Essex Skills for Life Professional Development Centre at Anglia Ruskin University

Published: 7 March 2007 at 09:41

A new centre dedicated to improving the quality and effectiveness of teaching, training and support for learners who want to develop their language, literacy and numeracy skills is being hosted by the Faculty of Education at Anglia Ruskin University, Chelmsford. The official launch of the centre is to be staged on 15 March (6.00pm – 8.00pm) on the Mezzanine Floor of the Michael Ashcroft Building.

The project aims to build a high quality facility, service and resource - a Professional Development Centre (PDC) that will anticipate and respond to the needs and interests of all the constituencies involved in the wider Skills for Life sector.  It aims to have a positive impact on learning and skills development through raising the awareness, skills and knowledge of everyone involved in teaching, embedding and supporting Skills for Life.

The Essex Skills for Life Professional Development Centre project began with a feasibility study which was commissioned by Essex Learning and Skills Council in 2005. The study recommended as a result of consultations that there was a need for an independent, physical centre for continuing professional development. This could play a valuable role in co-ordinating information and resources, supporting gaps in professional development provision and offering neutral ground for practitioners, co-ordinators and managers to meet, learn and share effective practice. It could also provide a useful channel for national, regional and local initiatives.

The management group is chaired by an independent consultant and consists of the Project Manager (ACER), one representative from Anglia Ruskin University, two representatives from FE colleges, two representatives from Adult and Community Learning, one representative from a work based learning consortium, one representative from the voluntary and community sector and one representative from Offender learning.

The Essex SfL PDC aims to support providers in Essex involved in Skills for Life activities through co-ordinating access to subject specialist training and qualifications, continuing professional development opportunities and Skills for Life support training and qualifications. It will provide a focal point for information and advice on opportunities for training and development in Skills for Life and will undertake marketing activities to promote training opportunities and encourage new teachers and support staff into the sector.

The PDC team will also conduct training need analysis and research to get an accurate picture of the Skills for Life workforce in Essex.

The Faculty of Education at Anglia Ruskin University has been the only HEI in the East of England to offer a PGCE/Cert Ed in Teaching Literacy/Numeracy to Adults. There are other examples of PDCs that are located within or hosted by HEIs. Its Chelmsford location is central to the large geographic area of Essex. The Faculty of Education has been represented on both the management and steering groups and has been involved with the development of the project from the outset.

With the support of the Faculty of Education and MPowernet, the PDC now has an office based in Sawyer Building. Its staff consists of two part-time project workers released by North East Area ACL and a part-time project manager who works for the Association of Colleges in the Eastern Region.

The University has agreed to host the PDC’s website which is currently being developed. Work has begun with the University’s Library staff on the development of a PDC reference collection. The University has also provided facilities for two recent successful training events. A programme of future events, courses and seminars is currently being planned to take place at the University and in other parts of Essex.

We anticipate that the Essex Skills for Life PDC will be well placed to act as a conduit for some of the innovative developments associated with the proposed regional Centre for Excellence in Teacher Training (CETT) led by ACER and the proposed national Skills for Life CETT which is led by the Language and Literacy Unit Plus (LLU+). It should also provide an infrastructure link to the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics and a new project concerned with the development of an East of England Maths Centre.

The PDC development should be viewed in the light of the Leitch Review of Skills with its ambitious targets for achieving world class skills for 2020 with 95% of adults to have the basic skills of functional literacy and numeracy and 90% of the population qualified to at least Level 2. For these to be achieved, there will need to be significant development in the capacity and capability of those who teach, embed and support language, literacy and numeracy in all contexts.