Summary of Evaluation
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1. Aims of the project
The SchoolsOutGlasgow.net project is Glasgow City Council's (GCC) response to the specific learning needs of pupils who do not, or can not, attend schools regularly. Interrupted learning has generally been associated with marked underachievement and a subsequent reduction in life chances, little access to job opportunities and a reduced likelihood of participation in life-long learning initiatives (Dobson, Henthorne & Lynas, 2000). The project, thus, can be seen as a move to ensure equality of opportunity in learning for some of the most vulnerable learners within the present construct of school education. It is, however, only one in a range of support for learning initiatives within the authority.
SchoolsOutGlasgow.net is an online learning project to support a range of learners with significant interruptions to their attendance at school or for whom school based learning has not been viable. It was specifically designed to build on the lessons learned from GCC's involvement in previous ICT projects, such as the Ultrlab, Not.school.net. Building on that project, it aimed to provide a more motivating, relevant and enabling learning experience through a dedicated tutoring team for pupils in outwith school settings. It is 'needs led', responding to a continuum of learning needs, offering novel forms of communication and interaction. It was expected to provide a relatively stress free context for the learners and the tutors, with the freedom to develop new ways of working. In particular it was envisaged that learners would be enabled to take increased responsibility and control of their learning goals. Within this approach the traditional roles of the teacher and learner would become blurred. Cognizant that these young people could become isolated learners, it also aimed to develop a sense of community among the learners, by establishing a group identity and ethos within an on-line environment.
A key issue was how to provide a learning environment that would gain the commitment of the young person and her/his family and would be recognised by them as a valid educational experience.
The project was targeted at five specific groups:
- young people who are absent from school on a medium/long term basis through ill health
- young people who are alienated/school phobic and who are school refusers
- young people who are looked after by the local authority
- young people excluded from school
- pregnant schoolgirls/new mothers.
2. The evaluation
The stated aims of the evaluation, as set by the Scottish Executive, were:
- to assess the impact of the project on the socialisation/isolation of vulnerable and interrupted learners 1
- to identify any differential impact of the project for pupils from the targeted groups and from girls and boys
- to assess the effectiveness of online learning for vulnerable and interrupted learners
- to identify factors which facilitate online learning and those which disrupt online learning.
The research process focused on several stakeholders participating in the project. Data was obtained through written submissions and qualitative interviews with representatives from the Scottish Executive, Glasgow City Council's education department, Learning and Teaching Scotland, ICT technical support staff, tutors working with the learners, the learners and their families. The 16 learners selected for interviews, over parts of two academic sessions, included some from each of the five groupings and achieved a gender balance.
The areas of investigation were:
- the stated roles and remits of the staff, parents and carers
- the degree of clarity of purpose and shared vision within the participants
- the type and quality of interactions between learners and teachers; learners and learners; teachers and teachers; teachers and management
- the role of the learner's family, the relationship between family and tutor and family and management or technical staff
- the notion of a learning centred community (being more than a community of learners)
- the content, relevance and differentiation of the curriculum
- the nature of the behaviours expected and aimed for in the learners
- the cost of this approach relative to other forms of outwith school support for learning.
The research questions focused on:
- dedicated tutor/teacher staff working closely with individual learners
- pupil re-engagement with learning and the curriculum
- individual development through the opportunities afforded by the Internet
- the development and use of an ICT-based curriculum delivery
- the development of virtual learning groups
- the development of a learning centred community
- the formation of face-to-face groups able to offer each other mutual support
- interest in future learning/employment opportunities
- enrichment in access to learning for learners' families.
Aspects of partnerships, finance, leadership, including staff management and professional development, were also investigated with lead partners.
3. The main findings and issues arising for a future rollout model
The lessons learned from the project experience and noted in the evaluation report provide evidence of the range of complex issues involved for a local authority in setting up an on-line learning facility for pupils wholly outwith schools. The main findings are summarised below with cross-referencing made in each section to the relevant Recommendations to be found at the end of this document.
It is important to remember that the project has moved on considerably since the period of the evaluation and Glasgow education officers are better placed to provide up to date information. Some updating is indicated in the short post scripts at the end of some sections.
3.1 Technical aspects
A key aspect of this pilot project was the partnership approach to the provision of all services and in setting the ethos of support and networking. The lead players in the management and running of the project were GCC and Learning and Teaching Scotland (L/TScotland). Their different but complementary strengths provided broad support for the tutors and learners . In hindsight, it was acknowledged that some of the early difficulties for the tutor team were not rapidly resolved due to a lack of flexibility in who manages what and when on a day-to-day basis. This is an aspect which we would signal as likely to recur in any future such project and should be given due consideration at the outset of planning a project.
The pilot phase was characterised by the need to facilitate the provision of hardware and customised software for the varied situations of the learners and their homes. GCC had already a well-established partnership with several companies for the provision and delivery of the Glasgow Schools Network (GSN). The GSN provides a range of services and information to the education department and all the Glasgow secondary schools. Introducing the learners' homes into this tightly constructed and controlled milieu presented a new range of technical challenges. The technical steering team (GCC/EdICT/MITEL/NTL/PLATO) met fortnightly to review progress, including identifying additional hardware and software needs, and resolve problems. These meetings were critical to achieving and maintaining progress. (Recommendation 1)
The project plan and timetable 'slipped' considerably due to problems with connections, in particular
- continuing problems with plug-ins and mail software
- ports being closed on the network
- in achieving connectivity within learners' homes
- multiple passwords for entry into different aspects of the on-line facilities
- learners residing in areas not covered by servers
- telephone providers refusing connections for some families.
All these might have been more easily overcome if a longer period, possibly up to a year, had been possible for planning and trialling, especially before learners came onboard. (Recommendation 2)
The technical support provided on a daily basis by one of the technical partners proved to have been an invaluable contribution to the successes achieved. It is likely that without this 'on tap' key support, the families would not be so positive about their overall experiences, nor would the tutor staff have remained so buoyant. (Recommendation 3)
Underlying many of these problems is the fact that the GSN is combined with GCC's administration and financial network which raised significant security issues for the authority, not least of which was the possibility of computer viruses and worms being introduced through home-based use of the network by the pupils and their families. Extreme vigilance is essential but solutions should be factored into the initial project design and the associated costings. (Recommendation 4)
Difficulties in achieving rapid resolutions to the connectivity problems were attributable in some degree to the lack of appropriate contracts with some of the technical partners for such complex work. (Recommendation 5)
The main difficulty faced by learners was lack of, or intermittent, connectivity. Of those interviewed, a few were never on-line during the evaluation period, most were eventually on-line, although some had intermittent connections. Learners also reported minor technical difficulties as "taking some time to fix". Of the 26 learners who joined the project during its initial phase
- 9 were connected through broadband
- 8 were connected through ADSL
- 2 through dial up facilities, and
- 7 were not connected at any time.
Of the 13 new learners (up to October, 2003) in the second intake,
- 6 were connected through broadband
- 4 through dial up facilities
- 3 were still awaiting connection.
By the end of the second session all learners were connected to the Internet through a variety of means.
3.2 Pedagogical aspects
The tutor team, selected for secondment from within Glasgow schools, comprised three tutors and a team leader . They came from a variety of backgrounds, with different areas of appropriate competences and experience, covering primary, secondary, SEBD, special educational needs, support for learning, ICT, counselling, youth and family group work, etc. Together they presented a well-qualified and capable team able to complement each other and make a positive contribution to the aims of the project. This was especially so in terms of ethos building and motivating those who had poor perceptions of themselves as learners, as was amply confirmed in the interviews with pupils and their families. There was good evidence to indicate that the team regularly deployed their skills as negotiators, motivators and counsellors, showing empathy and respect for the diversity of life circumstances which the learners and their families experienced. As a result, they responded to learners' interests flexibly and were able to imbue learners with confidence in themselves as learners. In particular, problem-solving approaches, partnership skills, flexibility and commitment to the project were all in evidence. (Recommendation 6)
Tutors varied in their levels of experience in using ICT, with only one member of the tutor team having had any previous experience of delivering on-line learning. (Recommendation 7)
The tutor team was housed within a local school that provided access to photocopying and fax facilities and facilitated the ordering of resources. However, the room allocated was not sufficiently large to accommodate the range of hardware required for their day-to-day work. There was only one telephone line in the room which proved inadequate for maintaining regular contact with families when there were multiple connectivity problems. However, the tutors affirmed the value of working closely as a team within the one office, especially for ongoing mutual support. Staff reported a certain degree of isolation from mainstream education. (Recommendation 8)
The tutor team is now integrated within the larger team of teachers supporting pupils with interrupted learning and tutors have access to all the facilities they require.
teaching and learning
L/TScotland staff played a critical role in providing information, training and support to the tutors, in content materials, developing teaching and learning approaches and providing contacts with a wider range of on-line sources and other organisations within the city.
It was understood that the tutors, in order to establish good working relationships with their clients, would have to draw on their extensive skills acquired in previous work with out of school pupils and their families. From the start of the project face-to-face was considered the prime mode of contact between learner and tutor. Some staff reported that this was particularly important for the settling in period with a possible reduction in this until once in three to four weeks would suffice for some individuals, with regular telephone and on-line forms of contact taking over as the main mode of communication.
Although the project was designed to focus on blended learning, which included on-line learning within the learners' homes, supported by tutors, the range of technical difficulties experienced greatly delayed achieving this aim for the majority of learners. The tutors had to adopt a Home Tutor role for longer, physically delivering resources to homes and relying more on telephone contact than had been anticipated. Computer-based learning was augmented with software installed onto the learners' computer hardisks, electronic work sheets delivered by tutors through a flash memory stick, CD-ROMs and paper copies of worksheets. Additional software was commissioned by L/TScotland and the ICT facilities within their Glasgow office made available to teach some learners how to build a web site. Resources were also accessed through the SCETNET series of CDs. As pupils came on-line they moved to full blended learning, as was originally planned. (Recommendation 9)
At the early stages, when accessing suitable alternative resources was a problem, use was made of ECDL packages so that learners could work at their own pace to achieve qualifications. This facility was seen by many learners, particularly those in the first cohort, as the most rewarding aspect of their learning. (Recommendation 10)
Where a pupil was working towards national exams the school was expected to provide computer based subject materials. However, schools were not in a position to provide electronic versions of all the necessary curriculum materials and some of those that they provided within individual schools were not readily accessible via the Internet to pupils in their homes. The tutors visited schools to collect relevant materials and to help draw up the pupils' learning plans with school staff, usually the Learning Support department.
In compensating for the learners' lack of access to Internet sites, the staff spent a considerable amount of time and effort in seeking suitable software and matching these to 5-14 and Standard Grade content. Most published software packages come geared up to the Key Stages in the English National Curriculum. PLATO carried out extensive work for GCC in literacy, maths and PSD curricula.
Good use was made of the facilities available within the Glasgow FE Colleges. Working collaboratively, introductory courses were provided using a mixture of practical and on-line learning with academic content being provided on the virtual learning environment, Blackboard. Subjects covered included Beauty Therapy, Introduction to Personal Presentation, Using Mathematics 1, Human Development and Behaviour and the ECDL examinations. New on-line courses, building on ECDL and a sports qualification, are being devised at pre-vocational level. The socialisation aspect of attendance at these courses was instrumental in creating enthusiasm and incentives to go on to further studies. (Recommendation 11)
By the end of the evaluation process the tutors had developed a database of 300 suitable sites and interactive software with connections within each one to related URLs. Mapping the content of these to school-based curricula has begun but is heavily time-consuming and requires more subject specialist knowledge. GCC has already set up a working group, involving the schools and the Education Development service to progress this. Schools should be encouraged to share their on-line curriculum resources. (Recommendation 12)
The aim of developing virtual learning groups actively engaged as a learning-centred community was not realised within the evaluation period due to the lack of full connectivity for some of the learners for much of that time Some learners reported missing the immediacy of interacting with their peers. To compensate, face-to-face groups were organised for visits and joint projects within the city, such as the Science Centre, Museums, the People's Palace and Careers Scotland. These opportunities were valued for the most part and the experiences enjoyed. Forming informal friendships, however, was not a viable option due to living long distances from each other and with travel being expensive. They said they were happy with their existing friends who lived nearby.
Some learners reported that they did not want to participate in face-to-face groups. This point is significant in that difficulties may arise for some individuals from enforcing such physical interactions, an aspect of education that they had found difficult to manage in the school setting. One learner, described by the tutor as being withdrawn in face-to-face contact, once established online, presented a more open personality, becoming active in the use of the online facilities for social contact. Others were less active in their use of these opportunities or restricted them solely to contact with the tutors. (Recommendation 13)
Significantly, the majority felt that their time on the project had brought them into contact with a range of knowledgeable people who helped them to consider the difficulties that had got in the way of their formal learning. Only one learner reported having got nothing from the project. There were no discernable differences in learning between the specified groups or the sexes, but as numbers were very small no conclusions can be drawn.
Critical to achieving success in this new mode of teaching and learning are well understood and shared aims in what the processes are in on-line learning. They must give pupils the knowledge and support to make informed choices for themselves. This, of course, involves being able to 'stand back' and allow the learner to make mistakes, but be ready to help problem solve further solutions within a no-blame culture. (Recommendation 14)
By the end of the evaluation period, tutors had access to a broader range of on-line learning materials, including materials matched to some school curriculum subjects, and more reliable Internet connectivity. It was at this point in the pilot that its aims became achievable. All staff are convinced that this approach offers a quality educational experience to many learners who have individual learning needs.
Secondary schools were alerted to the project, initially through a flyer but later supported by a face-to-face meeting between headteachers and senior staff from GCC's Education Department.
Year 1: 22 schools referred 90 pupils: some referring between 7 and 10 each
Year 2: 11 schools referred 19 pupils: 10 of those schools were the same as in Year 1.
Not all pupils involved in the pilot phase were on a school roll. Other services, such as Psychological, Social Work and Looked After and Accommodated, also made referrals.
The tutor team was required to make professional judgements about whether a family could cope with the level of intrusion that being on the project would entail, both in terms of the physical space occupied by the computer within the home and of strangers visiting to set things up and sort out problems as they arose. One stakeholder described some learning environments to include many distractors, such as "wains, dugs, goldfish and the telly"; tutors made it clear that they did not want to add another stress into the families' lives. Ultimately, the final decision was made by the tutor team on who would be accepted for participation in the project. While there were some criteria used, particularly for achieving some participants from within each of the specified learner groups and a gender balance, the tutors had a degree of freedom in selecting learners and families with whom the team felt they could achieve some successes. This is an important consideration at the outset of such a project where it is necessary to establish some early successes in practice. (Recommendation 15)
Once selected the family and the pupil had to sign an "Acceptable Use Policy", designed to minimise the risk of learners accessing unsuitable Internet sites or misuse of the equipment. The policy document, devised by GCC, clarified the parameters of the project and the responsibilities of the various participants.
Records of past learning achievements, areas of strengths and weaknesses, preferred learning styles, learning plans, etc., were not available for the majority of pupils referred. Existing records tended to focus on negative behavioural and attitudinal aspects rather than on teaching and learning requirements. It is surprising, given the nature of their past histories of failure to learn, that such pupils did not all have fulsome, readily available learning plans. For some, it is likely that the problem lay more with identifying where the records had last been deposited rather than that none existed. Information held at school level was often more historical than current due to the movement of some pupils within the different support agencies. (Recommendation 16)
Low levels of involvement and support from base schools were reported as the norm from tutors, learners and families. The June 2003 leavers reported that their schools were not interested in helping them to stay on or to bridge the gap to FE provision. It was clear that there were no exit strategies in place for these pupils within their own schools. However, the project did establish such strategies with some significant successes: all of the first cohort were supported into an appropriate range of further opportunities for learning and/or support (see end of section 3.4 below). (Recommendation 17)
Only one member of staff from the schools visited a learner while on the SchoolsOutGlasgow.net project. The tutors had to visit the schools to meet with staff, usually Learning Support, in order to ensure that the work they provided was appropriate for the pupils' levels of abilities. Tutors indicated that they would have welcomed meeting staff who had subject specialist knowledge to help them prepare a broader range of learning experiences. This is an issue which GCC was aware of and has taken steps to overcome. A team of staff with a range of skills and teaching specialisms is better able to meet the broad requirements of the secondary subjects. (Recommendation 18)
The tutor team is now placed within a broader team of support staff, giving ready access to a better range of facilities, including subject specialism support and training.
One supportive school arranged a future needs assessment meeting with the Guidance teacher and had provided an email account for the pupil to keep in touch with school friends. Families, too, played a proactive part in ensuring that links were kept; one reported that the school had maintained good contact despite the very real difficulties that had occurred between the pupil and the staff.
In the first year of the project there was little time to arrange a formal contract with the referring schools. It became a concern during the second session when adequate records and liaison opportunities were not always made available. There is a need for clarity about each school's responsibilities for its pupils, irrespective of where or how learning takes place. There should be no 'handing over' of responsibility because the pupil is learning in another space. (Recommendation 19)
3.4 Learners and families
attitudes and aspirations
It was a testimony to the good relationships established between tutors, learners and families that so many were prepared to take the time to participate in the face-to-face interviews, including parents taking time off work to be present.
All learners on the project had experienced significant interrupted learning and were considered unlikely to benefit from further school-based provision. Actual numbers of pupils involved in each year were
Year 1: 26 pupils, 5 of whom stayed on to Year 2
Year 2: 19* new pupils + the 5 continuing from Year 1
* This seemingly low figure reflects the situation at the close of the evaluation period. There was a continuous enrolment pattern throughout the session as pupils' needs arose. Such flexibility is necessary if the service is to be truly responsive to learners' needs, particularly for pupils with chronic health conditions or pregnant schoolgirls . (Recommendation 20)
The majority of learners reported that they did not want to go back to school. They drew a distinction between formal learning and achievements, and 'being at school'.
Learner: I didn't want to go back there. I told them right off if that was the only way to do it, there was no way I'm getting Standard Grades. I'm not going back.
The overwhelming majority of learners and their family members reported feelings of happiness and relief in response to joining the project. They viewed the project as a way forward to the adult world without a return to school. Their child's success on the project included the hope that it would lead to formal qualifications and future employment opportunities. They valued the project in educational terms, thus the invitation to join improved families' and learners' sense of their own educational worth. It was seen as an opportunity, something to be proud of, with clearly no stigma attached, unlike much of the other support for learning services they had experienced. The 'street cred' of an ICT approach should not be underestimated as a motivational influence.
Their expectations of the project were high (perhaps unrealistically so in some cases) in that they hoped that being on the project would allow them to make up for lost educational ground. Many learners expressed regret at the time already wasted. They showed a keen awareness of the benefits of education and qualifications. Families reported their appreciation of the opportunity the project offered and the support of tutors and a technician. They also made it clear that they viewed the traditional secondary school subjects and qualifications as the gateway to future work opportunities. For the project there was a fine balance in supporting those who could follow school subjects successfully at a distance from the traditional class and the need to encourage breadth and choice in order to motivate and promote independence in some of the more reluctant learners. (Recommendation 21)
All said they were grateful for having another opportunity. The benefits of joining were that their very real concerns about going or not going to school had been removed. This extract illustrates the general feelings expressed:
Learner: I was not doing anything, like any work. Time was passing and I was thinking to myself, 'what am I going to do with my future?', [ pause] then this came along, I was really happy.
Learner: Yeah. My mum was really getting sick of me. I don't blame her 'cause I was really depressed and stuff.
Int: Your mum and dad sound very supportive.
Learner: Yeah they are. I'm lucky to have them.
The project took the view that learners would be expected to work daily on the computer provided within the general living space or a dedicated study if one were available. This was to help ensure that the learner and the family treated the computer facility as a work station rather than a private toy or hobby if placed in a bedroom.
Having the computer within the main body of the family rather than solitary within the learner's bedroom had its drawbacks. The notion of 'defensible space', where one has freedom 'to' and 'from' is an issue that had to be faced, especially within a Looked After and Accommodated situation. Eventually the computer had to be placed within the learner's bedroom in order to have protection from interference from other residents. (Recommendation 22)
There were positive gains from having the computer within the family's living space; it gave opportunities to join in, to support the youngster and to engage with it themselves. Improved relationships between learners and parents were reported, particularly in cases where parents could see the work their children were putting into completing the assignments and passing examinations. The opportunity for parental involvement in a non-threatening environment with supportive staff gave added value.
In cases where connection to the Internet had been relatively successful, evidence emerged of the enrichment of access to learning for learners' families, particularly in cases where a family's income was restricted. Some, including those with no Internet connection, reported that the presence of the computer in their home had enhanced their own interest in learning. (Recommendation 23)
Despite the many delays, the quality of the personal interactions with the tutor team and the technical support staff helped maintain a positive response to the variety of learning opportunities on offer. It is significant that pupils who for the most part had been viewed as 'poor' learners were able to demonstrate through the project's approach an ability to engage with the learning process, often to the surprise of their families.
Mother: Can I say something as well? You know, [name], since [name's] been on this he's a totally different person. He's changed.
Yeah. He's getting up early in the morning, 'cause before, you know, he didnae have anything he could go to .., staying up late at night, go and lie in bed. But see now, see all the…, what a difference!
Personality and even looking better. He's healthier. And he's getting up; normal time's 9 o'clock and going to his bed maybe 11. Whereas before, it was kinda going to sleep during the day, up kinda couple o' hours…
Most learners at the beginning of the project had relatively little competence in using computers other than for playing games and accessing favourite sites on the Internet. An initial period of familiarisation was necessary with several undertaking units of the European Computer Driving License (ECDL) and some going on to acquire full certification through an FE College. These successes led to some being motivated to pursue other opportunities within the FE setting, including those tailored for the project. (Recommendation 24)
While one learner said that he had got nothing from the project, the majority of the evidence pointed to learners' new-found confidence enabling them to act positively for themselves. One learner persuaded her old school to take her back; another, with a long history of conflict with adults, after a successful interview with college staff, was offered a place on his preferred course; yet another independently made contact with a college, got an interview and was accepted on a course that built on his success in ECDL.
Information on leaver destinations demonstrates that the project had been able to make a significant contribution to getting them into some future placement. The learners in the first cohort had moved on to the following destinations
- 3 were still with the project
- 2 had gone back to schools (one a new school, while the other went back to her old school)
- 5 had gone on to employment
- 1 to an employment training place
- 1 had joined the army
- 4 had been accepted for a college course.
- 7 had been referred to Careers Scotland
- 3 had been transferred- 1 to another project, 1 into the care of the Social Work Department and 1 into the care of Psychiatric Services.
An element of the evaluation had been to examine costs and to try to assess a realistic figure for the maintenance of each pupil on such a service. The complexities of this exercise precluded fully achieving this aim. However, costs have been established which indicate that a global sum of around 235,000.00 had been put into the project over the 2 sessions. The figure should not be taken as accurate as certain costs have been subsumed within GCC's general budget and the Scottish Executive budget to L/TScotland but may be helpful as an indication for any future rollout programme.
Start-up costs were greatly increased due to the many connectivity problems. In the first session there was no exchange of funds from schools to the SchoolsOutGlasgow.net project but it was envisaged that this would occur with the new session, 2003-2004 and would be a critical factor for the survival of the service in the long term. Schools demurred and made it clear that they were not in a position to make a cash transfer, but could instead make a contribution in kind through the level of partnership and support they could make to the success of the project. Some schools when pressed to make a contribution, decided to withdraw their application and removed the pupil to another, less costly, service. This does raise issues about equity and justice for pupils, about making the right choice for the pupil as opposed to what can be afforded under DSM arrangements. (Recommendation 25)
Resources are an essential element of blended learning and on-line learning. Technical items, such as graphics tablets were shown to enhance learners' motivation and ability to undertake quality work. Funding for items to support very individual needs has to be taken into consideration when preparing the budget for a project.
The VPN proposal was of the order of 20,000 capital costs, with an additional 10,000 per annum for the VPN link.
Other technical costs have not, as yet, been quantified but have been expressed as
1. 40 days project management and consultancy estimated as being over 20,000
2. 39,000 for consultancy and technical support; as with all costs associated with this project, this has been significantly increased due to the technical difficulties encountered
3. 9,000 per annum for software development
4. Server purchase and installation costs are estimated at approximately 10,000 in total.
5. PC and printer per site (i.e., pupil's home) is 1200 spread over 3 years
6. Cable Modem 1Mb connection to pupil's home is 595 capital cost and 1260 annual rental
7. ADSL (BT) link per pupil is 635 capital and 1260 annual rental (business rates as opposed to private home rate
8. Dial-up connection 100.
The GCC costs were
1. ICT Project Management (seconded) identified as 9,000 +
2 No cost has been attributed to the contribution of the SEN Principal Officer, since it is considered a part of his normal work
3. 4 staff tutors
4 travel and subsistence costs
5 a small budget, of approximately 5,000, for daily office running costs
The most recent figures indicate that the running costs of supporting a pupil through this approach are comparable with other outwith schools' services and are less than some charges within the voluntary sector.
1. The GCC experience, although fraught with technical problems, was well supported by a partnership approach to resolving these difficulties. There is a need for partners to meet on a regular basis with decisions taken, recorded and acted on. There is also a need for strong management with clarity about roles and responsibilities, particularly for flexibility in supporting staff. This requires that adequate protected time is made available to the lead managers in any such project.
2. The complex technical problems involved in bringing 'outsiders' into a closed local authority computer network were fully tested. The many and varied problems might have been foreseen and pre-empted if there had been a longer initial period for planning and trialling. This stage could well take a year to put into effect but it is important to have established appropriate internet connections that support learners and tutors. The learning needs of the pupils should not be jeopardised because of issues of security; both have to be considered and protected.
3. The services of an 'on-tap' technician able to respond on a daily basis to the point of crisis helped to ensure that learners and their families remained positive and motivated. Technical support is necessary as and when problems arise for learners and staff.
4. The increased availability of broadband and internet access is increasing the number of families who already have ICT facilities. It may be that an authority would consider supporting a form of home learning where access is given to school-based on-line learning and the family takes on the responsibility for regulating their child's access to internet sites.
5. There is a need for technical contracts which include the flexibility to cope with changes, especially when the need for rapid support and effective solutions are essential to progressing pupil's learning.
6. It is important that tutor staff have a range of skills, knowledge and prior experiences to bring to a team effort. Some consideration needs to be given as to how a mixed tutor team can best identify and access subject resources.
7. L/TScotland has an important role to play in disseminating information on on-line learning approaches and sources for learning. Local authority ICT officers too have knowledge and skills to call on in staff training sessions. The Scottish Executive should consider giving a lead in the development of on-line teaching and learning courses so that in future schools themselves are able to support pupils outwith school.
8. It is important that tutor staff are well supported, have access to appropriate accommodation, resources and opportunities for regular staff development in e-learning.
9. The notion of blended-learning was promoted to ensure that learners' needs were better met. Media of transmission and modes of curriculum delivery involved ICT hardware and software, web and paper based materials, visits to libraries and museums, research, interacting with a variety of professionals, engaging in college courses and on-line communication. It is recommended that this blended approach is adopted in any similar initiatives in the future.
10. To kick start learner's confidence in e-learning it is appropriate to consider how best to ensure some rapid overt successes in areas that can be seen to be useful or that can be applied to help progress in new areas.
11. The links into FE colleges were seen as an important motivator. The very different milieu suited these learners, with some impressive results. The FE colleges are well placed to provide courses that engage 'disaffected' young people. The Scottish Executive and local authorities may wish to seek ways of establishing closer links for the benefit of some learners who are not yet sixteen.
12. It is important that the expertise developed through such a project is not kept solely within the project. Schools need to become more skilled in the delivery of on-line learning. Local authorities and schools may wish to consider seconding or linking teachers on a part time basis into such a core team when a pupil from their school has been accepted into such a facility.
13. While it is appropriate to provide opportunities for peer group and adult interactions it is not appropriate to enforce physical contact on learners who have had previous difficulties in learning within group situations. Each learner's needs have to be taken into account and for some a virtual 'class' will be sufficient.
14. Critical to achieving success in this new mode of teaching and learning are well understood and shared aims in what the processes are in on-line learning. Tutors must provide an enabling learning experience through giving pupils support to make informed choices, guiding rather than directing.
15. Tutors were given responsibility for selecting the pupils for inclusion in the project. There were no set criteria other than that a mix of 'groups' had to be included. Schools, pupils and parents do have to feel that selection is 'fair' and equitable. The project had credibility from the start. Parents in particular valued the opportunity and felt their child had succeeded against competition. In any future roll-out it would be essential to have some stated selection criteria although, given the very varied situations of pupils, it should not be too prescriptive.
16. Schools who refer pupils to an outwith school support for learning facility have a duty to maintain links and responsibilities for that pupil if s/he remains on their roll. It was evident that some pupils had had such chequered histories that details of their learning progress were not available. In those that were there was a preponderance of detail on pupils' behavioural and attitudinal aspects but little on their learning styles, capabilities and teaching needs. It is important to be able to track 'mobile' pupils. Local authorities should make arrangements for the maintenance of copies of full records for pupils who move around services.
17. There was no exit strategy in place within the schools for most of these pupils but the project provided this. It is important in future that this is addressed in order to capitalise on the learning gains made and to prevent loss of momentum when the pupils reach leaving age. Authorities should liaise with Careers Scotland and their local FE Colleges to ensure that pupils are given the best advice on further learning opportunities available within easy reach.
18. There needs to be a range of specialisms within a tutor support team so that pupils who require continuity in the standard secondary curriculum can be accommodated equally with those who require a more diverse range of subjects. Schools should look to formulising subject department links with a tutor team so that pupils may be better equipped to return to school when they can.
19. In the first year of the project there was little time to arrange a contract with referring schools. It became a concern during the following session when adequate records and liaison were still not always in place. Local authorities should consider what type of contract should be devised so that schools maintain their responsibilities while the pupil is still on their roll.
20. Flexibility in secondment entry dates enables pupils to have their needs met as they arise. This is especially critical for pregnant schoolgirls, young mothers and pupils with chronic illnesses. There should be the possibility of staged entry points throughout the session.
21. Families reported their appreciation of the opportunity the project offered and, in particular, the support of the tutors. They also made it clear that they saw the traditional subjects and qualifications as the gateway to future work opportunities. This is an important aspect. Authorities should find ways of working together to capitalise on developments in on-line curriculum materials geared to national qualifications. L/TScotland should take a lead role in promoting the development, synthesis and dissemination of quality on-line resources to support the standard secondary curricula.
22. Risk assessment policies should be implemented in all outwith school settings before decisions are taken as to where the on-line learning environment is best placed.
23. Parents became more interested in their children's learning as they saw the efforts they were making and family relationships improved. Families, too, became involved with the machines which resided in their living rooms and regretted their going, as a window into a world of knowledge. Local authorities should consider an exit strategy for families which supports them into readily available life-long-learning opportunities.
24. The links into FE colleges were also seen as an important motivator. The very different milieu suited these learners, with some impressive results. The FE colleges are well placed to provide courses that engage 'disaffected' young people. The Scottish Executive and local authorities may wish to seek ways of establishing closer links for the benefit of some learners with unmet needs who are not yet sixteen.
25. Any authority wishing to undertake a similar provision should give careful consideration to the funding mechanism for it. Schools are not well placed to transfer out large sums of money but they can make a significant contribution in kind, based on staff skills and time, resources, Guidance support, responsibility for maintaining pupils' assessments and records, etc. Any decision must be made on the basis of the pupil's needs in learning. The new Additional Support Needs Act will require local authorities and schools to revisit their provision for pupils with significant interrupted learning. Authorities may wish to consider how they can help their schools to develop a comprehensive and cost effective support for learning initiative, based on blended learning, including on-line at home.
26. A range of technical aids and software should be made available on a 'needs' basis above the standard package and the authority's ICT officer should be involved in any on-line undertaking to identify appropriate support aids.
Dobson, J.M., Henthorne, K. and Lynas, Z. 2000 Pupil Mobility in Schools: final report. London. University College London
1 The authors of this report take the stance that this is a form of labelling and should be avoided. Our preferred description is 'pupils with interrupted learning'.