Organisation: Central Bedfordshire Council

Sectors: None specified

Service: E-learning

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case study
E-learning use

Central Bedfordshire Council, 12 July 2016

the need

The initial identified need was that of improving the accessibility of training for adopters and foster carers. Although the council – and most carers – see benefits in bringing carers together for group training, there was an acknowledgement that a substantial number of carers, particularly those who have other employment, experience difficulties in making themselves available for training events, and would benefit from the convenience of online learning at home.

The Adoption Service recognised the importance for adopters of understanding the role of attachment and trauma in child development and in many of the emotional and behavioural issues they encountered in children joining their families.

There was a recognition that both prospective foster carers and prospective adopters would benefit from relevant online learning during the assessment process, and that this could in itself become an assessment tool.

Other members of the children's workforce – childminders, Early Years workers, social work assistants, ancillary staff in schools, etc. – were also identified as people who would benefit from further focussed learning about working effectively to understand and meet the needs of vulnerable children. KCA e-learning has been identified by the Council as meeting many of the training needs of this wide range of employees.

A highly ­skilled service of 'Youth Carers' is being developed; carers and support staff who provide intensive therapeutic parenting to individual older children and young people whose difficulties appear particularly deep-seated. Specialist training is required for this task.

the solutions

The consistently high quality of KCA face-to-face training and positive feedback from participants encouraged the council to make a small trial purchase of KCA e-learning course places. Successful use of these prompted a large purchase several months later, taking advantage of the economies of scale which such a purchase provides.

In choosing KCA e-learning, the Council appreciated the ease with which administrators could use the KCA system to allocate individual courses to individual learners and to track their progress. This information can then be fed back into supervision, and supervisors can provide a helpful combination of gentle encouragement, discussion of new learning and its application to the specific circumstances of the supervisee, and identification of new and future training needs.

The Council now uses selected KCA e-learning courses as part of the extensive training package provided for both foster carers and adopters.

the outcomes

The council has developed a council-wide framework of online learning courses, in which KCA e-learning is included. A range of providers is used, with the provider of each course indicated as well as the course subject. Individual staff and carers are now able to identify a training need and select an appropriate course, in addition to courses advised or suggested by their supervisor. E-learning opportunities are advertised internally, for example in Foster Carer Newsletters, and promulgated in Foster Care Reviews.

In all, 35 different e-learning courses have been taken up by Central Bedfordshire learners. The most frequently used have been:

  • Child protection
  • Communicating with children and young people
  • Child development
  • Attachment and brain development
  • Understanding trauma
  • Behaviour and the physical environment
  • Emotion Coaching

Professional staff report an increased awareness and understanding among users of KCA e-learning of the roots of behavioural and emotional difficulties among children with whom they work, and of approaches which help.

A wide variety of learners has benefitted from the Level 3 Child Protection course.

KCA records indicate that around 86% of KCA courses allocated in Central Bedfordshire have been commenced, and of these around 88% have been successfully completed. This is a high rate of successful usage.

Consultation carried out internally with training user groups indicates satisfaction with KCA e-learning. This is backed up by feedback submitted by learners on completion of their courses (see Participant Feedback below).

customer response

Both professional and administrative staff are positive about their use of KCA e-learning.

Professional staff feel that their use of the courses has contributed to the development of a positive learning culture.

  • They find KCA e-learning courses interesting, well laid-out, easy to navigate and wide-ranging in their application.
  • The format and content of the courses is neither condescending to experienced carers, nor discouraging to newcomers.
  • The incorporation of learning journals and a multiple choice end-of-course assessment encourages application and consolidation of learning.
  • The extent of use across the council leads to the development of shared professional values and language, and to positive discussion about therapeutic approaches to children and young people.
  • They have found KCA responsive and friendly in relation to discussion of how best to use the courses and of further topics for course development.
  • They appreciate being informed of newly available courses meeting currently identified needs, a recent example being courses at Level 3 and Level 4 on Foetal exposure to alcohol.
  • They like the ability to continue to book face-to-face training from KCA in the knowledge that the content will tie in closely with available e-learning.

Jenny Thornhill, Central Bedfordshire's Adoption and Fostering Marketing, Recruitment and Training Officer, wrote in March 2016:

'We have been using Kate Cairns Associates e-learning for a number of years and continue to be impressed with the packages available. The company is highly professional, their staff are always on hand to help and the support package is excellent. They are a company who are forward thinking and provide a good range of courses at different levels. We would highly recommend Kate Cairns Associates to other Adoption and Fostering teams.'

Administrative staff, responsible for allocating courses and often a first port of call for less IT-literate users experiencing initial difficulties in navigation, appreciate the ease with which they can use and interrogate the KCA system and allocate, deallocate and reallocate courses to individual users. They have found technical difficulties to be few, and technical help from KCA prompt and supportive when required. Upgrades and refinements to the system have been helpful and sensitively introduced and explained.

Participant Feedback

  • 93% describe the course as having fully or mostly met their learning objectives.
  • 93% would recommend the course to others.
  • 92% believe that their learning will be very or reasonably useful in their work.
  • 90% found the course very or reasonably enjoyable to do.
  • 86% noted the ease with which learning journal entries could be made/edited.
  • 50% specifically mentioned that the course was user-friendly and easy to navigate.
  • 38% felt that the course helped them to identify further learning needs.

Selected individual comment: 'Makes you think outside the box'.

next steps

The Council intends:

  • to continue using KCA e-learning as an important component of its comprehensive online professional development offering across its Children's Workforce
  • to suggest to KCA further topics for online courses – current subject areas suggested are work with unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, helping children and young people to move beyond anger, and how carers can best support the education of children in their care
  • to consider using the option of encouraging specialist carers to gain Level 3 or 4 qualifications via a portfolio of selected KCA e-learning courses and assessed written assignments