From education to employment

Why data, evidence and evaluation matters more than ever to FE policy-makers and leaders

Charlynne Pullen, Head of Data and Evaluation, the Education and Training Foundation (ETF)

Good policy-making and strategy building always has to start with data, evidence and evaluation – the bricks and mortar that keep the policy framework together. The Further Education (FE) and Training sector is no different to any other area of public policy.

Yet, being at the heart of the Government’s new industrial strategy, and key to both social mobility plans and meeting the accelerated skills challenges posed by Brexit, has placed an increased emphasis on our sector. It is vital that we know where we are at and what we need to know to ensure we meet these goals.

Over the past month, we have issued three independent and impartial research reports which provide essential intelligence to help policy-makers and the sector in making informed workforce investment decisions. All are designed to ensure there is better evidence to help secure the successful delivery of the technical education reforms, including T levels, as well as the development of an increasingly professional workforce.

This Spring Series of research included:

Workforce Data Report – now in its 25th year and based on 72,104 staff contracts, this report provides data on the latest trends in demographics, staffing numbers and pay. Key findings included noting broadly static pay for teaching staff over the past five years, a 1% decline in overall staff numbers (10% for senior managers) in the past year, and a gender pay gap of nearly 10%.

Initial Teacher Education – the main findings in this annual report highlighted that whilst the quality of the organisations bringing future generations into the profession is high, the gradual fall in numbers joining the profession continues. This is a challenge that the whole sector has to address.

Training Needs Analysis – this research reflects the perspectives of over 400 institutions and more than 2,000 individual practitioners (including teachers, trainers, leaders and assessors) about the future training needs of individuals, organisations the whole sector. Initiated by the ETF, it is the first time such a wide-ranging analysis has been undertaken.

The key conclusion was that while providers and those working in the sector felt their recent training and development activities met most or all of their development needs, there were key areas that required further investment and focus. They felt, if more budget and time permitted, there is scope for additional training to take advantage of the reforms, with a particular focus on leadership and management, maths and English, alongside the use of digital and other new technologies for teaching and learning.

It is also important to emphasise that these research reports have not been born in a silo, they are a truly cross-sector, collaborative effort. They have been supported and promoted by all of the key sector membership bodies and trade unions in the sector, and the Department for Education itself.

This highlights the strength of commitment from those involved in making sure the workforce is at the heart of a successful delivery of the reforms. It also highlights the importance that key policy-makers and sector leaders place on ensuring there is a wealth of robust data, evidence and evaluation about the workforce – so we would start any policy development from a place of knowledge and understanding.

Charlynne Pullen, Head of Data and Evaluation, the Education and Training Foundation (ETF)

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