Nurture 16/17


I have not blogged for quite a few months owing to a wave of personal and professional struggles (I won’t bore you with the details). In fact I have not really engaged on Twitter as much as I usually do. No doubt I’ve missed an array of interesting blogs and discussions. However it has meant less online time and more face to face time. With this in mind I thought I’d look at my last Nurture post and do some reflecting (and tick a CPD reflection box).

This is the list from my Nurture 15/16 post last December. 

  1. Progress ‘me time’ to being actually during the day and not sat staring at walls thinking about work etc…
  2. Look at changing the content of the online learning resources. This will involve a discussion with the students concerned.
  3. Continue to attend the #UKFEchat events and contribute to the weekly discussion forums.
  4. Keep my daughter on track with her school work (she has a lazy streak).
  5. As last year, I will continue to engage with twitter and I am already booked in for Primary Rocks in March and Northern Rocks in June.

On reflection the list was a bit crap. So here is my new one that I will no doubt forget about. I am the type of person that instantly forgets any action plan or target I’ve set myself.

Nurture 16/17

  1. This ‘me time’ malarkey is quite important. To be fair I have managed quite a bit over the summer but not so much so over autumn. As we are now in winter I will get back to walking and cycling. I have no excuse now I’ve been given a bloody Fitbit for Christmas. I hope I don’t become obsessed with it and look at it as much as I look at my phone!
  2. I have done this and altered the content. I will be seeking feedback off students in the new year. 
  3. I have been rather lapsed in engaging with #UKFEchat. I do apologise to my fellow #UKFEchatters. I will make more of an effort in 2017.
  4. I have had some success with this and I’m pleased to say she is doing well. So I will continue being the nagging mum. I just wish she didn’t act like ‘Kevin the Teenager’ at home. 
  5. My son will be starting secondary school in 2017. I want to support and help him make as smooth a transition from primary to secondary as possible. Having personally spent the first few years at secondary school being bullied I am determined he will not have as miserable time as I did. 
  6. I have got tickets to Primary Rocks again with the lovely @cherrylkd (I teach students wishing to work in early years and primary school settings, in case you are wondering why an FE teacher would attend such an event). I’m also going to Northern Rocks and I would like to attend a few more education related events. Especially Research Ed as I missed the first FE one this year. 

I’m still enjoying teaching, however as in any educational sector there are many things that need fixing (or being chucked out all together). I hope 2017 finds less sticking plasters over things that need fixing.

The Return of #UKFEchat National Conference


The second UKFEchat National Conference will take place this month on Saturday 22nd October. If you did not attend last year, see here for some of the highlights from my blog post.

If you are interested in Further/ Vocational Education please come along to this fantastic event. You can purchase a ticket for a bargain price of £20! Click on here to see who is speaking and here for a ticket.

See you there!

A great day of learning at #LLL16


It was a typical British July day yesterday (yes it was cold and damp) as Cherryl and I got on the 8.20am train to the first Lead, Learn, Lancs conference. I was still recovering from a throat infection and feeling nervous about presenting for the first time. Thankfully I was co presenting with Cherryl (although it was her fault I was doing it in the first place).

When we arrived at the school (after enjoying some humorous banter with our taxi driver) we were greeted by several friendly fresh faced students (originally we did think they were NQT teachers). The rooms were set up and everything looked fantastic. Sarah and Linda had done an amazing job organising this event.

First up was the brilliant Lynn McCann (@reachoutASC). Aside from Cherryl and I learning that neither of us could draw round a star using just a mirror, Lynn helped us understand the issues children with autism have when writing. To find out more see here for her resources.

Cherryl and I then set up our workshop. A few delegates arrived which was reassuring and the familiar face of Mike Highton (@isright) and his cheeky banter helped settle our nerves. So with virtually a full class we got started. Our theme was Life of a child with SEND. We wanted to explore the challenges met by these children entering their final years at school. The workshop helped encourage discussion on whether we protect our 16 plus SEND students within the special school environment, or encourage more independence in an FE college.

Next up was Jax (@jordyjax) who talked with real passion about PRU’s.

Later that day we went to see the excellent Stephen Tierney’s (@LeadingLearner) workshop. Do take time to look at his blog site for an amazing range of information and resources. Here is a sample of what he discussed yesterday.

Finally we went to the lovely Julian Wood’s (@Ideas_Factory) workshop. I will enjoy trying out some of his ideas with my students training to be early year practitioners.

The closing note was from Natalie Scott (@nataliehscott). It was fascinating to hear about her involvement with the charity Edlumino Education Aid.

Well done Sarah Bedwell (@flymygreekflag) and Linda Hopkins (@LindaHopkins38) for a great day. Looking forward to next year!


SEND in Further Education


I’ve spent many years caring for children and young people in both home and childcare settings before I entered into the world of teaching. Back in the ’90s I spent at least seven of those years working with young people with SEND. I’ve had the privilege to care and support some amazingly resilient young people who for one reason or another could no longer live within their family home. During this time I encountered a range of attitudinal barriers towards them. As their carer and advocate I’ve had to deal with these situations due to them being profoundly disabled and with limited communication skills.

Now seven years into teaching within Further Education, I find myself wondering if things have improved for our young people with SEND? Once they have left the security of their special school or support in mainstream some choose to enter FE. Not only will they be entering a different learning environment, they will also be dealing with that sometimes awkward transition from child to adult.

Those of us who teach know that no matter the age of a child, they can be cruel to others that they deem ‘different’ from themselves. I think as a teacher it gets harder to deal with once the students get older, as one assumes they should by now have a better understanding of what is morally right and wrong. My question is, will this ever improve? We can teach our students those ‘British values’ and give them ‘put yourself in their shoes’ opportunities, but if they are going home to negative attitudes towards those with SEND, will we ever break that cycle?

A few years ago I taught adults with SEND for a local council. These courses were based round developing independent living skills and understanding different relationships. Often the challenges they found were attitudes toward them, being taken advantage of and struggling to find employment. Further to this they had also expressed their concerns when they had entered FE settings. Sadly they had found it quite a daunting experience, primarily due to the size of the setting. Which was why they had chosen a more discreet adult learning course within the community. My groups were no more than ten and often the students that required support had to juggle weekly with the decision of their support helping them come to my session, or choosing them to help attend another weekly activity. Sadly as you can probably guess this was down to government cut backs on funding. I also found that it was important to ensure my lessons did not clash with school finishing times. Some of them accessed public transport and were keen to avoid being on the same bus due to the way they were treated.

This was only in 2009 and I don’t believe for one minute that things have drastically changed. If it has, please do say. So thinking back to my time both working in the care sector and adult learning community,  I wonder if more could be done to help remove these attitudinal barriers? Are we really doing enough? Maybe if we could work a little harder and conjointly on some areas, we might start helping improve outcomes for our SEND students?

Start from the beginning

I know some local primary settings have worked in partnership with local SEND schools and children have mingled and swapped classroom environments. However I know from personal experience that although the children are more than happy to participate in this initiative, it is often the parents that are the ones with the issues. I’ve overheard in the past parents discussing why they are refusing to let their children take part in the initiative, because “they might catch something!” So although it is a good idea to help young children explore each other’s learning environments and break down those barriers. We also need to educate their parent/ carers too.

Liaise with all feeder schools

From an FE point of view I think we need a more consistent approach to liaise with all local schools. We need to understand the educational environment they are used to and they need to understand what education is like in an FE environment. Without doing this how can we help improve outcomes?

Zero tolerance from the start

We all carefully plan our induction week in our colleges and want it to be a positive introduction into FE. In addition to this we are also mindful that we do not bombard our students with a list of ‘dos and dont’s’. However, I think right from the start a greater emphasise needs to be given to attitudes towards one another. I know the focus in FE this year has been based round British Values and Protect, but maybe we need to go right back to basics?

These are just my own personal observations. If anyone has anything further to add or say please do so in the comment section.

A review of The Education Training Foundation 2014-15


The other week I had the opportunity to meet with Mike Harwood from the Education and Training Foundation. This meeting was a chance for myself as a SET member to ask about keys areas in the report I had received late December 2015.

The areas I quizzed Mike over were as follows –

Maths and English

The ETF has been offering Maths and English enhancement course for practitioners. I attended one myself last year. I have to say it was worth attending, it helped me look at the differences between GCSE and Functional Skills. Further on they are now spearheading a reform on functional skills (see here for further information). What I wanted to know was what support could be given to not just ensure good quality teaching was delivered to the students, but what they were going to do about the pressure FE has to churn out results at lightening speed. Nobody wants to teach to the test but the funding pressure is immense and many teachers are feeling the strain. Mike explained he understood this having taught in the sector for many years himself. The ETF want to improve the standard of maths and English and this would include how it needs to be taught.



The ETF are investing in leadership (see here) so I asked how would developing existing leaders help those of us on the ‘shop  floor’? How will we benefit? FE is renowned for having too many middle leaders. Mike explained that it would be about developing their leadership skills and would in turn have a positive impact on the rest of the staff team. There is also going to be something developed for teachers own leadership skills within the classroom. In addition the ETF will be looking at supporting staff that wish to progress into leadership roles.

Support is also being given to leaders by the ETF during these Area Reviews. Focusing on checking standards and ways to ensure they are at the very best level. Furthermore there is support for all professionals  via SET.


Support for practitioners

One of the many areas the ETF are offering support for is using technology (see here) for teaching and learning. The ETF have used the recommendations from FELTAG and are now working alongside JISC to support this in FE. I asked Mike would this mean they would be looking at the real key issues for us, as in time to explore the technology we are given? Furthermore, whatever we use is not simply a fancy gimmick that ticks the technology box. Mike said they were looking at running CPD courses in conjunction with the online ones they offer. He was onboard with what I was saying and agreed that time to experiment was vital if it was going to be used to support teaching and learning. He also took note of what type of training format would be best for these potential courses. All we want as teachers is to have access to a range resources and time to experiment using them.  Also we need more autonomy in what we use, after all we know our students better than anyone!



QTLS has always been a bone of contention for me and I know for many other FE teachers too. So I wanted to know how the ETF were doing with this one. I have written about this before in a past post (see here). Mike says that they are aware that the IFL’s process was not overly popular. Therefore the ETF have taken feedback from practitioners and are working on strengthening the value of QTLS as well as the process. They hope to have a more robust and worthy form of QTLS by 2016.

Finally Mike also went on to discuss apprenticeships, due to a big shift in focus on them by the government. If you wish to read more on what support is being given for apprenticeship and training see here.


I am grateful to  Mike for giving me his time to discuss this review report, and for David Russell for offering me the opportunity to discuss it with an ETF representative. I am left feeling quite positive about ETF and SET compared to over a year ago. There is still a long way to go to help raise the professional status of FE and other lifelong learning establishments, but the ETF are clearly moving forward on this.



The BETT Show 2016 featuring UKFEchat’s ‘Staying motivated’

Several months ago I was approached by Sarah Simons (founder and ‘matron’ of UKFEchat) and asked if I would participate in a discussion panel for the 2016 BETT Show. Obviously I said yes without any hesitation. This was going to be the first time Further Education was being represented at this famous event.

I have been fortunate to be able to contribute to all three UKFEchat eBooks, and it was the second one (Staying Motivated) BETT wished us to discuss at the event. Despite them giving us the ‘graveyard shift’ (5pm to 6pm) on that mild January afternoon it did not matter to us. The fact that we had the recognition of being of interest was enough. Slowly our merry UKFEchat band are being acknowledged as maybe having something worth saying, and more importantly worth listening to.

The four questions asked to David Patterson, Nicky Hawkins, Patrice Miller and myself were as follows –

  1. What are the biggest barriers to staying motivated for FE and skills professionals
  2. How do you give yourself a motivational kick up the rear?
  3. What are the most successful strategies to unite and energise a team which has lost its enthusiasm?
  4. How do you combat a case of the CBA (can’t be arsed) for students?

Some of my responses were –

  1. Limited time due to so much of it being spent on retention and achievement, which causes far more administration work. In turn this impacts on quality time spent on teaching and learning, which means the opportunities to develop classroom resources are put to the ‘back burner’. Also the humble Lecturer 1 role is becoming more demanding.
  2. Chatting to other teachers on Twitter, especially UKFEchat can help motivate you and you can get great teaching advice and ideas too. The students when they have those ‘lightbulb moments’, staff room banter and the realisation that if I did any other job I would be bored to tears.
  3. Cakes, biscuits, my sweet drawer. CPD that is decided and done by us, not imposed on us. Emails, face to face talks from SLT team on how well we are doing and actually remembering to thank us for going above and beyond when covering staff sickness and having last minute tasks thrown at us for the sake of precious data crunching…
  4. Humour rather than raging red faces and finger wagging, class competitiveness and maybe a few sweets.

What I personally took away from this event is that the twenty or so crowd (next year it will double I’m sure!) of FE professionals all clearly felt the same way. In that I mean the small things help keep us motivated, and that being part of a supportive staff team is vital for survival in the world of teaching. Not everyone is in a supportive team and that is where things can really pull you down.

So a message to SLT, check your staff rooms!

#Nurture 15/16


I’ve sort of done this in my last blog, but I thought I’d best check out what I said in Nurture 14/15. Don’t worry I’ll keep it brief!


  1. I sort of managed ‘me time’. It generally happened in the wee small hours of the morning. Usually whilst staring at the bedroom ceiling thinking about everything and anything.
  2. The development of online learning resources (in response to FELTAG) have been done. However some things definitely need changing. I have quite a few students who struggle with independent learning. Possibly because they struggled to stay in school and spent most of it in PRU’s? Not sure, but I’ll save that for another blog.
  3. I’ve had a great time at various #UKFEchat events. Most memorable are the TES FE Awards, Ofsted and the first #UKFEchat conference.
  4. My daughter is at the secondary school she and I hoped for and loving it.
  5. I continue to engage with twitter and have attended several educational events.


  1. Progress ‘me time’ to being actually during the day and not sat staring at walls thinking about work etc…
  2. Look at changing the content of the online learning resources. This will involve a discussion with the students concerned.
  3. Continue to attend the #UKFEchat events and contribute to the weekly discussion forums.
  4. Keep my daughter on track with her school work (she has a lazy streak).
  5. As last year, I will continue to engage with twitter and I am already booked in for Primary Rocks in March and Northern Rocks in June.



Thanks to @ChocoTzar for starting the Nurture posts back in 2013.

Thanks to Sarah Simons (@MrsSarahSimons) for all the great stuff she does for FE with #UKFEchat. Also for being a great friend.

Thanks to my good friend @cherrylkd for being my conference buddy, beer buddy, natter buddy, cheer up buddy…The list is endless!

Thanks to @sezl for letting me be part of her 50 before 50 challenge. Also thanks for making me laugh a lot at your wonderful humour on and off twitter.

There are many more I could thank for keeping me sane throughout the year, but I’ll shut up now. You all know who you are.