«SMSC development in Further Education: an audit of the current understanding amongst colleges in a targetted area of the West Midlands Region Andy ...»
Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC)
SMSC development in Further Education: an
audit of the current understanding amongst
colleges in a targetted area of the
West Midlands Region
SMSC development in Further Education:
an audit of the current understanding amongst
colleges in the West Midlands Region
Author: Andy Haynes, on behalf of the West Midlands Churches’ Further
Education Council and Dare2Engage, 2011
West Midlands Churches’ Further Education Council Dare2Engage c/o St Peter’s Saltley Trust 3a Upper George Street Grays Court Luton 3 Nursery Road Bedfordshire Edgbaston LU1 2QX Birmingham http://dare2engage.org B15 3JX http://www.wmcfec.org.uk 2 Foreword Early in 2010 the West Midlands Churches’ Further Education Council (WMCFEC) and Dare2Engage (D2E) began a joint project in the region comprising Birmingham, the northern half of the Black Country, Staffordshire and north Shropshire. The aim was to encourage the delivery of Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural (SMSC) provision in the colleges of this area, by offering appropriate support at a management, staff and student level (known for shorthand as the West Midlands ‘Breathe’ project). This project was timed to coincide with the publication of the non-statutory guidance on delivering SMSC support in the learning and skills sector, developed by the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS).
As part of the project, the project officer Andy Haynes was asked to produce a report on what already existed in colleges in terms of the provision of, and plans for, SMSC development. Initially an in-house report, it was quickly realised that the information and insight contained in this document would benefit a wider audience.
The 14 colleges visited vary enormously in their demographic and historical context and so provide a useful snapshot of Further Education and SMSC provision in 2010/11.
The findings have provided all concerned with a much clearer picture, enabling the work in the West Midlands to move forward in a more focussed way to address the real needs of the area.
West Midlands ‘Breathe’ project steering group, 2011 Acknowledgements The report’s author and the Breathe project steering group would like to thank all those who have supported the development of this report. Particular thanks go to those staff in participating FE colleges who gave up their valuable time to support this SMSC audit.
Breathe is a curriculum resource for 16-19 year olds for exploring spirituality from a Christian perspective wholly fitting for a multi-faith context. The resource was developed by Dare2Engage which is wholly funded by the Jerusalem Trust.The Breathe project in the West Midlands region is supported with funding from Dare2Engage, the West Midlands Churches’ Further Education Council, St Peter’s Saltley Trust and Central England Quakers.
This report is an audit of the current level of understanding of work within West Midlands FE colleges around Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural (SMSC) development and provision within a core project area covering Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country, Staffordshire and north Shropshire.
The overriding findings are that there are extremely varied levels of understanding and work regarding SMSC provision within West Midlands FE Colleges and a lack of support to help Colleges develop their provision.
Understanding of the term and core principles of SMSC amongst FE Colleges varied from total unfamiliarity to a full grasp and engagement with the SMSC agenda. A number of FE Colleges are also delivering SMSC activities, but did not recognise them as such and subsequently were not effectively identifying their SMSC activity. This could have an impact regarding OFSTED self assessment and inspection.
In particular, understanding and interpretation of the term ‘Spiritual’ was wide and varied amongst respondents spoken to – but there was a consistent reaction of wariness and trepidation when discussing a college’s approach to this element of SMSC. The majority of respondents were very wary of using this term to describe any activity they delivered as they felt it carried strong religious connotations. Respondents often avoided talking about Spiritual support for students as they were concerned about accusations’ surrounding the promotion of one faith over another. A number of college representatives also reported dealing with religious extremism which they had encountered from a range of faiths.
Once they had been helped to develop a broader understanding of the SMSC agenda, it was found that few Colleges went beyond the surface of the SMSC agenda. Equal Opportunity policies and student behaviour/respect contracts were often cited as being the main routes through which Colleges would deliver activity on SMSC. However when explored further this activity was very much focused upon ensuring compliance within the student body. Examples given would include cultural and faith awareness weeks which focused upon ‘telling’ students that different faiths and cultures existed, but stopped short of going into further detail as to what it meant to be a member of a particular faith or how someone’s cultural back ground affected their lives.
The majority of interviewees would also immediately refer to their enrichment and tutorial programmes when discussing SMSC delivery. Whilst it was encouraging to see that Colleges were seeking to address the holistic needs of their students, the focus remained upon the development of softer skills that would see students progress effectively; for example, job readiness, I/V techniques etc. This study found that there was little, if any, space created within the College curriculum for personal exploration of aims and ambition in life (Spiritual) or how students saw themselves engaging in and contributing to society (Moral, Social, Cultural).
5 Resources - in particular the lack of time, funding and expertise - were a constantly recurring theme amongst respondents. For many FE Colleges, resources were very much focused on achieving hard outcomes (i.e. retention and achievement) and this seemed to result in a low priority being placed upon non-academic activities such as broader student support services and tutorial/ enrichment time. However, whilst enrichment/tutorial resources were found on the whole to be under considerable pressure, there was clear evidence amongst Colleges spoken to of a strategic shift towards not merely talking about a holistic approach to supporting and developing the learner, but a commitment to make this happen. Respondents would often quote the evidence provided through their assessment of their Every Child Matters (ECM) and Safeguarding activity to substantiate this point. However, time will tell if Colleges take the SMSC agenda forward over above statutory requirements such as safeguarding.
There are numerous examples of good practice in SMSC development across the West Midlands. However, these are often unfortunately buried away within College activity and often go unrecognised – internally or externally. Only one FE College amongst those participating was identified as having an effective grasp of SMSC and could evidence the delivery of the SMSC agenda across a broad range of curriculum and extra curricula activities. This College also explored issues of belief and membership of various faiths and cultures within their student body and appeared successful at raising engagement and understanding.
In summary, West Midlands FE Colleges’ understanding of the SMSC agenda is limited and it is as a result of this limited knowledge that activity within Colleges is also limited. However, as the attendance at a recent (Dec 2010) LSIS SMSC launch event testified, those West Midlands FE Colleges which attended are keen to explore how they can take delivery of the SMSC agenda forward.
Therein lies the challenge for Colleges and the Breathe project: how to turn this interest into real commitment delivering meaningful improvements to the SMSC activity delivered within West Midlands FE Colleges.
6 Key Findings This audit identified a number of key themes within its findings. Further context and explanation of these are explored within the section ‘Complete Findings’ (p. 15ff), but the key findings are summarised below:
FE Colleges’ current approach to/understanding of SMSC provision
SMSC within the curriculum and learning
• Tutorial and enrichment time frequently seen by Colleges as being the main avenues through which they deliver SMSC activities.
• Tutorial time is seen as compulsory whereas enrichment time is seen as optional.
• Tutorial activity normally delivered by mainstream teaching staff with tutor group responsibilities.
• Enrichment activity seen as additional to main curriculum and delivered by dedicated staff.
• SMSC activities were broadly felt to have a more enrichment focus and required specialist staff to deliver activities.
• ECM/safeguarding/H&S have a high profile – often addressed in tutorial time.
Staff responsibilities and engagement in the delivery of SMSC (operation and management)
Key Conclusions There are two main conclusions to be drawn from this audit of SMSC within
West Midlands FE Colleges:
1. Poor level of understanding regarding SMSC.
2. Limited access to expertise and resources to assist Colleges to develop their SMSC activity.
8 Key Recommendations The Breathe project (see p.10) is in an ideal position to deliver upon both these areas.
Firstly, the engagement and development work being undertaken by the report’s author is continuing to develop Colleges’ awareness of SMSC and to reduce their trepidation in delivering SMSC activities. Plans are in development for a further West Midlands regional SMSC workshop where more time can be spent developing an understanding of SMSC and what it can look like in practice for Colleges.
Secondly, there is a need for the development of resources for SMSC activity which have an FE learner focus. The Breathe resource is excellent in its ability to engage students in an innovative way; however the current delivery mechanism is not proving conducive for Colleges to incorporate into their timetables.
Consideration needs to be given to developing the Breathe resource and other SMSC resources that can be delivered within a 60 minute tutorial and enrichment time period.
To this end, the author is working in partnership with a West Midlands FE College and educational professionals in order to develop a range of resources to deliver sessions direct with students. The author is also exploring how FE staff can be trained in the delivery of the developed material, providing FE Colleges with a sustainable way of resourcing and delivering SMSC activity.
Materials are being trialled and developed from September 2011.
Summary of Breathe Project The ‘Breathe Project’ is a partnership between Dare2Engage (D2E) and the West Midlands Churches’ FE Council (WMCFEC), with additional funding from St Peter’s Saltley Trust and from Central England Quakers.
The purpose of this project is to contribute to the development of provision for Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural education (SMSC) in further education colleges in the West Midlands region - with particular reference to Birmingham and the Black Country and Staffordshire - through the organisation of ‘Breathe’ days (using the interactive Breathe resource developed by Dare2Engage: www.
breatheresource.org.uk), work with college staff to develop further resources and activities, and through the development of partnerships between colleges, local churches and other faith communities where appropriate.
Whilst the project may result in the development of connections with colleges across any part of the West Midlands region as a whole, WMCFEC and D2E have set a particular focus on the area covered by the Anglican dioceses of Birmingham and Lichfield (the ‘core project area’ - incorporating the cities of Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Stoke on Trent, much of the Black Country, Staffordshire and northern Shropshire), in which there is particular scope for the development of multi-faith student support and chaplaincy in FE.
Report Objectives The objective of this report is to present an audit of the current level of understanding of work within colleges around the spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development of students within the core project area.
The result of this audit will be used by the Breathe project steering group to inform the direction and use of the projects resources. The report will also be shared with key agencies within the FE sector to focus discussions and resources to support the delivery of the SMSC agenda within FE Colleges.
10 Methodology and approach
This research report:
• Built a database of FE Colleges within the West Midlands
• Established contact details at West Midlands FE Colleges for staff members with responsibility for delivery of SMSC activities.
• Conducted a series of telephone and face to face structured conversations with FE College staff with a responsibility for the SMSC agenda. 14 out of 20 colleges listed within the core area were surveyed.
The structure of these conversations focused around:
1. Current approach/understanding to SMSC provision
2. SMSC within the FE College curriculum and learning
3. College staff responsibilities and engagement in the delivery of SMSC (operation and management)
4. Resources used in SMSC provision
5. Chaplaincy – current provision/College view on provision
6. Areas for development and partnership working Report Structure
This report is structured around three key areas:
Defining SMSC and what constitutes the broad agenda of subjects and activities which could be argued to form the SMSC agenda are often the subject of extended debate.