The #UKFEchat Conference 

After many months of planning, Sarah Simons finally stood at the podium in the main conference room giving her opening speech to the #UKFEchat delegates. David Patterson and myself continued to register the delegates and guest speakers (I had the privilege of hearing her emotionally charged speech the night before). We were unsure how the day would go or even if enough people would turn up. One of our worst fears was that we would have more speakers than guests! Thankfully we didn’t. Over a hundred people came from various Further Education and Adult Learning sectors. All with varying levels of experience, expertise and interests.

Click here to see who was speaking on the day to give you a taste of what went on.

I myself had the opportunity to chair the Strength in Unity panel, this is something that has been a particular interest of mine for sometime (see here). The panel comprised of Lou Mycroft (Tutor Voices), Tim Weiss (Education Training Foundation), Andrew Harden (UCU) and Professor Angela McFarlane (College of Teachers). Despite feeling immensely nervous in their presence, I pulled myself together and introduced the panel and then asked the following three questions –

  1. What is the value of being part of a membership group within the FE and Skills sector in light of the changing landscape?
  2. Policy is set for the next five years, what is the best position the sector could be in five years time?
  3. You have all said how your individual organisation can support the Further Education and Skills sector. How can we leverage the best impact from your collective works?

Each answered the questions in such a positive way and it was very clear all wanted the best for FE/ALS. Furthermore it was apparent that each wished to work together collaboratively rather than separately. After the discussion panel had finished the panellist continued to speak to one another and I was left with the feeling that I was witnessing the start of something big. There will be a podcast of this soon on the #UKFEchat website.

Later on I was able to unchain myself from deputy matron duties and attend the final session, which was the Ofsted debate chaired by Stephen Exley. The main message that came across for me, was that Ofsted want us to stop feeling like we have to jump through hoops when they arrive. It was clear from what Dr Matt O’Leary and Paul Joyce (HMI) said that poor management strategies were to blame for the stress caused by graded lesson observations. Some SMT’s will use graded lesson observations as a basis to judge performance and will use it to also get rid of underperforming staff. Hence why some refuse to stop grading. However Ofsted will not insist on colleges stopping their internal graded lesson observations. They want colleges to have autonomy on this. Perhaps then what we need is for the colleges that are not grading internally to help the colleges that are. Hopefully they can help them see the real benefits of not doing so and the impact it could have on staff moral and teaching and learning. See here for more insight into the debate.

It has been an absolute honour to have been asked to help out along with some of the other regular #UKFEchatters. The whole buzz from the day was incredible. I’m still reliving it now in my head.

There will be presentations, podcasts and photos coming soon to the #UKFEchat website from the day, keep a look out!

Finally a big thank you again to our sponsors City & Guilds, TES, Education Training Foundation and Toshiba.