From education to employment

Looking for hope in the Budget

Teachers and trainers across further education and skills are essential to the government’s Budget 2010 ambition of “rebalancing the economy and creating the conditions for enterprise and sustainable growth”. Teachers and trainers are also a key component of the government’s fiscal plans to reduce the deficit, “designed with growth and fairness in mind, as far as possible protecting the most productive public investment expenditure”.

As their professional body, the Institute for Learning (IfL) puts the case that teachers and trainers across further education, skills and adult and community learning represent a very “productive public investment”. Teachers and trainers create hope and, to draw on Woodrow Wilson, are “here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a finer spirit of hope and achievement, and are here to enrich the world”.

Readers who have visited the Eden project in Cornwall – a groundbreaking engine for culture, science and regeneration in one of the most deprived areas in Europe – may remember the exhibit in the foyer accompanied by Elvis Presley singing ‘Wooden Heart’? The set is an everyday kitchen, but gradually strings pull up any objects that plants have made possible, thus demonstrating that plant life is core to our lives, and to our being alive. So, we see the curtains and table cloth whisked away, followed by the table and chairs, the milk in the fridge, the cat, the baby, the clothes off people’s backs, the plates of vegetables and fruit, the meat – the people.

If one were to conduct a similar exercise in the nation’s living and engine rooms, removing all that further and adult education teachers and trainers have made possible, in a year we would lose skilled young people entering the labour market and upskilled adults creating greater productivity in their workplace, gaining employment or creating their own new businesses. We would lose learning that leads to wellbeing and community fabric in villages and local communities; the chance for the 20 per cent most disadvantaged young people who did not thrive in schools to learn their way successfully out of being marginalised; and the opportunity for offenders to gain skills and employment as a way of reducing recidivism. Some four million people’s lives would be the poorer and narrower, and the economy and society noticeably weakened. And what if this continued year on year?

Investing in further education and in ensuring that teachers and trainers are up-to-date, dual professionals – experts in their subject or vocational area and in teaching methods that are effective and efficient – is expensive, but nothing like as dear as the cost of not doing so. Reductions in public expenditure of £83 billion in the period to 2014-15 are best found elsewhere. But if there are cutbacks in FE and skills, frontline teachers and trainers who are making sure they are up to date should be exempt.

The nation needs to keep a motivated teaching and training workforce. Considering the age profile, it makes good economic sense to retain seasoned professional teachers and trainers and not lose them prematurely to other employment or retirement. The announcement of a public sector pay freeze and the prospect of public sector pension reductions present profound risks.

Teachers and trainers are forward-looking. They need to be, since they educate and train people for tomorrow and the decades that follow. The Budget will spur teachers and trainers to develop their work with learners to have a strong emphasis on what the future demands, including low-carbon technologies, financial literacy and integrating entrepreneurship and employability into programmes. The Budget report itself is a lucid and rich resource for those teaching economics, business, statistics and finance, and for those teaching English language and communications, as it is a plain-speaking, elegant and very accessible technical document.

IfL is inviting members to contribute to the government’s engagement programme launched on 24 June 2010, so they can give ideas on how to reduce spending while protecting the quality of public services. Their vantage point from the frontline, working with learners, local communities and employers, week in, week out, may tell a story distinct from others’.

Toni Fazaeli is the chief executive of the IfL, the professional body for more than 200,000 teachers, trainers, tutors and student teachers across the Further Education and Skills sector

Read other FE News articles by Toni Fazaeli:

Professional teaching and training is crucial to the nation’s economic and social ambitions

Collaboration in action

The curious world of politics, further education and skills

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