Giving the best advice should be central to all we do

Tue 21 Oct 2014

Blog - By Nick Isles, Deputy Principal, Milton Keynes College.

Tonight, for the first time ever we will be bringing together careers advisors from across the city to talk to each other about what they do and how they can work together for the benefit of students.  From the outside, that might not sound like a great big deal, but it could and should be a really significant development for the future of education in Milton Keynes.

A couple of weeks ago, our Principal, Dr Julie Mills, wrote a blog about joined-up education and nascent collaboration between the Open University, Cranfield University, ourselves and schools.  She talked about being “on the cusp of a new era of purposeful collaboration,” and that’s exactly what this important event feels like too.

This inaugural meeting could be the start of something big.  The intention is to create a consortium of careers advisors all armed with the most up-to-date information about what is available for students in different schools and colleges.  One might say how on Earth could it be that they don’t know already, but it’s not as simple as that.  For example, why would a careers advisor at a secondary school with a strong academic record know about apprenticeships?  He or she will spend a huge amount of time keeping up with the various courses on offer at different universities and keeping track of the departments on the up or falling down the rankings.  It would be easy for us to sulk and say, “They never tell students about the alternatives,” but if we do that we better first be very sure that we’ve made every effort we can to explain what the options are to the school advisors first.  In the same way, there are doubtless all sorts of interesting choices available in schools which we need to be better informed about, so even our fantastically successful and highly-accredited Information, Advice and Guidance team stand to learn a lot of very useful stuff.

This is all part of a change in culture for education in general.  We can no longer see ourselves as “qualification factories,” simply arming people with pieces of paper and shooing them off to find what job they can.  This is about producing pathways towards careers, and the coherence of those pathways through the whole school/college/university/work landscape is fundamental to success for students in real life. 

There are other less obvious advantages to this kind of collaboration.  As I’ve touched on before in these blogs, people learn in very different ways and successful teaching depends on understanding what works for any particular individual.  When a student comes to us their schools have spent the previous eleven years finding out what works best for them.  Does it really make sense for college lecturers to start from scratch without any benefit of all that accumulated understanding?  Clearly not.

Tonight’s event will be the first of many.  Plans are already afoot to hold regular monthly meetings.  If any educationalists out there from other schools and colleges want to join in we’d love to hear from you.  Wouldn’t it be marvellous if one day we could hold these meetings knowing that representatives from every educational institution in Milton Keynes area were there, ready to learn and to share their own experiences?

If we’re going to teach effectively, we all must learn from each other.

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