Digital Advantage is an award-winning charity which delivers innovative work experiences to young people of all ages and abilities, but especially those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). Their ‘industry-led’ programmes are inventive, engaging, effective and fun for the learners, teachers, parents and the wider school community, and, also, accelerate technical, creative and business skills to cultivate the talents of all of their students. Digital Advantage is at the cutting-edge of the digital skills’ revolution, which allows the young people who join the organisation to gain new perspectives, unlock career opportunities and form close ties with other young people and across the digital industry.
Lizzie Northcote-Smith, Supported Internship Lead at DISC Manchester said: “DISC has been using Kloodle this academic year for a variety of reasons across several courses in the organisation. Interns on the Supported Internship Programme at DISC write a weekly reflection, as well as updating when they have completed training, work experience and external CEIAG. Kloodle’s ability to personalise skills wheels has been essential for tracking intern’s progress on their work experience.
Interns are able to evidence qualifications, Preparing for Adulthood progress and evidence of personalised targets using Kloodle. Kloodle is genuinely person-centred in the way it allows young people to manage their workload, track their own progression and achieve short and long term targets.
Working with Kloodle has been great because of their personalised approach to each provision they work with. I have always been able to contact Kloodle when I need support, and they have been more than happy to make changes to our site to meet our interns’ needs best. This is particularly useful at a Specialist College like DISC, where we work on individualised courses and curriculums for learners with Education, Health and Care Plans.”
Areas of Business
Last year Digital Advantage merged with SENDCode, another innovative social enterprise working in this space and together they set up the Manchester Digital Independent Specialist College (DISC) in Manchester City Centre. They now provide supported routes to employment from their outreach work with schools and colleges around the region via DISC and SENDCode’s supported work environment. This is an offer that is unique in the UK and demand is growing all the time.
In September 2022 in Manchester, Digital Advantage, alongside partners SENDCode, launched the Digital Independent Specialist College, commonly referred to as “DISC”. DISC offers school and college-leavers with Education and Health Care Plans (EHCP) both pre-internships and supported internships to develop their digital and creative work-based skills, improve their confidence and core employability traits, with a view to being placed in a ‘positive destination’ in the digital economy. This could be an apprenticeship, employment, freelance work, self-employment or progress to a Higher Education course.
Because DISC is an accredited college, students are expected to do mainstream subjects like British Values and other pastoral training. This means that the students are not missing out on some of the vital aspects of mainstream education and adopt a broader outlook – the best of both worlds!
Having worked with many schools in the Northwest of England, Digital Advantage could model their concept of ‘best practice’ into the design of the new college. Andy Lovatt who runs the scheme said: “Many of the teachers we work with feel there has too much focus too much on traditional ‘EBacc’ subjects at GCSE – English, maths, sciences – whereas employers need more vocational skills – ‘creative problem solving’ that include business, media, IT and ‘creative problem solving skills’. The creative and digital industry is growing rapidly, and new career opportunities are springing up all the time. We want to equip young people who have additional needs with the knowledge and skills to take advantage of these roles or set up their own enterprises. We also want employers to look again at young people with additional needs and see the diversity of thinking they can bring to a business”.
The college is an inclusive, supportive environment, where difference is celebrated. The students who attend the college are young people who have either fallen out of mainstream education or needed a new environment in which to thrive, principally because they have additional needs that have not been met withing the mainstream.
The programmes are tailored for each student’s needs and the ultimate goal is to help graduates to a ‘positive destination’ ideally they obtain a job and career, but they may also want to go onto higher education, volunteer or take on some freelance work. The students themselves have developed a campaign aimed to encourage employers to recruit graduates with Autism into creative and digital roles. Currently 71% of those with Autism will be unemployed. You can sign up here at www.getautism.uk .
DISC College’s inclusive approach ensures that each student’s unique needs are addressed, fostering a sense of belonging and purpose.
In 2022, 10 new interns were welcomed onto the supported internship to start their exciting journey. These were followed by 30 in 2023 now undertaking one of three pathways. After completing a four-week induction, the students experiment and build experience in a range of digital business activities, such as photography, video, storytelling, animation, graphics, writing, UX design, podcasting, marketing and data analytics and web design.
The college offers a pre-internship for younger learners with EHCPs who further away from the labour market the Supported Internship for a year’s worth of intensive digital work experiences, skills development, job coaching and employer engagement. All of this is provided in a highly supportive environment staffed by SEND experienced staff alongside industry professionals. Upon graduation some student can find employment or freelance work at SENDCode, an in-house supported workplace. Here they work on commercial work with a range of clients who are looking for different solutions to outsourced work.
DISC offers a range of work experience and careers support:
This Rich Experience and Skills’ Development Can Be Captured by Being Recorded on Kloodle
Learners capture their skill development by uploading photos, videos and blogs to their Kloodle profile, tagging in the skills they are honing as part of the activity; this is aided by the assistive technology. Reflection is a very powerful component of the process as children think more deeply about identifying skills and then how to develop them. Personal reflections are added to Kloodle after the visits, when students can consider how their skills have evolved and whether the career is right for them. Ultimately, they can complete CV writing on Kloodle and keep their profiles for life!
A Ground-breaking Move: Course Work Assessment Through Kloodle
As well as for recording and tagging skills and reflections, DISC college uses Kloodle for their examinations’ assessments in a ground-breaking move. For example, for the examination Digital Safety and Security Level 2 qualification, the student uploads all the work and evidence required for the qualification to their Kloodle profile, together with their reflections. At the end of the course the teacher can see whose work is ‘complete’ or ‘incomplete’ on Kloodle and, at this stage, the teacher can review the finalised work of the students which has been marked as complete and chase up those students whose project is incomplete. The teacher marking the assessment can review the students’ work and give a score. Once all the students’ projects are complete then the teacher can use a facility on the digital platform which is called ‘Shareable Report’ and send the link of the assessments and grading to the examiner for their review. The examiner has accepted this process as it is efficient and convenient. The examiner can then moderate the candidates’ work by choosing a selection of the completed submissions to review and determine whether the marking is accurate.
The Multiplier Effect
The ground-breaking aspect of the process is that the students build their profile by tagging skills through each activity as they complete their assessment. This profile then doubles up, that is, it is multiplied, by being used as a CV tool to apply for jobs. The student can qualify and get a job with the same piece of work! Ingenious!
Using screenshots from Kloodle, we’ll take you through the process and how this looks on the screen:
- This is an example of the assessment criteria requirement section. The teacher creates this section for the student on Kloodle from information received by the exam board. The exam in this case is “Building a Personal Career Portfolio – Level 1”, which some of the interns take.
2. At the top of the page above you can see that the teacher can set challenges for the students. These can be the level 2 or level 1 assessments for the supported internship course. This page is the student’s perspective, and they upload work evidence to the challenge and when the task is complete then the button on the right-hand side will show “complete” in green.
3. This is the dashboard for the teachers so they can see at a glance key information relating to skills for the ‘whole class’ or, in this case, ‘Whole Organisation’ for DISC. The skills wheel for the whole class can be found by clicking the “skills” tab.
4. Students make their reflections on Kloodle, which appear down the left-hand side of their feed, and at the same time they tag in the related skills to update their profiles. In this case, the fifth student down has made 23 reflections over the term which is a good effort!
5. Here is a typical student profile with skills wheel including their weekly intern reports.
6. Examples of coursework feedback including teacher review.
Kloodle Multiplier Magic
Digital Advantage’s forward-thinking, inclusive DISC College stands as a beacon of innovation in rerouting the education-to-employment journey in a seamless and empowering way. This reshaping of assessment methodologies, has allowed the students’ hard work to be leveraged, resulting in a multiplier effect that goes beyond traditional education paradigms. The transparent and streamlined process for assessment not only benefits teachers but also involves external examiners, ensuring accuracy and relevance in evaluating students’ work. Until now, all the submissions for assessments, which were prime examples of industry specific activities, were left fallow, never to be used again. This ground-breaking approach not only revolutionises how skills are cultivated and evaluated but also empowers students with an ingenious, transformative, personalised tool for their future: a Kloodle profile that serves as both a testament to their capabilities and a dynamic CV.
Could this be the future of education, where assessment is not just a measure of knowledge but a catalyst for lifelong success? The answer, illuminated by DISC College, seems to be a resounding yes.
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