Author Archives: Nicola Charleton

Computing in UK Schools

How are UK schools coping with the challenge of the computing curriculum? That’s the question The Royal Society set Pye Tait in 2016.

Our survey, case studies and extensive discussions reveal evidence from UK schools on the state of computing education today. This is an especially important topic in England given the mandatory introduction of computational thinking and coding to be taught to pupils from age 5.

Our report now forms part of The Royal Society’s After the Reboot – Computing Education in UK Schools.

Adrian Smith, Project Manager for Pye Tait Consulting, said: “We found that some schools are really embracing the increased focus on computer science and doing very well with the new approach. However, many others have found it very difficult to make that transition and have been holding on to a more traditional Information Technology offer.”

There are wide variations in levels of favourability to the new computing curriculum in England, as well as the amount of financial and non-financial investment in equipment, teaching resources and staff professional development. The Royal Society calls on Government and industry for a substantial increase in funding to expand and provide more professional development.

Developing the Archives Workforce

Archiving is a vital requirement of modern society. Like every other specialism, however, it must continually adapt to new opportunities and challenges, and particularly to the pace of digital change. We are pleased to be working with The National Archives to research and create a new Workforce Development Strategy for the archives sector. It will be designed to foster a flexible, skilled and confident workforce and help provide clarity on career entry, progression and training routes, including the knowledge and skills important both now and in the future.

Good practical science

How do England’s secondary schools and sixth form colleges measure up to Gatsby’s draft benchmarks for ‘Good Practical Science’? The Gatsby Charitable Foundation asked us to find out and to try to understand how senior staff interpret and use the benchmarks.

The survey, of senior contacts and heads of science in schools and colleges, achieved over 400 completions – a solid sample of ten percent of secondary schools in England. The results were supported by twenty in-depth interviews.

All data were comprehensively analysed to determine trends between school types and statistical tests ascertained significance. Our analysis and reporting of the survey constitutes Appendix 4* of Gatsby’s Good Practical Science report.

[*] Appendix 4

The full report and appendices are at: www.gatsby.org.uk/GoodPracticalScience.

Employer perceptions of qualifications

Ofqual, the qualifications and examinations regulator, has published Pye Tait’s pilot study report investigating employers’ perceptions, confidence, and use of a range of qualifications and assessments. The first survey of its kind for Ofqual, it helps to increase Ofqual’s understanding of what employers think about the qualifications they use when making decisions about who to hire, which training to invest in, and what business impact they expect to see from staff who achieve those qualifications.

Our approach comprised a telephone and online survey of over 2,000 employers in England, spanning all industry sectors, organisation sizes, and all nine geographic regions. We also carried out 40 depth telephone interviews to obtain more detailed feedback.

Ofqual intends to run further studies to build up a longitudinal view of the extent to which employers have confidence in vocational and technical qualifications.

The final report along with the data annex are available here.

Legal services report published

Opening up internal discussion about next steps for legal services, Associate Director Jennifer Brennan presented the findings at the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB)* knowledge sharing session on 12th July.

The full report on how the provision of legal services is evolving was recently published.

Pye Tait Consulting was commissioned to find out about the range of different approaches used by barristers to deliver legal services, how they receive instructions, and to understand how delivery of legal services may change in the future. The work has provided the BSB with an evidence base to enable them to assess the risks and benefits associated with different approaches used by barristers to deliver legal services.

The research used a mixed-method approach, collecting and analysing primary and secondary sources of qualitative and quantitative data via desk-based research, a consultation workshop, an online survey of organisations involved in delivering or facilitating legal services by barristers, and in-depth telephone interviews.

Our report is available to download here.

(*) The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is the regulator of barristers, their professional practice and specialised legal services businesses in England and Wales.

The Heritage Dilemma

by Adrian J O Smith

Have you ever wondered why “heritage” attracts such strong feelings?

It’s essential that we conserve the best of our heritage but what does that actually mean in terms of the degree of preservation?

If we leave out for the moment the very clear need to preserve edifices such as Stonehenge and to protect our rich stock of castles and ancient buildings, there is a more modern battlefield. It centres on the argument about how old a historic building has to be before it is subject to heritage conservation measures and techniques. Perhaps more importantly, what aspects of heritage are we trying to protect?

Rows of Georgian townhouses, for example, benefit from a great deal of preservation across the nation. But – apart from their age – what is it that makes them special? Is it their appearance? Is it the building techniques used to sculpt them? Is it the type of stonework and paint? For some, the answer is ‘everything’, but that would mean preserving the primitive outside privies, barring of toilets and baths, prohibiting central heating, and possibly even ripping out electricity and gas supplies.

And then there is the most important question – “why”?

If the answer is something along the lines of “they are attractive and represent part of our history” then that boils down to two issues. Are we attempting to create a living museum (but with significant compromises) or are we simply trying to preserve a “look and feel of the past”? Notwithstanding the importance of safety, does it make a difference whether we use old or modern materials? If a uPVC replacement window looks like wood why should it not replace wood? If new solar tiles look like slate then is there any real harm in replacing slate? If modern mortars and cements work better than the originals and look the same, why should they not be used? And, if doors and fascia boards etc. can be replaced with thermally-efficient uPVC equivalents which cannot be distinguished from the originals at more than three yards’ distance, then is it OK to use them?

It’s certainly important to avoid any work that could cause long term physical damage to structures, such as damp, and, unless trades people know what they’re doing, the ramifications of getting it wrong can take a long while to appear in older buildings, by which point it could be too late. But as local authority planning resources are becoming increasingly squeezed and household budgets tighten, perhaps we should be thinking more openly about some of these questions.

Postgraduate Master’s and Doctoral Loans

In 2015 we carried out an independent analysis of the Government’s Consultation on Support for Postgraduate Study, which led to the introduction of a publicly funded master’s loan scheme which enables master’s students under 60 to access a loan of up to £10,000 as a contribution towards the cost of their study.

More recently, Pye Tait Consulting has provided independent analysis of public consultation responses on Government proposals to introduce a Postgraduate Doctoral Loan. Our report on this study has been published here. The consultation generated over 300 responses from universities, student bodies, individuals and others, who generally welcomed the postgraduate doctoral loan proposals.

The Government has decided to introduce the loan product on a demand-led basis. It will be for doctoral programmes of up to eight years’ duration. The Department for Education’s full consultation response has been published here.

Functional Skills Reform Programme

The work on Functional Skills reform continues into 2017: we have been liaising with specially recruited expert subject-writers to develop a set of exemplar materials to support the teaching of revised FS maths and English at all levels (Entry 1 to Level 2). Draft materials have been reviewed and tested by practitioners to ensure pedagogically-sound support.

The new engaging content and activities will be made available on the Excellence Gateway.

Our work supporting the Education and Training Foundation on Functional Skills reform began in 2015 when, in partnership with Learning & Work Institute, we delivered a series of national consultations designed to achieve an up-dated set of National Adult Standards, Functional Skills Subject Content. This work was designed to lead to revised Functional Skills maths and English qualifications, recognised and valued by employers.