From education to employment

Losing sight of the bigger picture

Charlotte Bosworth, Director of Skills and Employment at exam board OCR speaks out about the need to remain focussed on the bigger picture, amid criticisms of the Gazelle Colleges Group.

A gazelle is a known for its speed and is often able to out run its predators. Undoubtedly the speed and agility of this species is why it was selected as the name for a new breed of further education college – the Gazelle Colleges Group – which was set up to focus on embedding an entrepreneurial mind and skill set in learners. Today, it is dealing with a number of circling predators of its own, who have launched an attack on the way it has spent public funds.

With the spotlight on the attention-grabbing sums of money involved, the laudable vision of the Gazelle Colleges Group has been overshadowed and somewhat tainted and that is a pity.
Set up to create a different learning environment which would give learners a competitive advantage in the world of work, the Gazelle approach is both innovative and necessary to drive the enterprise education agenda.

I am not saying that Gazelle is the only option, but the FE sector needs this kind of fresh thinking to ensure we connect the dots between what goes on in educational establishments and the requirements of today’s employers. Currently, there is a gaping hole in the curriculum.

I believe the only way to do this is to embed entrepreneurship as a mandatory element of the curriculum. There is currently too much emphasis on the ‘three Rs’, but the three Es – enterprise, entrepreneurship and employability should be a vital part of any young person’s education. Not only should the three Es be integral to the curriculum, but they should also form part of the criteria by which FE colleges are measured.

To succeed this will require investment in terms of finance and resources and teachers will need to have the knowledge, skill set and confidence to deliver a different type of curriculum.
Those behind the Gazelle Colleges Group are among a small group of trailblazers who have put enterprise at the centre of learning. Some will survive and indeed thrive and create a blueprint for the future of FE learning. Others will prove necessary experiments to learn from and pave the way for further developments.

I hope, for the sake of future entrepreneurs, the Gazelle Colleges Group does not fall prey at the first hurdle. If there are questions to be answered around public funding then they must be properly addressed, but it does not have to be at the expense of a much bigger and important issue for further education.

Charlotte Bosworth is director for skills and employment at OCR, the awarding body

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