Nurture 16/17


I have not blogged for quite a few months owing to a wave of personal and professional struggles (I won’t bore you with the details). In fact I have not really engaged on Twitter as much as I usually do. No doubt I’ve missed an array of interesting blogs and discussions. However it has meant less online time and more face to face time. With this in mind I thought I’d look at my last Nurture post and do some reflecting (and tick a CPD reflection box).

This is the list from my Nurture 15/16 post last December. 

  1. Progress ‘me time’ to being actually during the day and not sat staring at walls thinking about work etc…
  2. Look at changing the content of the online learning resources. This will involve a discussion with the students concerned.
  3. Continue to attend the #UKFEchat events and contribute to the weekly discussion forums.
  4. Keep my daughter on track with her school work (she has a lazy streak).
  5. As last year, I will continue to engage with twitter and I am already booked in for Primary Rocks in March and Northern Rocks in June.

On reflection the list was a bit crap. So here is my new one that I will no doubt forget about. I am the type of person that instantly forgets any action plan or target I’ve set myself.

Nurture 16/17

  1. This ‘me time’ malarkey is quite important. To be fair I have managed quite a bit over the summer but not so much so over autumn. As we are now in winter I will get back to walking and cycling. I have no excuse now I’ve been given a bloody Fitbit for Christmas. I hope I don’t become obsessed with it and look at it as much as I look at my phone!
  2. I have done this and altered the content. I will be seeking feedback off students in the new year. 
  3. I have been rather lapsed in engaging with #UKFEchat. I do apologise to my fellow #UKFEchatters. I will make more of an effort in 2017.
  4. I have had some success with this and I’m pleased to say she is doing well. So I will continue being the nagging mum. I just wish she didn’t act like ‘Kevin the Teenager’ at home. 
  5. My son will be starting secondary school in 2017. I want to support and help him make as smooth a transition from primary to secondary as possible. Having personally spent the first few years at secondary school being bullied I am determined he will not have as miserable time as I did. 
  6. I have got tickets to Primary Rocks again with the lovely @cherrylkd (I teach students wishing to work in early years and primary school settings, in case you are wondering why an FE teacher would attend such an event). I’m also going to Northern Rocks and I would like to attend a few more education related events. Especially Research Ed as I missed the first FE one this year. 

I’m still enjoying teaching, however as in any educational sector there are many things that need fixing (or being chucked out all together). I hope 2017 finds less sticking plasters over things that need fixing.


New Look #UKFEchat Website


Take a look at the new look UKFEchat website here.

If you have not heard of this before it is for those interested in Further Education. It will link you to other people in FE and give you information on a range of FE issues and topics. Take a look!

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.

Had a bad lesson?

If you haven’t had a bad lesson then that’s great and quite frankly remarkable. For the rest of you I recommend you read the new #UKFEchat book. It is packed full of further education teachers disastrous lesson experiences. More importantly they (myself included) also share what they learnt from these testing lessons.

UKFEchat 3 Cover

To get your copy simply click on this link – #UKFEchat and download for free!

Huge thanks to Sarah Simons, Iain Simons, City & Guilds and TES for making this third book possible.

Help my GCSE results were rubbish!


Not getting the right GCSE results does not mean your life is over. If I had thought like that in 1988 I wouldn’t be writing this now! This September I will be teaching level one students (students that through a variety of reasons have not achieved the GCSE grades they had hoped for). There will be a range of challenges this year for these particular students. The focus within the classroom for them will not only be on building up their confidence academically, but finding ways to help them determine what career path to choose.

The thing that has struck a chord with me during August enrolment this year, is seeing the clear disappointment (and for some embarrassment) of not achieving those C or above grades.  A particular moment comes to mind whilst I was enrolling a young lady who refused to make eye contact and grunted the odd word to my questions. Her parents were sat either side of her trying to cajole her and point out the positives. I carried on talking directly to her about the course and how better English and maths grades could be achieved. I then talked about the future once completing the year-long course. What seemed like an eternity to gain a glimmer of eye contact was actually only five minutes. Eventually with my incessant positivity and examples of past student successes, I finally gained eye contact and the grunting stopped and a smile returned to her face. My heart went out to her and in truth I saw a reflection of myself in 1988.

We can call level one courses all sorts of things but most students just see it as the boobie prize, and liken it to their schools bottom set classes. So with this in mind during last weeks induction I worked hard on focussing on how this year will help these students. I talked about ways they could get their English and maths grades up and what potential careers paths they could take with the right qualifications. I suppose you could say we built a sort of plan, one that at present looks more like one of those maze puzzles, but a plan nonetheless.

I appreciate that some of these students achieved low grades primarily down to their poor behaviour and attendance. However this is not the case for all and even if that was the case, you have to ask yourself why were they like that? Everybody deserves a second chance.

The #UKFEchat Conference 2015


We have taken quite a battering in Further Education lately (more so than usual) and the future is definitely not bright. What we need is a boost, a chance to regroup, ‘lick our wounds’ and find a way to voice our views on the importance of Further Education. We may not have a great deal of clout due to the negativity towards our worth, but we are not going down the toilet without a fight!

Enter centre stage the marvellous Mrs Sarah Simons with the fabulous support from City & Guilds , TES and the ETF. Yes, on Saturday the 24th October the first Further Education conference (done without an ulterior motive) for those that are interested in all aspects of Further Education. This conference will help you learn more about educational matters from our amazing speakers and workshops. In addition to that you can catch up with like minded FE folk over a brew or butty at lunch (or after the event, partake in liquid refreshments at the nearest boozer). In other words a day of meaningful CPD without feeling like you are having hot pokers stabbed in to your eyes.

These fantastic speakers have given up their own personal time on a Saturday for free! Yes you heard, for free. They will be sharing invaluable information, thoughts and experiences on a whole host of educational matters. Subjects covered range from behaviour, using technology, research and much more.

Below is the list of speakers that will be at the conference. I have put a link to their twitter accounts, a brief summary about them and what they will be talking about on the day.

If you wish to attend the conference you can purchase a ticket here.

Tom Bennett

Tom is a secondary teacher and writes regularly for the TES. He has also written four books to date on educational matters (I have personally read three of them and highly recommend). Furthermore in 2013 he founded researchED. Tom has also recently been appointed by Nicky Morgan to be a ‘Behaviour Zsar’ for the DfE. He will be a speaker on the day.

Shane Chowen

Shane is Head of Policy and Public Affairs at Niace and is actively involved in Further Education, he also and writes for FE Week. He contributes to the #UKFEchat forum and will be taking part in the discussion panel on Reputation and Professionalism in FE.

Sally Dicketts CBE

Sally is Chief Executive of Activate Learning and Chair of The Women’s Leadership Network. Sally will be on the debate panel discussing the Reputation and Professionalism in FE.

Paul Dix

Paul is a teacher and is also Managing Director of Pivotal Education which specialises in behaviour. Paul will be running a workshop with Sarah Le-Good on Behaviour.

Stephen Exley

Stephen is the Further Education Editor for the TES. He will be chairing the debate between Lorna Fitzjohn and Dr Matt O’Leary on Observation.

Lorna Fitzjohn

Lorna is the Ofsted National Director for FE & Skills and Regional Director, West Midlands. She will be on the debate panel discussing observations with Dr Matt O’Leary.

Yousef Fouda  

Yousef is Chief Technology Officer at Warwickshire College Group & Director of Rugby College. Yousef will be running a workshop with Scott Hayden on technology that can assist teaching and learning in the classroom.

Michael Gaston

Mike is a principal at an FE college and engages in the #UKFEchat forums on Twitter. He will be part of the discussion panel on Reputation and Professionalism in FE.

Ann Gravells  

Ann has written a range of text books and resources for teachers and assessors in the Further Education, Training and Skills Sector. Ann will be running a workshop with Hilary Read on Pedagogy in WBL (Work Based Learning).

Bob Harrison

Bob has been a teacher for forty years and has been involved in a variety of roles, including being a Principal of a college. In addition to this he is also the Director of SET and Education Adviser to Japanese electronics giant Toshiba. He also contributes regularly to #UKFEchat. Bob will be running a workshop with Tom Starkey on educational technology.

Charley Hasted

Charley is an FE representative for the NUS LGBT Committee. She will running an E & D workshop at the event with Kay Sidebottom and Lou Mycroft.

Scott Hayden

Scott is Specialist Practitioner of Social Media & EdTech and teaches at Basingstoke College of Technology. He is a regular contributor to #UKFEchat. Scott will be running a workshop with Yousef Fouda on technology that can assist teaching and learning in the classroom.

Dr Gary Jones

Gary is a former senior manager of an FE college and writes about evidence based practice (see here). He will be running a workshop on research in practice.

Sarah Le-Good

Sarah is Assistant Principal Social Inclusion at Derby College. She also engages with the #UKFEchat forum. She will be running a workshop with Paul Dix on behaviour.

Lou Mycroft

Lou is a teacher at a college and Co-founder of Tutor Voices. She will be taking part in the discussion panel for Strength in Unity. In addition to this she will also be running a workshop on E & D with Kay Sidebottom and Charley Hasted.

Hilary Nunns  

Hilary is a teacher and teacher trainer. Her specialist areas are Behaviour Management, ADHD, Additional Learning Support. She is the Founder of Can Do Courses. Hilary is also a regular on the #UKFEchat forum. Hilary will be running a workshop on managing behaviour of LLDD learners.

Dr Matt O’Leary   

Matt  is a Reader in Education at Birmingham City University (BCU). He is also the author of  ‘Classroom Observation’. Matt will be taking part in the debate panel with Lorna Fitzjohn on observations.

Geoff Petty  

Geoff has written a range of books on education and is a familiar name on the reading list for Further Education teaching qualifications. Geoff will be discussing his work on pedagogy.

Hilary Read

Hilary is the founder of Read On Publications Ltd. She is also an author and WBL champion. Hilary also contributes to the #UKFEchat forum. She will be running a workshop with Ann Gravells on Pedagogy in WBL.

Kay Sidebottom

Kay is a teacher at Northern and Barnsley Colleges. She will be running a workshop with Lou Mycroft and Charley Hasted on E & D.

Katie Shaw  

Katie is Senior Campaign and Policy Officer for the NUS. She also contributes to the #UKFEchat forum. Katie will be running a workshop on Learner Voice.

Tom Starkey  

Tom is a teacher at Leeds College and writes for Teach Secondary and the TES. He is also a contributor to the #UKFEchat forum. He will be running a workshop with Bob Harrison on Educational Technology.

Tim Weiss  

Tim is the Education and Training Foundation Director for Strategy, Quality and Research. Tim will be speaking on the day.

Dan Williams  

Dan is a Learning Coach at Central College Nottingham and author. He is a regular contributor to the #UKFEchat forum. Dan will be running a workshop on English and Maths.

If this is of interest to you get yourself a ticket here and join us on the 24th October.

The neglected middle child or Cinderella


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.