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Evaluation of the Scottish union learning fund— Year one (2000-2001)


Evaluation of the Scottish Union Learning Fund - Year 1 (2000-2001)

Chapter seven: contribution to policy development


7.1 The role of the Lifelong Learning Group within the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Department (ELLD) at the Scottish Executive is to promote lifelong learning through policy development and to provide funding for further, adult education and higher education in Scotland. It promotes and supports education and training for people at every stage in life beyond school age.

7.2 A number of new policy initiatives and key policy documents have been developed by the Scottish Executive in recent years most notably:

  • Adult Literacy and Numeracy in Scotland
  • Smart Successful Scotland
  • Futureskills Scotland
  • Scottish University for Industry and learndirect Scotland
  • The Beattie Report
  • Careers Scotland
  • Review of Education for Work and Enterprise.

7.3 Each of these initiatives seeks to develop the workforce of Scotland, promote inclusiveness and retain a high quality and skilled workforce to play a part in the Scottish Economy.

7.4 As part of the evaluation, key stakeholders were invited to comment on the extent to which SULF was contributing to the achievement of policy objectives in Scotland, and the extent to which SULF is contributing to individual organisations objectives.

7.5 In addition, the questionnaire asked project managers to detail the links their projects had with other policy initiatives and where possible provide details of how the projects are contributing to the executive's policy objectives.

7.6 The findings are presented in this section under the following headings:

  • SULF links with policy initiatives
  • SULF contribution to the policy objectives of the Scottish Executive
  • SULF contribution to the objectives of the key stakeholders
  • Strategic Development of SULF.

Sulf links with policy initiatives

7.7 In the first year, SULF projects linked into several policy initiatives, the most notable being learndirect Scotland. Although the Adult Literacy and Numeracy Strategy had not been developed in Year One, SULF projects did consider Literacy and Numeracy within their projects. Several projects indicated they were awaiting the development of the Strategy so they could dovetail it with the project.

7.8 Links to other policy initiatives were identified in the project questionnaires with project managers describing them as presented in Table 7.1. The links to SUfI/learndirect Scotland included SUfI supplying promotional materials, meeting with some of the projects to discuss possible synergies/links and in some cases joint working with the projects, for example in the development of learning centres. In several cases, ILAs were actively promoted by learning representatives. One of the projects indicated links to the "Smart Successful Scotland" policy document in terms of up-skilling their workforce and thus contributing to the policy objectives.

Table 7.1 SULF links with policy initiatives

"An explanation of learndirect Scotland was given at seminars and practical exercises and demonstrations were used on the courses in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. ILAs were also discussed as an additional tool for learning reps to use".

"Link to Scottish Executive CPD for teachers (following McCrone agreement)"

"Informal communications maintained with SUfI and learndirect Scotland".

"Met SUfI to explore possibilities for SCP website".

"SUfI project to develop learning centres in Glasgow and Edinburgh. As the projects developed the SUfI and SULF steering group meetings combined".

"Developmental work to put in place a referral mechanism between learndirect Scotland and SkillsforMedia advice and guidance".

"National Cultural Strategy, Smart Successful Scotland, DCMS/AVITE: Skills for Tomorrow's Media Creative Scotland"

"learndirect Scotland Website - all courses were posted on to the site, with course content, NUJ contacts and course fees and venues".

"The project hoped to work in parallel with the development of the Literacy 2000 programme. The delay and long-term development of this programme has impacted on our ability to develop the learning reps as "spotters, supporters and trainers".

Adult Literacy and Numeracy

7.9 In June 2000, the (then) Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning, Henry McLeish, launched the Adult Literacy Team with the following message:

" We are working in the Scottish Executive to build a modern Scotland where everyone can lead fulfilling lives and enrich our society as active citizens in their own communities. Raising literacy and numeracy levels is crucial to achieving that vision. Improving literacy and numeracy skills also strengthens individuals' own employment prospects, and enhances the competitiveness of the Scottish economy. The ability to read and understand material on page and on screen, to write effectively and to work with numbers, has never been more important than it is today. It affects us as individuals, family members, as learners, citizens and as workers" SEELLD website.

7.10 The Adult Literacy Team have consulted widely and formulated a strategy for tackling adult literacy and numeracy in Scotland. The strategy or "solution" as it is known in the report, includes a series of recommendations relating to the provision and delivery of literacy and numeracy in Scotland. One of the recommendations is that the Scottish Executive should develop guidance on literacy and numeracy for other national organisations that have a stake in the development of adult literacy and numeracy.

7.11 It is to be commended that a number of SULF projects acknowledged the importance of adult literacy and numeracy (particularly since the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy had not been developed when SULF round one projects were running) and are awaiting the development of the strategy to link it into their programmes. In one of the projects, the provider is awaiting the development of the strategy to build an element of literacy and numeracy into their programme.

7.12 In round one, 5 projects indicated support for literacy and numeracy learners in their questionnaires. Two of the projects reported on the proportion of their learners with literacy and numeracy needs. These projects indicated that on average approximately a fifth of their learners had literacy and numeracy needs.

7.13 The kinds of activity undertaken in relation to literacy and numeracy were not specified in the questionnaire returns. In terms of the progress made by the literacy and numeracy learners, only one project provided a response in the questionnaire and it indicated that 100% of the literacy and numeracy learners had improved their skills. This was identified through tutor evaluation/assessment.

7.14 The importance of literacy and numeracy is clearly understood by the majority of the SULF projects and several of the projects have indicated they want to dovetail into this strategy. It is important that the Scottish Executive keeps project managers informed of any developments relating to the strategy and maintains momentum with the SULF project managers.

7.15 The question of whether unions have helped to address literacy and numeracy in Year One is not clear. However, it is clear that several of the unions acknowledged its importance even before the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy was developed. We are aware from activities in England that unions have been able to make significant contributions to literacy and numeracy initiatives. Therefore the Scottish Executive should consider the following:

  • Is SULF an appropriate vehicle for the delivery of Adult Literacy and Numeracy initiatives?
  • Can the unions find easier access to Adult Literacy and Numeracy funds?
  • Should additional funds be "ring fenced" specifically for Literacy and Numeracy objectives and targets?

Sulf contribution to the policy objectives of the scottish executive

7.16 SULF has contributed to Executive's objectives for lifelong learning and fits into the wider policy agenda. SULF projects have increased union members access to ILAs. The LRs were a major source of information on the ILAs and helped learners to access learning opportunities and funds.

7.17 A role of the Scottish Executive's Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Department is to promote and support education and training at every stage in life beyond school age. As such the Executive has established learndirect Scotland, which promotes "anytime, anywhere learning" and increases access to learning. SULF projects have established clear links to SUfI and are working with LRs to promote learndirect Scotland.

7.18 Finally, there is the potential for unions to contribute to the objectives of the Literacy and Numeracy Strategy, as discussed previously.

sulf contribution to the objectives of key stakeholder organisations

7.19 The consultations indicated that the most of the key stakeholders had not had any significant involvement with SULF or SULF projects (see Annex B). Thus, the extent to which SULF is contributing to stakeholder organisation's objectives is limited at this stage. There are examples where SULF could potentially contribute to other stakeholder organisations and stakeholders have indicated an interest in being more involved.

7.20 The main key stakeholder contact was with SUfI, which has established a range of links with the unions and SULF projects, including the distribution of learndirect Scotland materials to LRs, presentations to LRs and representation on the steering groups of one of the projects. In terms of helping SUfI achieve its objectives, SULF has proved a vital channel to promote learndirect Scotland through the network of LRs.

7.21 In order to ensure momentum of SULF and SULF projects and to build union capacity, the Scottish Executive and the STUC should continue to promote the fund at national forums so the messages can potentially be transmitted at a national and local level by the individual organisations to their constituents.

Strategic development of sulf

7.22 The stakeholder consultations identified a number of areas in which SULF had weaknesses. The key criticisms of SULF are presented as quotes in Table 7.2.

Table 7.2 Stakeholders comments on the weaknesses of SULF

"No sustainability built into the system".

"Capacity has not been increased as many of the unions operating the projects already had the capacity".

"Unions are becoming too reliant on public money not sufficiently motivated to put their own money in".

"There needs to be more working on getting the unions and the LECS together and working together. There needs to be a collective agenda".

7.23 Clearly SULF does present some development opportunities. The key challenge will be in engaging LECs to become more involved in the projects in order to ensure sustainability and to develop capacity further.

7.24 The stakeholder consultations indicated that SULF has a number of strengths, which are presented in Table 7.3.

Table 7.3 Stakeholder views on the strengths of SULF

"More unions thinking about learning and the lifelong learning agenda and thinking more strategically".

"Partnership working a key strength".

"For the first time unions have the opportunity to access funds for the benefits of their members and economy and fits with the policy agenda".

"Big impact in terms of adjusting the attitudes to lifelong learning".

"LRs encouraging a culture of lifelong learning among members, who in turn may see a life change and direct economic improvement".

"Programmes of learning offered flexibly in welcoming surroundings".

Key Points

  • SULF projects are linking into, or at least have identified links to policy initiatives - most notably learndirect Scotland
  • A few of the SULF projects are awaiting the development of the Adult Literary and Numeracy strategy in order to integrate it into their projects
  • Stakeholder organisations are generally not involved in SULF or SULF projects, except SUfI. However, the organisations would be interested in becoming involved and the possibility of SULF being promoted or discussed at their conferences.