Raising FE (or finding Cinderella’s glass slipper)


Throughout UKFEChat’s online discussion forums on twitter and the real life meetings, the conversation inevitably steers to the question “how do we raise Further Education’s profile and professional status?”. It has not been an easy time for FE recently, in fact let’s be honest when has it ever been? The government seems to be forever changing the ‘goal posts’ on funding, its favourite one at present is English and Maths (see here). In addition some negative attitudes towards FE only add to the struggle for funding (see here) and professional status. I am only scratching at the surface here and these are my own opinions from my personal observations and experience. That aside I am keen to find out more about how we can achieve this, as are the UKFEChat team.

Currently the UKFEChat team is relatively small compared to other educational groups that are widely known in the world of social media. The group comprises of FE practitioners ranging from subject tutors up to FE Principles. However with the help of social media and the tireless work of Sarah Simons (founder of UKFEChat) we are starting to be heard. Later this month some of us will be attending a seminar to help shape questions for key politicians from the FE sector. In March twelve of us will be meeting Lorna Fitzjohn at Ofted HQ to discuss matters surrounding the inspection process. I can assure you our voices will be heard more and we will be making our mark in the name of FE.

Going back to changing attitudes towards FE and helping raise its professional status, some of us believe the best way to help FE move forward is to go backwards. No I have not gone mad! What I mean is that it is time to take off the ‘quickly skimmed plaster’ and look at the ‘real bricks and mortar’ of FE.

One of the main ways to help raise the professional profile and status of FE is to ensure it has a professional body to support all who work within it. I mentioned in my last post (see here) that I have been fortunate to have been selected to be part of a consultancy panel to help shape such a professional body – The Education Training Foundation. However over the past few weeks there has been talk on twitter (and beyond) about The College of Teachers and now just recently Tutors’ Voices as potential professional bodies for FE. Although I must point out at present FE is not included in The College of Teachers. At the end of the day the professional body FE is part of needs to be robust and reflect all FE, not just the colleges and not governed solely on senior leadership say so. There is a great deal of mixed feelings towards having a professional body at present. I think the need to listen to FE practitioners is vital to ensure we are all ‘singing from the same hymn sheet’.

All involved in FE want clarity in its position in education and want the government to acknowledge its importance. We are not a ‘filler’ between secondary school and university. Nor are we for less academic students, we are for all students. Therefore we need to ensure we have a strong professional body that will help raise FE and highlight its importance in education.