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The location problem

We know that different providers treat location differently. A provider might:

  • list all of their schools as training locations on one course
  • list each school with its own course, duplicating courses
  • not list any school, because they are not yet known
  • not list any school, because there are too many
  • list only regional hubs rather than a list of schools
  • not list any other location, because you can only apply to the ‘main site’ (eg a University)

Providers may not list their schools and locations on Find or UCAS but they might list them on their own websites.

It’s not just a provider’s attitude towards giving location information, it is also capability – both in what UCAS has historically provided and in what information is available at the time, and how the organisation wishes to divide up the applications they receive.

Locations we know about

All our locations come from UCAS. We only know about two types of location:

  • a training provider’s contact address
  • listed training locations – these are places a candidate can apply to in UCAS Apply, not necessarily where they will spend the majority, if any, of their time when training.

We call them ‘training locations’ on Find for consistency with UCAS, partly so that users know what to fill in on their application form. This terminology is confusing for us and for users. ‘Application locations’ is more appropriate.

UCAS limits training locations to 36 per provider (codes 0-9 and A-Z). Some providers have multiple UCAS institutions to get around this limitation, such as West London Teaching School Alliance.

UCAS provides no way of classifying these locations. They might be administrative addresses, campuses, schools, hubs or areas. We use them to show results sorted by distance from a searched for location.

What do we research next?

In user research we need to:

  • understand the terminology currently used by providers to define different types of location
  • determine their appetite for sharing location information
  • know the blockers for providing all locations
  • learn about negative (and positive) experiences from candidates about commute times
  • find out where in their process trainees find out about location

What do we build next?

In Publish we need to add tools to better understand the locations we know about. What are they? Do students spent time at these places? How long do they spend there?

And we need tools to gather more locations from providers, so we have more data than just the places people can apply to. Specifically the places where students will spend the most time.

This improved data must then be fed back to Find to improve searching by location.

User research

We aimed to understand the meaning of ‘location’ from providers and their needs for inputting/managing/presenting location to users.

Research discussion guide

We’ve spoken to 3 providers:

Summary of findings

From the high level write-up on Confluence.

Some providers of a certain size do not consider location to be a collection of specific pinpoints, but rather an ‘area served’. These include large SCITTs and Unis.

Locations are sometimes not defined until after the application process is complete (eg larger SCITTS):

National Modern Languages SCITT: “Which hub will I be based in? Our partnerships are developing constantly, so we can offer trainees a range of geographical locations to suit their lives. We will discuss where a trainee wants to be located as part of the application process. If trainees already have existing relationships with schools, we are always happy to discuss developing a new partnership.”

National Mathematics & Physics SCITT: “Hubs may be led by either State or Independent sector schools and partner schools offering training places will also come from both sectors. … When you apply via UCAS you will need to indicate which area Hub you wish to train under. All interviews will take place at the Hub lead school to which you have applied, at which time, options for main and second training placements will be discussed and you will be able to state your preferences.”

Unis make students aware that they will have to be prepared to travel up to 90 minutes each way, but will attempt to make allawance where possible:

“The University of Nottingham works with over 100 partnership schools. School Direct students will already have their main placement school. For PGCE, matching students to schools for the first placement is done before you begin the course. All students will have a second school placement and a number of factors will be considered to ensure that you have a variety of experiences whilst on the PGCE course. It could be that if you had a more rural school for one of your placements you will be placed in an urban school for the other. If you have said that you have caring responsibilities this will be taken into consideration in terms of the level of responsibility you have.

You should expect that you will have to travel to your placement schools and that your schools may not be local to where you live.

Our partnership schools extend across Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Lincolnshire and therefore you should be prepared to travel.

You must read and sign the ITE programmes expectations of travel – student agreement to show you have understood the information above and email it back to us.

You will need to seek approval to live beyond a 10-mile radius from the University campus.”

“School” locations (meaning the ‘partner’ schools where the majority of on-the-job training takes place) are not the only important location associated with a training provider / training / applications.

List of location types for a Training Provider organisation:

  • Training Provider Headquarters - a registered address for the provider
  • Accredited provider
  • Administrative or admissions ‘hubs’ (if provider is sufficiently large)
  • Training centres (for lecture-based training for academic learning about how to teach)
  • Partner schools [of which there are subtypes: a ‘main’ school, a ‘second‘ or ‘contrast’ school, SEND school, EAL school, …]

The actual locations for the above can all be the same (a single Schools Direct course), or all be different physical locations.

The proportion of time within a course spent at each of the locations can vary based on the provider or the type of course (HEI-led or SD), so the commuting load on the candidate will be var during different phases of the course

There is also a home learning (reflective note-taking, online modules) element to courses.

Providers who do list locations sometimes vary in their approach to listing courses where a subject is available in more than one location: eg one provider may list 11 courses with 1 location each, vs another provider who will list one course with 11 locations (schools)