Learning Partners Advisory Council Meeting - April 11, 2018

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Location: Holland College, Centre for Applied Science and Technology, 140 Weymouth St., Charlottetown

Agenda

5:00 to 5:30  Welcome and Reception
5:30 to 6:15  Introductions
6:15 to 6:30  Review and Approval of Discussion Summary Materials (Meeting 8, Nov 20, 2017)
6:30 to 7:00  Light Meal
7:00 to 7:45  Roundtable - Learning Partners Advisory Council 2.0
7:50 - 8:00 Closing Remarks / Next Meeting

Discussion Summary

In attendance: Co-chairs William Whelan and Kathleen Flanagan; members: Amanda Brazil, Amber Jadis, Angela Arsenault, Anne Miller, Bethany MacKay, Gloria Welton, Heidi Morgan, Jackie Charchuk, Kent Bruyneel, Lisa MacDougall, Mary MacPhee, Michelle MacCallum, Mohamed Ghandar, Rebecca Gariepy, Rocio McCallum, Ron MacDonald; ex officio: Brad Colwill, Susan Willis; resource:  Wendy MacDonald; guests:departing council members H. Wade MacLauchlan, Premier; Anna MacKenzie, Bonnie Stewart, Natalie Mitton; Youth Futures Council members Taya Nabuurs & John Ployer. Regrets: members: Anne Bernard-Bourgeois, Donald DesRoches, Jeff Brant, Lori Johnston and ex officio: Craig Dalton

1. Welcome and Introductions

Co-chair Whelan opened the meeting with a welcome to all, and especially to new members and new Co-chair Kathleen Flanagan.  He thanked departing members for their contributions to the first two years of the Council’s work: founding Co-chair Premier MacLauchlan, members Anna MacKenzie, Bonnie Stewart, and Natalie Mitton (in attendance); and members Moira McGuire, Peter Rukavina, and Tracy Michael (not able to attend).

Premier MacLauchlan added his thanks, expressing his appreciation to Kathleen Flanagan for taking on the responsibilities of Co-chair, to founding members for their service, and new members for offering to serve.   He observed that it was a very positive time to be involved in this work: PEI has a strong and growing population of children and youth, accounting for a larger share of the population than in Ontario. PEI’s median age actually fell in 2017 for the first time in five decades. And with a strong economy, the recent Budget made major investments in every area under the purview of the Council – early childhood, the public school system, student wellness, post-secondary education, and labour market programs. In short, it is an exciting time to take part in the Council and move forward the good work that is being done.

A round of self-introductions followed, in which each member spoke about their diverse connections to learning, their experiences of learning and learners, and issues and priorities of particular interest. 

2. Agenda Review

The agenda was reviewed and approved as presented

3. Approval of Draft Discussion Summary of Meeting Eight, November 20, 2017

The draft discussion summary for November 20, 2017 was approved as circulated. Co-chair Whelan introduced Wendy MacDonald, Clerk Assistant, who serves as a resource to the Council including preparation of discussion summaries. He noted that the summaries, once approved by the Council, are posted to the Council’s website. As well, it was noted for the benefit of new members, that the Council uses Chatham House rules for its operations, including non-attribution of statements and discussion.

4. Business Arising

4 a. Update, Learn Grants

A list of approved Learn Grant projects with brief descriptions was circulated.  The Council was advised that:

  • funds have been provided to most of the projects listed, and that agreements have been signed or are in process with recipients who are not part of the public school system.
  • support has been received from ex officio partners:
    • Department of Education, Early Learning and Culture has provided the funding for the seven projects that involve early learning centres, schools or partnerships with schools, and is also providing the administrative support for the projects through Ghislaine O’Hanley, Engagement Coordinator; and
    • Department of Family and Human Services is supporting the five projects that involve community based and other learning stakeholders. 

Co-chair Whelan thanked ex officio members Susan Willis and Craig Dalton on behalf for their respective departments, for their contributions to this innovative collaboration. As the projects unfold, the Council will consider whether this should become an annual or regular initiative.

4 b.  Update, #LearnDay

Co-chair Whelan thanked Council members for their work on the #LearnDay event which the Council held last fall on September 30, with particular thanks to Bonnie Stewart and Michelle MacCallum. Thanks were also expressed to Holland College for hosting the event, and to departing Council member Natalie Mitton for fostering the partnership.

Bonnie Stewart then noted some highlights of #LearnDay, including its aim of sparking innovation and partnerships, its use of participatory methods, and the diverse conversations and initiatives that arose from the day.  The event drew almost 130 participants, and featured a keynote by George Couros, lighting talks from six learning innovators, an address by Premier MacLauchlan, and over 40 conversations on learning topics identified by the participants.   Consultant BraveSpace had supported the process and created a mural of the day, which had been provided to participants and circulated to the Council shortly after the event. 

At its last meeting in November 2017, the Council had agreed that an infographic should be developed to capture the event, rather than a traditional report. Bonnie Stewart offered to lead this work, and invited participation from among the Council membership. Members Jackie Charchuk, Lori Johnston, Moira McGuire, Ron MacDonald, and Co-chair volunteered to assist by providing input and feedback. The team worked together to create the infographic, drawing on the #LearnDay speaker presentations and table conversations to set out the vision, principles, goals and priorities.  Following several drafts, the team finalized the infographic in early December, and it was provided to all #LearnDay participants later that month. The infographic had not been sent to the Council at the time; copies were distributed at the meeting. Co-chair Whelan thanked Bonnie and the team for their work.

In discussion, it was noted that:

  • This event was innovative in generating conversations across sectors and silos.
  • The Learn Grants are a great outcome, but perhaps even more positive are the new connections and ideas that have been sparked that are now developing further.
  • After a difficult year with the school review, the event helped people to move forward and focus on opportunities.

4 c.  Update, District Advisory Councils

Co-chair Whelan noted that Engagement Coordinator Ghislaine O’Hanley had sent her regrets, and had provided an update on the work of the District Advisory Councils (see below). Copies were circulated.

5. Reflections on the Council’s Work and Future Directions

The Co-chairs led a discussion of the Council’s role, mandate, and future directions and approach. Co-chair Flanagan opened by noting the wide scope of the Learning Partners Advisory Council: it is charged with taking a broad look at learning throughout the life span from birth to the senior years.   

There was some discussion of the Council’s mandate, to provide insight and advice on how best to advance learning excellence and support learners throughout the lifespan, in support of the Province’s long-term prosperity and well-being.   This advisory role has gone beyond government to include education and community stakeholders, and the public at large.  Specific areas in which the Council is to provide advice include:  

  • priorities, strategic directions and targets for learning and learners;
  • areas and opportunities for innovation in learning;
  • opportunities to integrate government social and employment services in support of learners and their well-being;
  • how to foster a spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship among Island youth;
  • pathways to employment, leadership, and citizenship for all Islanders; and
  • a vision and plan to build a culture of learning in PEI, positioning education and learning as foundation of our prosperity.

Co-chair Flanagan emphasized a key point: The Learning Partners Advisory Council operates at arm’s length from government. It is supported with government resources, but it does not “report” to any one branch or level of government.

Co-chair Whelan then provided an overview of member feedback to his one-on-one conversations earlier in the winter. Almost all members had taken part in these conversations, about half an hour in length and focused on seven questions.  The findings have been drawn together into three major themes:

The first theme, which arose over and over, was that people are our strength as a group. The Council has responded to the need for more connectedness, and reduced the perceived barriers.  The Council is made up of strong, diverse voices and people who want to make a difference.  People had felt that the first two years of the Council had included relationship-building, trying to identify directions, and inventorying ideas and aspirations. Conversations had been respectful, consensus had been built, and members had gained a greater understanding of the complexity of learning issues.  

The second theme was the need to clarify and focus the Council’s role and mandate.  It was seen as currently too broad, too high level.  A need was seen to focus on a small number of areas – one or two at a time – and work in greater depth, in partnership with the other Learning Partnership elements (District Advisory Councils and Principals Council), and other voices from the community and from learning systems. 

Feedback was received on various current and possible roles of the Council:

  • Advise:  there has been progress in this role, such as the discussion paper Ambition, Excellence and Prosperity, and this role needs to be further developed.
  • Connect:  in addition to the connections created within the Council, we have also connected others, notably through the #LearnDay event and its continued outcomes.
  • Influence:  through the makeup of the Council, the importance of learning and education has been regularly reinforced among key decision-makers inside and outside government.
  • Enable/empower/accelerate:  Council members are supported to carry out these roles within their systems and networks.

The third theme involved a move to a more structured, planned approach to the Council’s work, to fulfill its more focused approach. Elements of this approach should include a clear work-plan with milestones and timelines, greater use of working groups, a formal framework for decision-making, clearer expectations of members, and meeting schedule for the year.

To respond to this input, Co-chair Flanagan proposed the following approach:

  1. Reach consensus on priorities and areas of focus for 2018-2019;
  2. Develop an annual workplan that can be communicated externally;
  3. Identify resources to support our work, given that the Council is made up of volunteers;
  4. Engage with others, such as the DACs, in the selected areas of priority/focus;
  5. Link more effectively with Deputy Ministers to make the most of their participation in every Council meeting; and
  6. Do an annual report with advice and recommendations.

Questions and discussion followed.  Some questions pertained to the Council’s work to date and circumstances:

  • Does the Council have a budget? Not formally, but the Council has access to resources both in funds and in kind, as indicated by the #LearnDay and Learn Grant initiatives. Scope was seen to formalize this.
  • Does the Council have a public presence, such as commenting on the learning-related measures in the recent Budget? The Council has not taken this approach to date, but has access to communications resources that would assist it to do so, if desired.

While the Council’s diversity and broad scope are positive, how are we to focus on only a few areas, when so many priorities are represented around the table?  In response, it was suggested that we could go back to the discussion paper and consider, with each identified priority, “What can we do about this now?” This may help us to find common ground.  As well, a facilitator can be engaged to help us with this work.  Co-chair Flanagan proposed that this be the norm going forward, and that this be the Council’s last board-style meeting.

A topic that wove through the discussion was the Council’s approach to developing its advice. On the one hand, some caution was expressed about pulling in people to advise the Council, unless there is a gap in the Council.  It was noted that the Council already spans a wide range of knowledge and expertise; in effect the Council is a representative sample of stakeholders, and that its time together is limited and precious.

Countering this view, it was felt that pulling in organizations without a voice at the table supported and strengthened the Council’s advice.  Related to this, it was noted that bringing diverse stakeholders to the table would make them feel that they are part of the decisions and advice.   Discussion also arose about talking to stakeholders versus the public at large; there was some sense that talking to 150,000 Islanders was beyond the Council’s capacity. 

Support was expressed for the proposal to link and work more effectively with the three ex officio deputy minister members of the Council.  This could include offering advice on topics identified by the deputies, and providing feedback on issues and briefings presented to the Council.     

The relationship with other elements of the Learning Partnership also arose throughout the discussion. 

  • It was asked what connections have occurred with the Principals’ Council? Co-chair Whelan noted that he had attended some of their meetings, and had presented the discussion paper in January 2017 and gathered their feedback.  The Council may wish to initiate a further conversation.
  • Regarding District Advisory Councils, Co-chair Whelan noted that Engagement Coordinator Ghislaine O’Hanley was not able to attend the meeting, but had provided a report on activities, and would be in attendance at future meetings of the Council.  Ghislaine is also reviewing the input and priorities expressed by the DACs, seeking commonalities.
  • It was observed that the Learning Partnership is a triad, but the other two elements are linked to the K-12 school system, while the Council goes beyond this scope.  It was asked whether the Council should focus outside the K-12 system, with a majority view that the Council’s work should include all learning systems. It was noted that the three priorities in the discussion paper – transitions, learner wellbeing, and partnerships – are all cross-cutting.  The Council has a unique capacity to address linkages and to foster connections among elements of the system.

Lastly, discussion focused on how granular the Council’s work should be.  Should we look at, e.g. specific areas of learning, or specific grade levels?  Or broader issues?  There was support for picking topics of broad or universal meaning and relevance, and working to “create fertile ground” for the efforts of the DACs and the Principals’ Council. To further this, Co-chair Whelan suggested, the Council members should reread and reflect on the Discussion Paper in preparation for our next meeting.

6. Y-Day Report and Youth Futures Council Recommendations

Co-chair Whelan welcomed representatives of the PEI Youth Futures Council to the meeting: Taya Nabuurs and John Ployer, and government member Charlotte Campbell. Ex officio member Brad Colwill, Deputy Minister, Department of Workforce and Advanced Learning, provided the Council with an overview of the Y-Day event held last October, and the recommendations arising from the event to enhance opportunities and access for Island youth.  Further information is available in the Y-Day Report.

Deputy Colwill highlighted the recommendations related to Education and Employment, with particular emphasis on the call for more experiential learning. He also noted the major investments in the recent Budget in this area, including a range of post-secondary, career, and transitional supports.  Extensive discussion followed. 

The YFC representatives noted that some youth are saying that they are not getting the applicable day to day skills; they finish their degrees and feel lost. Experiential learning involves not only co-op placements and internships, but skills embedded in classroom learning. UPEI’s business programs were cited as a good example of this latter approach.  It was noted that in light of the speed with which jobs are evolving and changing, specific job placements might be less valuable than needed transferable skills. In short learning must be relevant and flexible.  Related to this, strong support was also expressed for skills and competency-based approaches and for continued strong investment in career planning and preparedness from the intermediate years onwards.  The emphasis on experiential learning was noted as very relevant to the findings of the Cultural Strategy on how artists and crafts persons learn. 

Council members commended the presentation and noted that the recommendations were of great relevance to the Council’s work and should shape its priorities.  Co-chair Whelan thanked Deputy Brad Colwill and the YFC representatives for their presentation.

7. Wrap-Up and Next Steps

Co-chair Whelan thanked members for their commitment and participation.  He suggested that the Council meet again in June, noting that a longer than normal meeting would be required to carry out the work of priority setting and work planning. Wendy MacDonald will be in contact to identify preferred meeting times (weekends/evenings) and dates.

District Advisory Councils (DAC) Update

The role of the DACs is to:

  • identify education priorities within their own district;
  • engage school communities in discussions;
  • foster collaborations among school councils, Home and school associations and the
  • community;
  • advise the Minister on challenges and opportunities - and in turn, give parents and students a stronger voice in public education policy and direction.

DACs include one parent member of the Home and School/School Council from each school, two high school student reps, and the regional director of the PEI Home and School Federation.

Key themes emerging from DAC conversations include:
o the need for resource allocation based on current and future student needs
o questions around flexible learning, homework, assessments and scheduling
o reducing student time on busses
o mental health and wellness issues for students
o access to healthy school food
o Their focus is on the learner, as opposed to monitoring the operation of schools

The District Advisory Councils had their first meetings of the 2017-18 school year in November and December 2017. Each DAC reviewed their role the educational priorities for their District from the April 2017 meetings and discussed whether those priorities were still relevant and needing action or had been resolved. Each DAC identified priorities that have impact for District-wide change in Education and better learning for all Island students. There are several commonalities in DAC priorities across the Island. Meeting summaries are posted on the DAC website.

  • Westisle: Transportation, Flexible School Day, Student Choice.
  • Three Oaks: Assessments, School Food, Student Homelessness.
  • Kensington/Kinkora: Zoning, Transportation, Elected School Board.
  • Bluefield: Resource Allocation, Homework Policy, Project Based Learning, Remote Learning.
  • Charlottetown: Zoning, Homework Policy, Resource Allocation, Student and Teacher Wellbeing, infrastructure needs for current and expected student population.
  • Montague: Late French Immersion, School Food.
  • Morell/Souris: Student and Teacher Wellbeing, School Goals, Infrastructure and School Food.

The second round of DAC meetings took place throughout February 2018. These meetings consisted of information sharing on items that were actioned in the Fall round of meetings. They also featured presentations to some DACs from the Student Well-being team. Representatives from either the Public Schools Branch or the Department who can directly address priorities identified in that District also attended meetings to share information and collaborate on planning next steps.

There have been several requests from the Public Schools Branch and the Department to engage the DAC members in helping direct and inform new and revised policy and procedures. DAC members have so far been asked to offer input into a new French Immersion Policy, and to assist in the re-design of report cards for K-9. This has been a successful collaboration, and a new model of engagement that will continue.

The final round of DAC meetings for the 2017-18 year will be held in April and May 2018.

Date de publication : 
le 2 Octobre 2018
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