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West Midlands Professional Exchange 2018-19

WMCETT is running a new-style Professional Exchange in the West Midlands region, following a successful bid for funding to the Education and Training Foundation.

The 2018-19 Professional Exchange will give participating organisations and their staff an outstanding opportunity to learn from and with other organisations through a programme of joint practice development; by implementing current research findings and methodologies; by taking supported risks in trying out new techniques, and by sharing existing effective practice, including from other regions and sectors.

The first groups which were set up after a launch event in March 2018 are coming to an end, or continuing their research work, but we are now setting up some new groups, and you are invited to join them.

You can join new Professional Exchange groups

We are setting up a numbe of new groups to work with our experienced facilitators to research a new area of interest or concern, or try out new techniques which can benefit them and their learners, and through production of a short report or development of a resource, benefit others.

Continuing to develop maths and English skills

Do your apprentices/learners already have Level 2 functional skills or GCSE in English/maths? Their maths and English learning doesn’t just stop there. This group will look at what organisations can do to continue to develop their learners' maths and English skills. A number of Ofsted Grade 1 providers already do this successfully. The group will examine what specific activities and sector projects can be done by learners to continue to develop these vital skills.

This group will meet for the first time from 1-3.30pm on Friday, March 8, at the University of Warwick in Coventry. If you would like to attend please email WMCETT Project Manager Julie Chamberlain on

Supporting new teachers

Ensuring that new teachers are effectively supported during their first months in the sector and in our organisations is key not only to their professional development and wellbeing but also to the establishment of cohesive teams.

This group will explore how we can ensure that new teaching staff have a smooth and motivational introduction to working in the sector (if they are new to FE and Skills) and to our organisations. This group has already met once, and the second meeting is at Joseph Chamberlain Sixth Form College, Birmingham, 10.30-12.30, on Tuesday, 12 February.

The group is exploring:

• What the main barriers and challenges are for new staff and how we can best support them
• Effective organisation and team induction processes
• Use of mentoring, coaching or ‘buddy’ systems for new teachers
• How subject areas can work cohesively with initial teacher education teams to develop and support new staff.
There will also be the opportunity for colleagues to discuss and share their current successful strategies already in use for supporting new colleagues.

If you would like to attend, please contact Julie Chamberlain on

Effective use of blended learning

This group has already met once, and the second meeting will be at Heart of Worcestershire College, Worcester, on Monday, February 11, 11am - 1pm. It is investigating how we can make more effective and impactful use of technology-enabled learning. Members are previewing ETF’s new EdTech Strategy and the Digital Skills Competency Framework which was formally launched in January 2019.

Using this framework as a foundation and with support from ETF and Jisc resources, the group will explore:

• Pedagogies for blended learning (BL)
• Tools and strategies for effective embedding of BL
• How we can support students to learn online
• The barriers and challenges to use of BL and digital tools.
As well as sharing good practice around current successful use of BL in your organisations.

Maths and ESOL

This group has met once, and the next meetings are on Friday, 1 March, 1-3.30pm, Friday 29 March, 1-3.30pm and 3 May, 1-3.30pm, venues to be confirmed.

Learners for whom English is a second or third language often experience difficulties with the language used in maths, rather than the maths itself. This group is exploring how learners can be helped with this, particularly adults.

Developing mathematical resilience

The first meeting is 9:30-12:30, Friday, February 1, at BAES in Aston, Birmingham, and will feature expert input from Sue Johnston-Wilder (University of Warwick).

This group will explore learners' unhelpful attitudes and emotions, such as maths anxiety and ‘I can’t do maths’ beliefs. It will explore the Growth Zone Model as a means to help learners understand and articulate their feelings, and what teaching for mathematical resilience really means.

Behaviour management

The aim of this Professional Exchange group will be for participants to explore ideas and practices around managing their own behaviour and the behaviour of others (learners). Themes for discussion and research are:

  • The importance of developing routines within the learning environment and how these routines can be used the effectively shape learner behaviour.
  • The process of establishing effective strategies to develop positive relationships with learners to reduce inappropriate learner behaviour.
  • The need to develop resilience within the teaching role.

The group has met for the first time with members trialling different actions and approaches. The next meeting is on Wednesday, February 6, at BCTG in Oldbury, 4-6pm. If you would like to join this group please contact facilitator Penny Ottewill on

* Other ideas related to existing groups in English, maths, SEND or other area of interest are also welcomed. Please contact WMCETT Project Manager Julie Chamberlain on

Existing groups

Thematic group - open to people across all subject areas:

Initial assessment and learner needs – this aims to look at developing a more person-centred approach to identifying learning needs, working on initial and diagnostic assessment from a more holistic perspective and including readiness for learning and specific learning difference. The next meeting is date TBC.

Maths area:

Developing new approaches to teaching functional maths, which are more active and engaging, within apprenticeships. Next meeting, Friday, February 1, 1-4.30pm, Walsall College.

Developing strategies and approaches to engage and motivate GCSE maths re-sit learners in colleges in the first six weeks of their programme, with the aim of trialling with the September intake. Group has finished meeting and will publish its outcomes soon.

IT area:

The group has finished meeting, and produced an outcome - see here for the results.

English area:

Retention of adult learners of English, and implementing approaches that have a positive impact on retention. Next meeting TBC in early 2019.

SEND area:

Groups have finished meeting, and produced outcomes - see here for results.

How groups operate

The Subject and Thematic Groups will be ‘teachmeet-style’ events for teachers or managers to share and develop practice and resources in a dynamic and generative way so that facilitators can capture and share what works and support experimentation, tackling tedious teaching and spreading lively and long-lasting learning.

This project will facilitate a number of strategic interventions enabling sector practitioners to develop their practice in key broad areas identified by local managers and practitioners across the sector. Participants will agree to share and disseminate ideas and outputs through a digital platform, and the facilitators will support and encourage this process, as well as recording progress and assessments against the Professional Standards.

As a result of participating in new groups where expertise is shared, modelled and explored, participants will be committed to cascading their learning to colleagues in their organisation and, more widely, in their professional networks, face-to-face and online.

Longer term, WMCETT aims to build sustainable communities of practice around principles of Joint Practice Development to continue beyond this Professional Exchange, with enthusiastic commitment by members, and increased collaboration between partner organisations.

If you would be interested in attending any of these groups, please see information (right) on how the Professional Exchange is working this year, or contact WMCETT Project Manager Julie Chamberlain on .

Outcomes from first groups

You can read about the outcomes from the two SEND-related groups, Dyslexia for SEND screening activity group and Delivery guides for different learning needs here .

There is information about the outcome of our first digital skills group, which looked at creating a Digital Skills Framework here.

How you can take part in the Professional Exchange

This West Midlands Professional Exchange 2018-19 was launched in March 2018, with an event for managers in colleges, WBL organisations, adult and community learning and the secure estate and third sector, to tell us what they wanted to include. There is some more background about the ideas behind the Professional Exchange below left.

To be involved:

  • Your organisation needs to sign and return the Memorandum of Understanding to agree to take part and contribute
  • Tell WMCETT Project Manager Julie Chamberlain on which members of your staff want to attend which groups, and pass on their email addresses
  • Staff will be given background information on each group, and will then attend the rest of the meetings, contributing by carrying out research or other work in between meetings and staying in touch on line
  • They will contribute towards each group's final outcome.
  • They will disseminate their learning within and if possible outside their organisation.

To join, sign and email the Memorandum of Understanding to , or get in touch if you want more information.