From Start to Finish in FE


It is past the ‘six week window’ of a new academic year and students that were clearly not on the right course have been signposted to other courses more suitable. Unfortunately the six weeks is not nearly enough time to relocate students that are uncertain on what they wish to do. Sadly some are often on courses to appease their parents, having been given the option to get a job or go to college (the college option is often linked to benefits). Others have just followed their ‘mates’ from school. People that don’t work within the further education environment often have a misconception that students go willingly into it. This is not always the case.

So back to the classroom, low level behaviour is steadily increasing from these students. They should have gone but it is not always easy to determine how they will be in class. The challenge is now to keep them and help them achieve. This can be quite difficult when they suddenly declare they are not actually interested in the course after all. It’s also frustrating when you tried to guide them elsewhere in the first place but they were adamant they want to do the course. However the dear old targets have kicked in for retention and achievement. Therefore you must now ensure these students stay with you by ‘hook or by crook’.

It is not just the behaviour in class that can be an issue; you can have that with any age group in further education from your sixteen year olds to your fifty plus students. The other issues are the sudden lack of attendance and submission of work. This usually starts around the end of semester one where students start to get overwhelmed with assignments. There are also some that start to feel the pressure of being a fulltime student whilst trying to hold down a part time job. It is also a time when those students who just followed their ‘mates’ or had to come because of parental pressure, get fed up and lose interest.

After an assortment of action plans, phone calls to parents and other well-known methods of ensuring attendance, you have finally got them back in after missing several months worth of work (in some cases you have not succeeded and had to take a hit on retention/achievement targets). Therefore around May time you are working hard getting these particular students to complete and achieve. They have missed a considerable amount of work and are now frantically trying to catch up. Or not in some cases, they are less enthusiastic but have at least turned up with a pen in their hand.

So as I am here at this headache inducing time of year, again aware of the extra effort, time and detective work skills required for these AWOL students, I find myself pondering about the next cohort in September. I am sure many other further education teachers are thinking about this too. Therefore I am now thinking of what more can be done in the first six weeks to help these students. I think I will be focussing more than ever on why they chose the course and where they see themselves several years down the line. Whether I succeed or not, I will share at the end of October 2015.

On a final note I believe that if better career guidance was in place, along with robust partnerships between compulsory and post compulsory settings, things might be different. I know in some areas this is starting to happen between secondary schools and further education colleges. However there is a need to make this happen everywhere. Just because a secondary school has a sixth form doesn’t mean we have to be in competition with one another. Each can offer different courses for very different needs. In the end we all want our students to go on and achieve, and hopefully gain employment in an area that is of interest to them. There is nothing more soul destroying than going to work to a job you hate. So let’s get this right for all of them!


Education and Training Foundation and #UKFEchat meeting

Some of the #ukfechat team were given the opportunity to meet with David Russell, the CEO of The Education and Training Foundation (ETF). The purpose of this meeting was to ask questions regarding their vision for the new professional body for people teaching and supporting in further education, Society for Education and Training (SET).
Through the power of Google docs those that had put forward a request (myself included) to attend added key areas that they wished to discuss and then our chief commanding officer of #ukfechat (Sarah Simons) slimmed it down into key themes. These were –

  • SET membership
  • Professionalism: To include Professional Standards, research and raising FE profile
  • FELTAG: To include sustainability in light of funding cuts
  • Ofsted
  • CPD: To include initial teacher training, teacher progression pathways and QTLS
  • English and maths

The meeting was at ETF’s office in London, in the very swanky area of Buckingham Palace Road. Like a big kid I got slightly excited as I passed Buckingham Palace and I think my mouth was generally wide open gawking at the amazing building whilst walking to ETF HQ.

The #ukfechat team for this meeting was Sarah Simons, Scott Hayden, Kerry Harris, Nikki Gilbey, Beckie Dunsby, Maria Wilkinson, Patrice Miller, Hannah Tyreman and yours truly. Once we were badged up we were taken through to the ETF office and taken into a very bright and airy conference room. David greeted us along with Tricia Odell and Lee Armitt.

The two hours flew by (we also survived the brief power cut) and although we were sat round a large table it was a very relaxed atmosphere and David was very calm and happily answered our questions and vice versa. Everybody had an opportunity to speak on the key themes. Here is some of the information shared relating to the themes:-
SET membership

  • 10000 people working in FE and Adult Learning have taken up membership and it is steadily increasing.
  • There will never be a compulsory requirement to be part of SET
  • The hope is to evolve QTLS rather than revolutionise it. This still has a long way to go but it is ETF’s/ SET’s  vision to make QTLS much more than a tick box process and an opportunity to deflect form FE to secondary.
  • Their aim to have QTLS recognised and rewarded as QTS is. It will be more in line as a badge of professional status too.


  • Since Matthew Hancock left the passion for it as well as the funding has diminished. However now Nick Bowles is securely in place the hope is he will start making more effort towards it.
  • We all hope it will be back up as priority very soon and as many of us know it will not go away, industry needs a workforce that is tech savvie.

English and maths

  • More research on English and maths provision in FE is needed.
  • Sharing of good practice and discussion on what works what doesn’t is very beneficial for both Maths and English.
  • ETF will continue to offer training on this both GCSE and Functional Skills


  • It was clear that there will absolutely be no requirement to record CPD on an annual basis.
  • Resources can be found through Excellence Gateway, however some improvements are needed
  • There will also be resources to help deliver Maths and English (GCSE and Functional Skills)


  • With regards to the 20 Professional Standards, Ofsted will be looking for it in their inspections.
  • Some colleges will probably still grade for internal observation processes. ETF are considering the possibility of offering support to colleges to make the transition from grading internal observations. ETF recognise that moving away from grading in FE is not as simple as it sounds. FE relies on grading data to assess how they are doing against other FE providers. They want to ensure the internal observation process is robust and still able to make judgments on quality of teaching.

Thank you again to David for his transparency and openness over the vision of SET.

There is also a strong possibility that we may get to meet up again and discuss the progress of finding a balance for a professional body that has real value and helps to raise the profile of education in the lifelong learning sector.