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As featured on Radio 4 Moneybox Live Saturday 11 May 2019. 

Tenants in social housing will be able to personalise their payment of rent and reduce their need to borrow at common financial pinch points in the year, such as over the school holidays or at Christmas.

Following housing association Optivo’s successful pilot to prove the ‘Rent-flex’ concept, the Centre for Responsible Credit (CfRC) is expanding the scheme.

The extension of the Rent-flex project is financially supported by JPMorgan Chase Foundation and will allow trials to take place involving more than 1,000 social housing tenants over the next two years. CfRC is a dedicated research and policy unit established in 2010 and hosted within Learning and Work Institute.

CfRC Director Damon Gibbons said:

“Rent-flex provides social housing tenants with support to plan for the year ahead and flex their rent payments in line with their anticipated cash-flow.  The results from our pilot have been very good, and the scheme has an extremely positive impact on the financial health of tenants.

Funding from JPMorgan Chase Foundation will help us take Rent-flex to the next level: testing it with over 1,000 tenants and building a model which could support its future roll-out across the sector.”

The trials will build on an earlier pilot conducted with Optivo Housing Association, which was funded by the Money Advice and Pensions Service.  This demonstrated that Rent-flex can help tenants:

  • Smooth out cash-flow and reduce the need to use credit;
  • Pay down existing debt, including high cost payday loans and money owed to door to door lenders; and
  • Pay for essential household items including white goods, children’s beds, and furniture.

Paul Hackett, chief executive at Optivo, said:

“Optivo are proud to have been able to be the first Housing Association in the UK to trial this innovative approach. We are keen to support residents in as many ways as possible. We’re delighted with the outcomes and money confidence skills our residents gained when having a flexible rent approach. Optivo are pleased to be partnering with CFRC to extend this offer to even more residents.”

Tenants in the pilot reported a wide range of positive impacts including healthier diets, warmer homes and less stress and anxiety about money.

Rent-flex also helped the landlord and tenant relationship by building trust and improving levels of engagement with tenants in financial difficulty.

Sarah Porretta, Strategy and Insights Director at the Money and Pensions Service, said:

“Nearly two thirds of the UK population are financially struggling or are squeezed by money pressures. As a result, they feel less confident about budgeting for their personal expenses or household bills.

“It is crucial that people are empowered to manage their rent commitments with confidence, helping set them on the path to financial wellbeing. The Rent-flex pilot shows that a personalised schedule of rent payments – allowing people to under and overpay on their rent at different points in the year – can be beneficial for tenants and landlords alike. There is potential here to make real positive changes for how the housing sector works with its tenants, and we are pleased to see the research continues to receive funding and support.”

Notes to Editors

  1. For further information/interviews contact Damon Gibbons on 07961 869473.
  2. The Centre for Responsible Credit (‘CfRC’) is a dedicated research and policy unit established in 2010 and currently hosted within Learning and Work Institute.  CfRC monitors the development of credit markets; conducts research into the extent of over-indebtedness, the effectiveness of regulation and the impacts of financial health programmes and financial services provision, and promotes policy and service responses designed to protect the long term interests of households and sustainable economic growth. For further information see responsible-credit.org.uk
  3. The initial pilot with Optivo Housing Association involved 59 low income families who were either in rent arrears, or who had a recent history of rent payment problems.
  • Most tenants used the scheme to help with the cost of buying presents for their children at Christmas; paying for extra heating during winter; to help cope with the extra costs of looking after children during the school holidays or to buy school uniforms.  This helped many to avoid borrowing at these times.  Other tenants used the scheme to enable them to pay off existing debts, including payday loans and door to door lenders or to buy essential household items, including fridge-freezers, beds, and furniture.
  • A third of tenants improved their rent payment performance as a direct result of the scheme. These tenants typically reduced their rent arrears from around £200 to under £10 over the year.
  • Tenants who continued to face significant income shocks over the year and to struggle with rent payments also found the scheme helpful, and their relationship with their landlord was improved.
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A joint project between the Bell Foundation, Learning and Work Institute and De Montfort University has been announced as a finalist in the British Council’s ELTons awards for its innovation in English language teaching.

The ‘Improving Language, Improving Lives’ ESOL tutor resource pack is shortlisted in the local innovation category and its creators will find out if its been selected as a winner at an awards ceremony on Monday 10 June.

The resource is designed for use with learners who are in prison, or who have had recent experience of the criminal justice system. It is based on the established principles of Learning and Work Institute’s ‘citizens’ curriculum’ for adult basic skills, which promotes flexible, locally-led programmes of learning that are co-created with learners and cover language and literacy skills, interlinked with wider life skills and capabilities.

Alex Stevenson, head of English, maths and ESOL at Learning and Work Institute commented:
“English language provision for prisoners has received little focus in terms of the professional development support provided to English language teaching professionals working in prison education. The ‘Improving Language, Improving Lives’ project aims to address this.

“Many practitioners report struggling to access relevant professional development, and a dearth of high-quality teaching materials relevant for use in prisons and secure settings. This resource pack is the first publicly available resource of its kind, offering classroom materials and a framework supporting sound teaching and learning principles and curriculum development.

“The resources can be used to support accredited learning leading to ESOL qualifications, as well as in non-accredited provision. Each unit includes a set of tutor notes which provide a suggested approach, stimulus materials, ideas for differentiation, learner involvement, and extension activities.”

Winners of the 17th British Council ELTons Awards for Innovation in English Language Teaching will be announced at the award ceremony in central London on Monday 10 June 2019. Find out more or watch the live webcast here.

Find out more about the programme here.

Download the resource from the Bell Foundation website.

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Learning and Work Institute has announced its shortlisted Festival of Learning award nominees for 2019. The shortlisted nominees are:

Alex Thomas, City Lit

Ashleigh Emmason, Bolton College

Charlotte Curran, Lancashire Adult Learning

Construction Skills Training Programme, St Mungo’s

Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Dace Mikisite, City Lit

Diana Omokore, De Montfort University

Emma Searle, Petroc

Fiona Pickett, City Lit

Janette Lindsey, Adult Learning and Skills Service (Hammersmith and Fulham)

Julie Redpath, East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Karl Sawyer, University of East London

Keoghs Law Firm

Linda Slasor, Unison

Marie Smith, Adult Education Wolverhampton

Martin Merritt, Unison

Michael Shakil, Kingston University

Nurturing Recovery – supporting vulnerable adults into education and employment through horticulture, Bridgwater and Taunton College

Olga Ruda, Oldham Lifelong Learning Service

Paul McKivett, Haringey Adult Learning Service

Peter Shukie, Blackburn College

Rob Darlington, Corndel Ltd

Robert Gaunt, Derbyshire Adult Community Education Service

Sadie O’Hara, Worcestershire County Council

Seong Ngoh Chua, Adult Education Wolverhampton

Stuart Ferris, Oldham Lifelong Learning Service

Sylvia Rowbottom, City Lit

Tia Whelan, Leicester College

Trant Engineering Ltd

Vicky Seagars, Community Learning and Skills (Kent Adult Education)

Voicebox Cafes, Good Things Foundation

Stephen Evans, chief executive at Learning and Work Institute said:

“Festival of Learning award winner stories highlight the many and varied benefits of learning for individuals, communities and businesses.

They also showcase the breadth of learning opportunities available to everyone which can help increase skills, support recovery from health conditions, improve self-confidence, and increase community engagement.”

The Festival of Learning national selection panel, which includes representatives from the Department for Education, NOCN, the Education and Training Foundation, the WEA, Skills and Education Group, City Lit, the Association of Colleges, AELP, Holex and the TUC, will choose the winners on Tuesday 26 March. Winners and finalists will be announced at an awards ceremony on 2 July in London.

Festival of Learning award winners and their nominators will be notified by telephone between 27 March and 19 April 2019.

Nominators of nominees that have not been selected as winners will be contacted by email in April, and will be sent certificates of achievement to present to their nominees in May.

For more information, contact Festival of Learning team fol@learningandwork.org.uk or 0116 204 4239

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Along with Policy Connect and the Skills Commission, Learning and Work Institute have launched a collaborative inquiry into the Further Education and skills system in England. The inquiry, grant funded by the Further Education Trust for Leadership, aims to create a vision for the skills system by looking at what structures we need to respond to local and national needs and how to futureproof this.

The project was scoped on the basis that the FE and skills system has seen significant policy reform over recent decades, but we need to know what needs to improve for the development of an overarching vision which will join everything together in a coherent way. This inquiry draws inspiration from Skills Commission’s Guide to the Skills System and the lack of joined-up systems thinking in policy change over the past decades in the FE and skills sector.

Receiving relatively less attention and funding than other parts of the education system, skills has suffered with initiatives often designed and implemented without taking into consideration how they fit into the wider ecosystem.

Therefore, this inquiry will explore what a skills system, which is responsive to local needs and future social and economic priorities such as the local Industrial Strategies and the devolution agenda, could look like and how it can be developed.

The project is generously supported by the Further Education Trust for Leadership and has engaged a high-calibre steering group from across the sector.

The Future of the Skills System call for evidence was released on 13th March, and is accessible here and on the Skills Commission website.

For further information or any queries about the project, please contact Dr Fiona Aldridge.

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Learning and skills play a central role in driving economic growth, promoting social justice and supporting inclusive communities. However, the UK’s skills base has long lagged that of comparator countries and over the last decade the rate of improvement in the UK’s skills base has stalled. This is the result of cuts in public funding for adult skills, alongside falling employer investment in skills.

Learning and Work Institute’s report 2030 vision: Skills for economic growth and social justice shows that as a result the UK is likely to fall further back in the international league tables by 2030.

The skills profile will improve on current trends – with the proportion of adults qualified below GCSE-equivalent level falling from 26% to 21% and the proportion of adults qualified at least to degree level rising from 38% to 43%.

But other countries are improving too, meaning the UK is poised to:

  • Fall from 4th to 6th of the G7 countries for low skills;
  • Remain 5th for intermediate qualifications; and
  • Remain 4th for higher qualifications

This will hold back economic growth and social justice and runs the risk of the UK going backwards whilst other countries go forwards. This is ever more important for the UK’s future prosperity as it leaves the EU.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of Learning and Work Institute said:
“The Great Recession has been followed by a Great Stagnation in economic growth, holding back living standards and limiting the money available for public services. This is neither inevitable nor unavoidable. Seismic shifts in the global economy, driven by advances in technology, create huge opportunities. Making the most of them will require a world class skills base.”

Learning and Work Institute has set out a higher ambition for the UK which would involve making sure more people have functional literacy and numeracy and intermediate qualifications.

This means an extra:

  • 3 million people to improve functional literacy and numeracy by 2030
  • 9 million people to achieve level 2 (GCSE equivalent) qualifications
  • 8 million to achieve level 3 (A Level equivalent) qualifications.

This would boost our economy by £20 billion per year and help another 200k people into work. It would require extra investment of £1.9 billion per year and reversing the falls in the number of adults improving their skills each year seen since 2010.

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges said:
“This report by Learning and Work Institute sets out a compelling case for investing more in our people. The economic and social returns from modest increases in government and employer investment in education and skills for adults is clear and impressive. With a spending review imminent and employers more acutely aware of recruitment difficulties than ever, this report is very timely. I hope that the Chancellor and the CBI as well as others take heed.”

In the report, Learning and Work Institute identify that the UK faces a perfect storm of declines in skills training across the board:

  • UK employer investment has fallen and per worker is half the EU average; and £5.1bn less in real terms than ten years ago
  • Public investment is down – total funding for adult learning has been cut by 45% in real term since 2009-10
  • Participation in adult learning is falling – L&W surveys show 36% of adults learning in the last 3 years – the lowest participation rate in 20 years

Robert Halfon MP, chair of the Education Select Committee said:
“Education is a ladder of opportunity that should give everyone, no matter what their background, the chance to climb to the jobs, security and prosperity waiting for them at the top. Skills, apprenticeships, and adult education are vital rungs on this ladder. Yet, around nine million of all working aged adults in England have low basic skills and over a third of workers in England do not hold suitable qualifications for the jobs they do.

“This skills problem is a social justice issue. Our most disadvantaged individuals pay the highest price for low skills but also have the most to gain from up-skilling their way out of deprivation. I am very grateful to Learning and Work Institute for their longstanding commitment to achieve social justice through education, and I am pleased to support them with the launch of their 2030 Skills Vision report.”

Cllr Sir Richard Leese, chair of the Local Government Association’s City Regions Board said:

“This timely report highlights how vital it is that we provide opportunities to increase skills levels and help adults retrain and upskill so we can drive up productivity and start to close local skills gaps. Councils and combined authorities play an important role in their communities, working with local and national partners, to both stimulate and meet demand for skills development, through targeted engagement and delivery of a relevant, flexible, local offer.

Ensuring the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) and the forthcoming Local Industrial Strategies are adequately resourced, have sufficient devolution and local commissioning, and an ability to target provision to support inclusive growth and productivity will be critical to achieving this goal.”

For more information or interview opportunities please contact Sarah Horner, head of policy and communications: sarah.horner@learningandwork.org.uk or 07919 325839.

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Following the release of the National Audit Office statement on the apprenticeships programme, Stephen Evans, chief executive, Learning and Work Institute, said:

“The best apprenticeships are world-leading, but the National Audit Office is right to raise concerns. That includes the need to measure the long-term impact of apprenticeships on careers and productivity. Learning and Work Institute has called for all apprenticeship standards to be benchmarked against the world’s best.

The NAO rightly flags the risk that, after a slow start, the apprenticeship budget might be overspent. We need action to ensure funding for SMEs and for young people. It was never the intention of the Levy for young people entering the jobs market to miss out, with an increasing portion of the budget spent on existing employees aged over 25, including for management training. There must be room for both young and older to undertake apprenticeships at all levels and an appropriate contribution for each from employers and the government.

Our central focus should be quality and access. Many of the apprenticeship reforms have headed in the right direction. But we must now heed the warning signs and take further action to build a world class apprenticeship system.”

Dr Fiona Aldridge, director for policy and research was interviewed on BBC Radio 4 Today and BBC Radio Five Live Wednesday morning.

For further interviews from Fiona, Stephen or our deputy director for policy and research Joe Dromey, please contact press@learningandwork.org.uk.

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There’s nothing more likely to provoke debate amongst ESOL practitioners than ‘pre-Entry’ ESOL.  It’s challenging even to agree what classes at the very beginning of learning English should be called.  Some object that ‘pre-Entry’ refers to the curriculum for people with learning difficulties and disabilities, and has nothing to do with ESOL.  Others prefer ‘working towards Entry 1’, reflecting that learning needs often described as pre-Entry are catered for within the Entry Level 1 ESOL curriculum.

In immigration policy, pre-Entry courses might refer to language provision before someone arrives in the UK.  Or if you work in a Job Centre, pre-Entry might be the period before someone is ready to enter the labour market – hence the the somewhat confusing term ‘pre-ESOL’ sometimes used in this setting.  At a college that I worked at, we rebranded pre-Entry ESOL as ‘ESOL starter’, as something that would be reasonably accurate, avoid negative connotations and be easily understood by learners.  But whilst college systems, timetables and course codes were easy enough to update, the ‘pre-Entry’ label still stuck.

This might be an interesting side-debate for ESOL practitioners, but the evidence is that we need to do more to develop provision that meets the needs of learners at this level, and to support practitioners who are teaching learners taking those all important first steps in learning English – and for some, first steps in formal learning of any kind.

In its work mapping ESOL provision in London, and as regional ESOL co-ordinator for the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme in the South East and West Midlands regions, L&W is aware that in many areas of the country, there is growing demand for ESOL provision at the lower levels, with unmet need for pre-Entry level provision a frequently raised issue.  This reflects the learning needs not just of refugees resettled under the VPRS, but also others within the ESOL cohort.

And that means we need to do more to support providers, practitioners delivering ‘pre-Entry’ ESOL, and others working with learners in non-teaching roles, such as conversation buddies or mentors.

For providers, this can mean busting a few myths – for example, that there’s no funding for pre-Entry ESOL.  It’s crucial that senior decision makers are fully aware of local ESOL needs and the ways in which they can respond within Adult Education Budget funded ESOL.

Practitioners too need more support. One of the greatest myths about pre-Entry ESOL is that ‘it’s just a, b, c – anyone can teach that’.  But as any experienced ESOL teacher or manager will confirm, this level requires the most highly skilled staff, to build a firm foundation with learners that supports them to progress in English.  Simplifying difficult linguistic concepts to teach at this level – particularly as bi- or multilingual support is often not available or practical – takes real expertise.

That’s why it’s timely that a new package of support is being developed.  Commissioned and funded by the Education and Training Foundation, L&W has partnered with Learning Unlimited to develop new materials to support providers and practitioners with pre-Entry ESOL.  The resources will include effective practice guidelines, learner profiles and a new set of teaching and learning materials for pre-Entry ESOL.

Get involved in the development by completing a short survey before Friday 18 January. For more information, please contact Alex Stevenson, head of English, maths and ESOL.
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ESOL practitioners and others working to support ESOL learners at pre-Entry and Entry Level 1 are set to benefit from a new project commissioned and funded by the Education and Training Foundation.  Delivered by Learning and Work Institute in partnership with Learning Unlimited, the package of support includes:

  • New materials to help identify and profile the needs of ESOL learners
  • Effective practice guidance addressing commonly-encountered challenges when working with ESOL learners at pre-Entry and Entry Level 1
  • New teaching and learning materials for pre-Entry Level ESOL

A research phase engaging learners and practitioners – including teachers, and also other roles supporting language learning, such as teaching assistants, speaking buddies or language mentors – will ensure that the new resources are relevant to different ESOL contexts, including learning in community settings and to support refugee resettlement.

Practitioners will be able to get involved by attending one of a series of focus groups (in person or online), and by providing feedback on draft materials.

To register for activities and to tell us about current challenges you face in working with pre-Entry and Entry Level 1 ESOL learners, please complete a short survey before Friday 18 January.

Details of the online registration for these opportunities will be available soon.

The new support materials are expected to be launched in Spring 2019.

For further information, please contact Alex Stevenson.

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Learning and Work Institute today announced the appointment of new senior staff as it strengthens its team focused on boosting policy and practice in learning, skills and employment.

Two new Deputy Directors of Research and Development have been appointed: Naomi Clayton, currently Policy and Research Manager at Centre for Cities and Deputy Director at the What Works Centre for Local Economic Growth; and Joe Dromey, currently Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Policy Research. Both Naomi and Joe have led extensive and influential programmes of work on learning, skills and employment. They will take up their new roles in early 2019.

The announcement follows the recent appointment of Fiona Aldridge as Learning and Work Institute’s (L&W) Director of Policy and Research, leading its research and development work and team. Fiona was previously Deputy Director at L&W.

Stephen Evans, Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute, said:

“I’m delighted to appoint Fiona, Naomi and Joe. They will each bring a range of strengths, insights and new ideas to our work. Learning, skills and employment are crucial for our future fairness, prosperity and society. These new appointments will further enhance our work to evidence and influence policy and practice.”

Fiona Aldridge said:

“This is an exciting time to be at Learning and Work Institute. Fair access to learning and work are essential in shaping and responding to the challenges of the future – our ambition to tackle inequalities in opportunity are more important than ever. I am delighted to have been appointed to lead our excellent team, and to welcome all that Naomi and Joe will bring to our work.”

Naomi Clayton said:

“I am delighted to be joining this excellent organisation dedicated to finding real solutions to low productivity, inequality and poverty. I look forward to working with the team and partners to build on Learning and Work Institute’s already significant achievements.”

Joe Dromey said:

“Learning and Work Institute do such important work on lifelong learning, decent work, social justice and inclusion. I’ve long admired Learning and Work Institute; it is an organisation with a proud history and a really important future in shaping the debate on employment and skills. I am hugely looking forward to joining their fantastic team and contributing to their work.”

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Today is Carers Rights Day, an important campaign which aims to raise awareness of the needs and rights of carers. This year’s theme, ‘caring for your future’, emphasises the difference that having the right information at the right time can make to a carer’s path in life.

Sadly, our new report shows that too many young people with caring responsibilities do not get the advice and support they need to make informed decisions about their futures.

Instead, caring impacts on young people’s education and employment opportunities in two main ways.

Firstly, it creates a host of practical considerations – such as location, distance from home, number of hours and flexibility – which can limit their choice of learning and work opportunities and often take precedence over their personal interests and ambitions.

Secondly, it can have a strong influence on their career aspirations, with many feeling that a caring profession would fit their skills and experience, and provide them with the flexibility they need in work. While this is not necessarily problematic, jobs in the care sector are often low paid, insecure and offer few opportunities for progression. Many young adult carers tend to ‘fall into’ these roles without having the opportunity to consider any real alternatives.

This highlights the importance of young adult carers having access to good quality, independent careers advice tailored to their needs. Young people involved in our study told us that, when they did receive specialist careers advice, they could see how their caring skills could be transferable and valuable to employers across different sectors. This awareness gave them the confidence to raise their aspirations and pursue different pathways. However, less than half of the young people involved in our research had accessed a formal careers advice session, and only a quarter had discussed their caring role with a careers adviser. This needs to change if we want young adult carers to have access to the same opportunities as their peers.

Young adult carers provide the equivalent of £5.5 billion of care every year, yet in return often experience significant challenges in pursuing their own aspirations in life. Our new report makes an important contribution to an all-too-thin evidence base on the lives and needs of young adult carers. We hope the evidence and recommendations will encourage stakeholders to improve the information, advice and support available to this inspirational group of young people, to help them pursue fulfilling and meaningful careers.

Charlotte Robey-Turner, Learning and Work Institute

Visit our dedicated web page to learn more about our work with young adult carers or sign up to our mailing list below to receive regular updates.

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