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!