Widening Participation?

There was an interesting article in last week’s Birmingham Post (20/10/11):

The four universities in Birmingham have produced a plan to encourage poorer pupils in Birmingham schools to aim at university. The scheme seems very like the Widening Participation scheme which we used at BCU from 2000 to 2008 (when staff cuts put an end to it). Tutors took the Fasttrack of my course Breakthrough to Learning into secondary schools and Colleges of Further Education once a week to teach the academic language which is the basis of success in school. The new plan proposes something similar together with other activities such as summer schools, which we proposed but did not get funding for.

It is not clear from the article whether they are proposing to use my course for the new plan. I haven’t yet tracked down anyone to tell me.

Anyone know anything about this?

4 thoughts on “Widening Participation?

  1. Many, many years ago when I was doing research at the then Birmingham Polytechnic in Perry Barr there was an interesting project going on to introduce problem solving methods into schools using simulation software similar to today’s role playing games. It was producing remarkable results and engaging the children wonderfully. However the project ran out of funding and came to a halt after a couple of years.
    I hope this project has more success. It still seems however that funding is the problem unless projects are seen to reinforce the status quo. There seems a real resistance exists towards anything that appears at all innovative.

    • An excellent example of the difficulty of getting innovative teachng that works into the education system! I wonder if you know Geoff Petty’s book Evidence Based Teachng. I quote from it in the articles I’ve been writing recently:

      “Some medieval farmers used to sprinkle ox blood on their fields at full moon, in the mistaken belief it increased soil fertility. What made them think it would work? If you had asked them they would have said, ‘Everyone does it!’ People often mistake common practice for best practice, and seem to prefer the comfort of the crowd to thinking for themselves using hard evidence.

      Medicine was once the same: doctors bled patients suffering from anaemia, and administered bee stings to arthritic joints. Why? Because everyone else did, and all those doctors couldn’t be wrong – could they?

      Medicine and agriculture are now both ‘evidence based’, and it is time for education to follow their example. It is no shame to follow them: it is easier to work out how a liver works or how a plant grows than how a person learns. But we do know a great deal about how people learn now, and we need to change our practice accordingly.”

  2. With reference to the Widening Participation blog on 20/11:

    I tracked down the person at BCU responsible for the Aimhigher programme launched last month by the four universities in Birmingham. This is Mike Thompson of the Recruitmen Department.

    He was kind enough to phone me back and gave me an account of the Aimhigher programme which ran from 2000. (I imagine the Widening Participation programme which used Breakthrough to Learning – and won the THES prize in 2007 – was funded from this source.) The funding has now been severely cut but BCU is continuing its programme of working in schools to encourage underprivileged pupils to enter Higher Education.

    He was pleased to hear that Breakthrough to Learning will soon be freely available online and that the online course http://www.languageofideas for older students (16+), developed by BCU is already available.

    I hope that a use for these materials will be found on the new programme.

  3. Creative Teaching and Learning
    Posted on December 2, 2011

    The Director of Imaginative MInds, Howard Sharron, republished in the last issue of Creative Teaching and Learning an article which I wrote for him in 2000.

    He asked me to write an update to that article giving my views on why the Wigan Language Project, in spite of its proven success, failed to be more widely used. I enjoyed writing the article, especially putting the boot into a few of the chumps who blocked its dissemination. I have sent the article off to Howard and I hope it will appear in the next issue.