From education to employment

Review of the ARPCE Conference

Dr Simon Reddy is a master plumber and FE teacher and a founding member of Tutor Voices
The 2nd International Research Conference organised by the Association for Research in Post-Compulsory Education (ARPCE), was held at Harris Manchester College, Oxford in July 2016. Despite being Oxford University’s smallest college, Harris Manchester boasts an impressive library housing books and manuscripts dating back to the 15th Century. The library was part of a college tour, kindly given by Dr Ian Finlay who did more than a superb job of organising the conference.  
The ARPCE certainly succeeded in their aim to bring together researchers and practitioners in post-compulsory education from many different countries. As an English Plumbing Teacher working in Further Education, the event had caught my attention because it welcomed early career researchers, teacher researchers and contributions from any aspect of post-compulsory education. It was my first time giving a paper at a major conference, but my nerves were soon calmed by the supportive and inclusive environment created by the conference delegates.  
Meeting researchers and developing professional networks was another key reason for attending the conference. My introduction to Howard Scott of the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) at the conference has already resulted in a blog publication of my paper. The conference also produced an offer for a collaborative paper. In addition, two organisations have made appointments with me to find out more about Facebook Pedagogy. Positive outcomes indeed!
The conference was very rich in terms of the subject matter covered, although sadly there was much that I missed owing to the parallel sessions. PhD candidate Carlene Cornish gave an interesting account of Skills to Succeed Students (S2S) and their lack of opportunities for progression. I was inspired by the new and exciting narratives of Dr Craig Hammond who is developing and implementing a utopian pedagogy within a ‘HE in FE’ context, and will shortly publish an associated book called Hope, Utopia and Creativity in Higher Education . The prescribed curriculum is eschewed to provide space for students to respond creatively. Peter Shukie introduced us to an online space where anyone can teach and learn anything for free, namely community open online courses (COOCs which featured here in FE News last year). His action research project explores the experiences of learning and teaching in a non-institutional online space. Another highlight was Joel Petrie, who enthralled us all with his talk on post-compulsory metaphors entitled ‘Here be FE dragons’; drawing on themes from the book Further Education and the Twelve Dancing Princesses and its sequel currently under development: “The Principal – Power and Professionalism in FE.”
The first keynote speaker, Professor Kalwant Bhopal of Southampton University, revealed the lack of equality of opportunity for black and ethnic professors in HE. The second, Professor Mary Hamilton of Lancaster University, gave an insightful talk about writing, and the final keynote speech was given by Professor Robin Simmons of Huddersfield University who invited us to reflect on the ‘starry-eyed lens’ through which we sometimes view the past. His wonderful narrative history of liberal studies was both critical and amusing and a good way to end a great conference!
Dr Simon Reddy is a master plumber and FE teacher and a founding member of Tutor Voices

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