included setting up "Peer Networks" to which STEM industry can be invited, and developing clusters where schools and employers can work together. A proposal for an employer portal to support engagement with STEM provision was also suggested.
- Respondents highlighted a range of specific groups who they wished to see included within the scope of the collaborative model. These included means of including pupils and their families early years providers, representative bodies and trade associations, economic development organisations, community learning providers, training providers, and the third sector.
- Several respondents referred to a need to identify lead staff for key partners within each partnership - including for example from each school, university and college, and a leading industry STEM Ambassador.
- The need for physical classroom and laboratory facilities for each partnership was also highlighted - to act as a base for activities delivered through the partnership, and to provide schools with access to facilities that they may not have.
- Several respondents suggested that there is a need for a central online hub and information source to bring together available resources and information on engagement activity. This included a specific proposal for an employer portal to support ease of access to STEM provision.
Email: Frank Creamer