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    Learning environments and structures

We know that different learning environments and institutional structures have a significant effect on learners themselves. But there are many discontinuities between school, further education, higher education and the workplace. Perhaps more effective learning contexts and linkages could be created. Such developments would emphasise the need for critically reflexive teachers, tutors and other staff who can support learners’ adaptation to new environments and respond to a diverse range of students.

Learning environments that support deep learning processes are likely to require extensive collaboration between different types of providers, whether schools, colleges or workplaces. Whether collaboration is facilitated or constrained is itself a system-wide issue. To meet the varying needs of pupils and to open a wider range of vocational options to more people, some proposals for reform presuppose a much greater degree of collaboration between schools, colleges and workplaces than we see today. Policy levers, funding and support all need to be in alignment if this ambition is to be achieved. Collaboration is expensive, whilst other policies, and factors such as the existence of performance tables, may act as a spur to competition between schools and colleges.

Issue How to facilitate collaboration between providers in the interests of learners, when the predominant policy driver for the system as a whole is the performance of particular institutions?

Inclusion, equity and social justice

The UK is characterised by relatively low levels of social mobility. Education, particularly during the 14 -19 phase, plays a key role in the allocation of learners to different pathways. These have very different outcomes in terms of learning, the labour market and ultimate life chances. While economic arguments emphasise the importance of developing young people’s knowledge and skills, the educational perspective highlights the central role of personal development.

One current discourse on the relationship between education, training and employment makes great play of economic arguments in relation to the labour market, economic growth and the knowledge society, while at national and European levels there is also an inclusion agenda based on concerns with citizenship, equity and social justice. The interaction between these two discourses is a key issue for education and training in this phase. In addition, a concern for inclusion means acknowledging the key role of the tutor in the nurturing and recovery process required to rebuild the fragile learner identities of some young people. The reengagement of young people is especially challenging where under-achievement is linked to inequalities associated with class, race, gender, ethnicity or disability.


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