From education to employment

The White Paper is evolutionary not revolutionary – which is good news for FE

David Russell, CEO of the Education and Training Foundation

The much-anticipated Further Education (FE) #WhitePaper has launched. As a Sector we can now start the important work of thinking about, discussing and utilising the #SkillsforJobs publication to further improve FE.

The Government had promised the paper would be ‘revolutionary’. What is encouraging for the FE and Training sector is that it is evolutionary and not revolutionary – constant revolution has held our sector back for decades. Instead of revolution, the White Paper offers sensible suggestions with credible timescales that build on where the sector currently finds itself.

The supportive and developmental tone used in the Skills for Jobs publication is encouraging especially to the sector’s powerhouse – our teachers and trainers. The main theme picked up throughout the Paper is the creation of an FE system that meets the country’s skills needs. Supporting themes consist of FE Colleges being central to the Government’s vision and, what I believe is the most significant, a new understanding and recognition of how essential the FE workforce is in making the sector a success.

Skills for Jobs consists of five chapters, one of which is dedicated to Outstanding Teaching. This chapter delves appropriately into three key challenges of workforce recruitment, training and development in FE. However, it does miss the fourth key challenge of reward, with no updates on teacher pay investment. There are positive ideas and commitments in the Outstanding Teaching chapter, as well as in the other chapters, that build on the work of the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) in the following areas.


The White paper puts forward a national recruitment campaign for FE teachers with an advice service that builds on the FE Advice website and helpline the ETF has run since 2013.

There are ideas to ensure those who enter FE teaching get first-rate initial teacher training and induction to the profession. The ETF’s innovative recruitment programmes create a career pathway into and through FE teaching. These include Talent to Teach in FE, prominently referenced in the White Paper, which encourages graduates into FE teaching.

The Society for Education and Training, the membership arm of the ETF, supports the career pathway work through our membership, Professional Standards, and the professional statuses we confer – Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) and Advanced Teacher Status (ATS).

Chapter 5 also offers a commitment to grow another well-established ETF teacher recruitment programme, Taking Teaching Further, which has brought hundreds of experienced professionals from industry into hard to fill vacancies in the sector, and helped them successfully make the transition to new careers in teaching.

For further information about FE teacher recruitment, sign up to the ETF’s free, online National Technical Teacher Recruitment Conference on Friday 12 February 2021.

Training and Development

Throughout Skills for Jobs there is a commitment to support more Professional Development in the sector, with an even more welcome commitment to support high quality CPD – music to the ears of the ETF. We set the standard for effective CPD in FE and design, commission and deliver a wide range of it for our colleagues in colleges, Independent Training Providers (ITPs), Adult Community Education (ACE) providers and beyond.

A new Apprenticeships Workforce Development (AWD) programme was announced in the White Paper which the ETF launched on Friday 22 January. The fully-funded online offer provides trainers and leaders with the teaching skills, subject knowledge and confidence needed to deliver successful apprenticeships for the benefit of learners. 

The Government state in the publication they will continue to invest and build on the ETF’s leadership and governance development offer to “establish strong expectations that college leaders and corporation board members undergo suitable training, and that those with high potential are supported to progress through an end-to-end development programme for further education leadership and governance”.

Through Skills for Jobs’ section on ‘English, maths, and digital skills for everyone’ the White Paper discusses the Centres for Excellence in Maths programme, managed by the ETF, which is a national improvement project aimed at delivering a step change in maths teaching up to Level 2 in post-16 settings that supports learners aged 16-18, no matter which pathway they are on.  

The publication states the government will improve digital skills and make essential digital skills (EDS) provision more accessible and flexible. This links to the ETF’s Enhance Digital Teaching Platform which provides a fully subsidised training offer to support teachers and trainers in using educational technology (EdTech). The Platform also provides modules that support teachers and leaders delivering the new EDS qualifications.

The ETF is continuing to provide support to English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) practitioners. This aligns to the Government’s belief “that everyone who lives in England should have the opportunity to learn to speak English so that they can participate in our labour market and civil society.”

Skills for Jobs ensures those with special educational needs will continue to gain direct work-related skills alongside maths and English to increase their employability. The ETF’s Centres for Excellence in SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) provides expert support for leaders, managers and practitioners to ensure that learners with SEND are progressing into and being present within communities who recognise and embrace their potential.

The FE White Paper is very positive for FE and everyone who works in the sector. The areas highlighted above are the most exciting and progressive areas to be found in the White Paper, but more broadly it shows the evolutionary tactics and approach the Government wants to take, to ensure the sector supports people of all ages in getting the skills needed to benefit society and our economy.

David Russell, CEO of the Education and Training Foundation

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