A new teacher development programme run by WorldSkills UK is being expanded to independent and employer providers.

From Monday until June 4, the organisation – which puts up teams of skilled young people against other nations at international ‘Skills Olympics’ events – will be accepting applications for the second wave of its Centre of Excellence programme.

Ten spots will be available for the continuous professional development arm of the programme, where high-performance coaches, who also train the UK’s competitors for international competitions, work to train up teaching staff in international best practices.

Successful applicants will start on the programme from September. The centre’s second element, a series of digital masterclasses and learning resources, will open for applications for 40 places later this year.

The professional development “is designed to equip educators in technical and vocational education and training with insights from global skills systems,” says WorldSkills UK’s head of skills development and international competitions Parisa Shirazi.

Twenty colleges won spots in the first wave last year and have gone on to develop pressure testing and skills competitions for their students.

As in-person skills competitions have been delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, WorldSkills UK has championed the use of international pressure tests, where nations test their skills against each other in isolated, single-discipline competitions.

The tests have now been adopted on a smaller scale by one of the colleges from the first wave of the Centre of Excellence: RNN Group, based in the Midlands and Yorkshire.

Rebecca Blackburn

Assistant principal for apprenticeships, high-level skills and innovation Rebecca Blackburn told FE Week five of RNN’s educators had been working with performance coach Frazer Minskip.

The five had reported being “upskilled in their teaching and learning”, particularly around pressure testing, which “they specifically learned through WorldSkills UK”.

While RNN had already been running competitions against Grimsby Institute, their work with the Centre of Excellence had led them to introduce tournaments between its three campuses: in Rotherham, north Nottinghamshire, and Dearne Valley near Doncaster.

“The learners really benefit from those competitions,” Blackburn said. “But what we’ve learned is, how are we better preparing them for those competitions? We weren’t, because it was a one-off thing in the middle of the year. So the inter-campus competitions are a great way to start off the environment of pressure learning.”

Minskip says implementing competitions into the curriculum is part, but not all, of the programme.

“We’re here to share the raft of experience and skills that we have with FE sectors around the globe, to explain what works for
us and how it could work for you.”

Since launching last year with £1.5 million from awarding body NCFE, the Centre of Excellence programme has been lauded in the government’s Skills for Jobs white paper.

It uses the centre as an example of how the government pledges to “encourage more organisations with relevant expertise to  provide high-quality and evidence-based training and development for teaching staff in the sector”.

WorldSkills UK is bringing in independent and employer providers now, Shirazi says, as they had picked up on their interest.

And because “one of the benefits of this programme is looking at how we can mainstream excellence through that provision of global skill systems and world-class practices across the whole of the sector.

“And not exclusively to colleges, because we know that as a sector, we all have a role to play.”

She says the existing team of eight performance coaches will work with the providers joining from September, while continuing to work with the colleges which joined last year.

WorldSkills UK is hoping to build its network of independent and employer providers in the third wave of the Centre of Excellence programme, which will open for applications around this time next year.

Applications will open for this year through www.worldskillsuk.org at noon on Monday, May 17.

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