Recently I wrote a short piece for someone on what it meant to me (teaching in further education) now being under Conservative power. As I was mulling (and slightly ranting in my head) this over, my thoughts came back to an article I had read a few years back whilst I was writing my dissertation (if you’re interested it was on Generation Y). The words hit me just as hard as it had the first time I had read it, “neglected middle child”. This was Andrew Foster’s comment referring to further education back in 2005. He was of course referring to FE being seen as an insignificant slot between school and university.
It is now ten years on and it seems like nothing much has changed. The UCU is campaigning to save funding cuts for 19 plus learners and much more (see here and here). As per usual the cuts and culls are already happening in further education settings up and down the country and mergers are looking likely (see here for article in FE Week). How on earth are we to improve our country’s workforce? It is said that there is a real need to upskill and educate people in the UK. Yet it seems the government are hell bent on penalising adults learners. This makes no sense.
In some countries the relationships and attitudes between educational settings look seemingly more fluid on paper (see here and here). If this is the case (obviously research would need to be provided to prove this) then not only does it appear that it could possibly break down the barriers and confusion on what further education is, but highlight the importance of it.
It is also worth highlighting that further education is not just set in colleges, it is in our communities, privately and through local councils. I had the privilege of teaching in the community for my local council a few years ago. I saw the service it offered to adults needs ranging from developing life skills to promote independence for people with learning difficulties/ disabilities, to parents needing support to help their children do homework (in particularly maths and English). I also saw how it could support others who needed to learn a new trade/ skill due to redundancies.
David Patterson wrote an interesting piece recently (see here) about FE and whether we should ditch the Cinderella image and go for more Katniss Evergreen from the Hunger Games. I think maybe we should be more like the Rebel Alliance fighting the Evil Empire at the moment! I hope this changes for the greater good of all our adult learners and for those of us that work within the FE sector.
Further education and adult learning communities are a lifeline to many, for a whole host of reasons. I hope this government starts to realise this very soon.