From education to employment

What’s happened this year on FE News?

A lot has happened at FE News this year! From introducing shorts and reels to hosting our first ever event, The FE Collective. Catch up with some of the key events from FE News this past year and major news from within the FE Sector.

Internally it was a busy year for team FE News. It was our 20th anniversary, we moved to the Science Park in Exeter, we also ran our first ever event in 20 years, and with a brand new concept, the FE Collective focused on the wisdom of the crowd and was a flipped conference, a knowledge exchange and collective intelligence exploring AI, Investing in the Sector of the Future and Progression. We also launched the report and tried a new format for the report, and made it REFable under our ISSN journal.

We also launched a new format of livestreams, with shorts and reels and provided blended learning experiences.

FE News on the Go was also launched. This is a podcast version of our exclusive articles on FE News and uses generative AI. We have had 236 FE News on the go podcasts, as of 18th December.

As a part of our 20th anniversary celebrations, we had 20 Years, 20 Voices – with short form videos from 37 thought leaders and influencers across the world reflecting on the past 20 years of Skills and what they would like to see in the future.

We had 6890 articles, over 390 exclusive thought leadership articles and over 100 livestreams and shorts, as of 18th December when the team added them all up!

It has been a long year, the Lifelong Learning Bill (LLE) was launched back in February 2023 (here is the sector reaction to the launch of LLE).

One of my favourite reports this year (outside of the FE Collective) was the Running to Stand Still report, which looks at productivity and skills policy.

So much more has happened this year, some of which we will try to cover in this article!

By Gavin O’Meara

Edtech, AI, Technology and Inclusion, by Danielle

In 2023, a significant focus was on closing the digital skills gap, especially as education shifted online. Concerns about cybersecurity for education providers and students grew, aligning with predictions made by Jason Tomlinson from RM Education at the beginning of the year. The rise in online learning also brought attention to the importance of accessibility and inclusion which is still a significant concern. In June, the House of Lords Committee published their report which called for essential actions for ending digital poverty.

AI saw significant growth, with OpenAI and ChatGPT making headlines at the start of the year with Google Bard and Microsoft with Bing entering the scene, raising questions about their impact on education.

As AI usage became more widespread throughout the year, concerns about students cheating with AI emerged. However, there was a noticeable shift in the AI conversation toward training educators. Even BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, recommended integrating AI into teacher training courses, and in June, ETF launched an updated Digital Teaching Professional Framework.

In mid-October, prominent education organisations, including NCFE, stressed the importance of integrating ‘uniquely human’ abilities into evolving skills systems due to advancing technology. The Department for Education (DfE) responded by announcing AI-powered support for teachers in late October, followed by new guidance for businesses to harness AI skills a month later.

Microsoft’s substantial investment in AI infrastructure in November was praised by the Chancellor, who allocated £500 million for AI innovation centres in the Autumn Statement, aiming to position the UK as an “AI powerhouse.” Richard Foster Fletcher shared insights on what this meant for the FE sector.

By Danielle Watters

Education, Ofsted, DfE and Prison education, by Holly

This year we’ve seen lots of great thought leadership around prison education. Earlier in the year we saw Ofsted report on slow progress on reading education in prisons with Novus also calling for government action to help restricted access prisoners to access education. However, we did see some progress with the Government awarding £1.8m to prepare more offenders for work and training, and introducing a new apprenticeship scheme to help reduce reoffending and bridge skills gaps across the UK.

Going back to the topic of Ofsted, recently, the Department for Education released new data showing that 89% of schools were rated Good or Outstanding, a 21% increase since 2010, highlighting the success of Government reforms. In April this year, we saw Ofsted Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman call for Ofsted Reform, with focus on improvements on assessing safeguarding and support for school leaders during inspections. We then saw later in June, Ofsted announce changes to inspection processes, including a new wellbeing investment to support staff wellbeing. And finally, it was announced that Sir Martin Oliver will be the new Ofsted Chief Inspector, taking over from Amanda Spielman going into the new year.

This year DfE announced plans for Advanced British Standard – a new qualification to replace A Levels and T Levels, although it is expected to take around a decade to fully roll out. We also saw various further education funding this year with the £48 million Skills Injection Fund (SIF) to boost the rollout of Higher Technical Qualifications (HTQs), £165 million fund launched to transform Local Skills Improvement Fund (LSIF) and many more.

By Holly Wheaton

Apprenticeships and skills, skills gaps, retraining and CPD, by Finley

Another Significant focus of 2023 was surrounding the topics of apprenticeships and skills, skills gaps, retraining and CPD. So let’s dive into what has happened in 2023!

We had the Spring Back to Work Budget where it was announced there would be more skills bootcamps, and returnerships for over 50s.

Rishi Sunak also announced that he wants to see all students studying some form of maths until they are 18. Too many people are held back by poor maths, in his opinion.

Recently, we also had the Autumn Statement, where the chancellor announced a number of initiatives for skills:

  • £500 million over the next two years to establish additional “innovation centres.”
  • A new measure: If, after seeking a job for 18 months, a claimant has still not found employment, they will be required to participate in a mandatory work placement.
  • In a boost to workers, the National Living Wage is set to rise from £10.42 to £11.44 per hour in April next year, marking a substantial increase of 9.8%.

Micro-credentials have come to light, gaining more popularity in recent months. We even had an event called the FE Collective with an outcomes report which found the sector needs stackable skills, and attendees even gained CPD!

By Finley Vile

Starting at FE News as an Apprentice, by Alex

My journey with FE News commenced in September 2023. Venturing into the FE sector for the first time, I eagerly immersed myself in the world of further education. Among my initial projects, I played a role in organising the FE Collective, contributing to everything from designing lanyards to DJing the VIP night and coordinating interviews on the event day. This experience was truly exhilarating, allowing me to meet FE News contributors and gain a firsthand look into the collaborative nature of the FE community.

Throughout the year, I’ve learnt the ins and outs of content creation and how that applies to FE News. Challenges were abundant, but they were met with enthusiasm and a genuine hunger for learning. As the year comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the incredible journey I’ve experienced in such a short period of time. Looking ahead, I’m eagerly anticipating the amount of opportunities and personal growth that the next year promises in this ever-evolving sector.

The diverse experiences have been vital in shaping my perspective and gaining a strong sense of commitment to contributing to the FE News platform. As I continue to navigate this exciting terrain, I look forward to the impactful contributions that can be made in the coming year.

By Alex Anderson

See you in 2024!

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