Goodbye and Hello

Goodbye and Hello

Pauline Paley

(originator of bksb and former bksb Director at WNC) says a fond farewell to the past and explains her future as a Director of ForSkills.

After twenty-one years of service and many months agonising about when I should say goodbye and retire from West Nottinghamshire College as bksb Director, I decided this summer that the time had come. As the innovator of bksb and a crusader for the use of initial and diagnostic assessment for skills planning, I have travelled the length and breadth of Britain meeting many ‘kindred spirits’ struggling with all aspects of skills delivery. Click here for more information on the history of bksb. The thought of leaving the ‘club’ I had developed was very painful.

As the news of my retirement has spread, I have begun to receive wonderful messages of best wishes from those I have met, supported and from whom I have gained much over the years. Many of these messages express incredulity that I have been able to leave ‘my baby’ as they never thought I would be able to do this. Firstly, I want to thank those of you who have been in touch and to let you know that although it is ‘Goodbye from me as WNC bksb Director…

It is now hello from me – Pauline Paley, Education Director of ForSkills, the company bringing you ‘bksb Online’.

Yes, you were right. My passion for the pursuit of excellence in education cannot be quelled and I just can’t leave my baby! As someone who has given birth, nurtured and given twenty-four/seven to their progeny, I want to hold its hand as it matures and witness its continuous development through online delivery. Even bksb, now in its teenage years and with all its help and time saving features, still leaves it up to tutors to collate the results or have the data captured by MIS systems. Over the years I have been appalled to hear horror stories of data being unavailable to tutors to inform their planning. This was akin to hearing that my child was not being encouraged to use its full potential! This may make one feel very dispirited. But, ever the optimist, I have a vision for the next decade!

My vision
For the last fourteen years, I have been talking to learners, tutors and managers about their problems and what they want. Central to these needs is the desire for instant information and communication and a robust management tool that removes the tedious and endless paper trail. Taking all the issues into account, there is only one way forward – online technology.

Our learners are pulling teachers, from primary upwards, into the 21st Century with their confident use and expectations of computers. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not suggesting, and never will suggest, that computers and surfing the net take the place of tutors. Far from it. What I am saying is let technology take the strain of much of the marking, mapping, tracking, planning, resource allocation, data handling and so on. Thus, leaving more time for teachers, tutors and trainers to do what they do best: nurture, inspire and enthuse their learners and facilitate learning using tools that today’s learners understand and value.

I had a vision when I began to develop bksb of it being the answer to a tutor’s prayer. Judging by its phenomenal success, my vision became a reality. However, time has moved on and expectations have increased. The online vision came to me over two years ago and already the uptake has been remarkable since its launch at the end of January 2007. September saw a phenomenal number of assessments being undertaken by hundreds of organisations. Indeed, I have been amazed how quickly and enthusiastically online has been embraced by the sector. This has been most gratifying!

Speedy response to user needs
One of the factors of working with online products/services which really excites me is the speed of response which can be facilitated. I am now working with a highly skilled, experienced and truly positive technology team that can respond immediately to client needs and updates/amendments – a far cry from the bureaucracy and constraints generally associated with the education sector and working with paper or CD products. See latest additions. This has freed organisations of the problems of old or wrong versions being used and having to upload amendments/enhancements. Everything is done automatically and centrally at the touch of a button for them. Magic!

Working together saves time and money
Additional features and adaptations to our Moodle™ based system, developed in response to requests, are automatically added for use by all. As ever, I want everyone to benefit from feedback. Please keep in touch with your comments and I assure you they will be given serious consideration. Working together for mutual benefit and saving tutors and organisations time and money by them not working to re-invent the wheel have always been central to my philosophy. . We will shortly be launching our new ICT initial assessment which we have been trialling through OCNW in preparation for use with basic, key and functional skills. If you are interested in working with us on pilots please contact us as soon as possible and we will be delighted to discuss this with you.

Come up and see me sometime
Due to expansion and our need for excellent access to technology (and the M1) we have recently moved into purpose built premises for innovative, high-growth knowledge-based companies. For more information on our move click here. I would love to see you here and introduce you to your technological and support team. So, get in touch if you want to visit to talk about your individual needs, or just a catch up – you will be made more than welcome! Alternatively, you could book on to one of our events. See calendar of events. We will also be at the AOC conference in November, so do look for us and come and have a chat.

What does the future hold?
I am intrigued about what I may write in another decade. Will initiatives in schools eradicate the need for the learning of basic English, maths and ICT post 14? Will we be concentrating mostly on ESOL and Entry Level learners with particular problems? Or, will I be designing micro chips for learner implants according to their initial and diagnostic results? Who knows? But, one thing is for certain, I will have retained the passion for assisting with the delivery of educational excellence.

Very best wishes to you all

Pauline Paley
Education Director