We interviewed Kath Davidson, Head of Personalised Learning at Walker, on vocational learning:
At the moment, most of vocational learning happens outside of the College because there are not sufficient professional facilities onsite. For the students, vocational learning means working onsite with skilled staff as well as visiting neighbouring facilities for more appropriate training and instruction. Ms Davidson explains that over the years, Walker has established excellent links and good working relationships with external training providers and the local community. Students seem keen to follow a more vocational learning route, which prepares them for the world of work and equips the students with relevant practical skills and knowledge.
Because of the current curriculum offer however, there is only a relatively small cohort of students per year going offsite, but this is likely to change with the next year's new curriculum plan: Come September, all students in year 10 will be entitled to do vocational learning, starting from year 9 and progressing through to 6th form.
The current vocational programme operates on a variety of levels, ranging from entry level to level 3. Entry level and level 1 are offered in courses such as Hair & Beauty and Floristry, which provide the students with basic practical skills. Teachers often deliver these courses where the focus lies more in engaging students opposed to delivering expert knowledge.
Level 2 and 3 include more knowledge base alongside practical skills and need to be delivered by practitioners. At this level students tend to be more self-motivated as they know that this training might be a route to further training, employment or higher education.
'Connexions' is the careers agency the college tends to use for all relevant health and safety work placement checks. Connexions support the college in providing quality careers advise to students and also by providing potential work providers for work placements and together with Cath Tucker from the Career's Service, organise relevant work experience placements.
Ms Davidson envisions Walker's vocational learning facility to bring some of the links back into college to provide quality training courses onsite. At the same time, she believes it's about keeping a good balance and expanding partnerships with local businesses, community members, training providers, parents and other provisions such as local community centres and having them involved in the delivery of vocational training at all levels and for all ages.
A new vocational space can provide a professional working environment where the facilities and resources are very specific to the courses offered. Students can wear corporate uniforms and behave according to work place expectations. The state of the arc areas would encourage learning due to the high standards and quality provision provided. This facility will encourage learning for both students and adult learners. The vision is for Personalised Vocational Learning for the 21 Century.