Can you believe the Autumn Term is here already? Sadly, I can barely remember my summer break because the majority of its benefits have now been eradicated!

We start this term now with plenty of controversy – the exams fiasco regarding GCSE results and the Labour Party attack on Free Schools. The latter is only politics and let’s face it, did we really expect the Labour Party to approve of the Gove agenda? The former, however, is more serious because it may suggest a level of interference in the examination process. I was a Chief Examiner for many years, albeit in Mathematics rather than English, but I would suggest that I never saw examinations which were exactly on par with previous series.  Neither did I worry too much because the results were ‘norm’ tested. In other words, once all the results were collected, the top 10% achieved A grade etc. Perhaps if this strategy was used, the whole problem could have been avoided?

Why did the English GCSE issue arise in the first place? I wonder, crucially, if it was because of the ever constant criticism that GCSEs are getting easier. That debate is generally boring, unjustified and serves only to demotivate teachers and students alike! It is interesting, however, to note the comments from employers that young people, particularly at age 16, lack ‘employability skills’ - and knowledge of business and industry.  Something does need to be done about that but should employers be surprised? I bet if we carried out a survey of teachers in schools then the majority would have careers involving university, teacher training and school teaching. No wonder therefore that ‘employability skills’ are lacking. Neither am I demeaning the teachers in our schools – they have a hard enough job involving crowd control from some of my observations - but it does suggest an opportunity for FE.

How many of you remember ‘Increased flexibility’ or, really going back in time, ‘TVEI’? If you remember both then you are dated and as old as I but they were both initiatives that enabled 14-16 year olds to engage in vocational study – and they were successful. The success was down to the involvement of Further Education Colleges and also due to the fact that the local authority ring-fenced the money for that purpose. Now, with delegated budgets, many schools choose not to purchase this expertise or mistakenly think they can do it better. Notice that I don’t mention the unmitigated disaster of Diplomas and I can’t bring myself to even discuss the obscene learning associated with the initiative. What I do suggest to you is that the 14-16 agenda for Further Education, which will come into being from next August, is a major opportunity for us all. That doesn’t mean direct competition with schools but it does mean a chance to carry out some specialist 14-16 work which is desperately needed.

In my College in North Somerset, there are exciting developments occurring both within the College and the partnering schools and academies. The GCSE results at the schools are both improved and, in some cases, impressive.  There are building developments at most schools and extensive works at the College. The latter includes a new wing on an ever-growing Sixth Form, a new centre for Performing Arts and huge investment in Construction and Engineering, including Motor Vehicle engineering. I consider it a really good picture because, despite the economy, the schools and College are working together to develop outstanding learning opportunities.

I will close my article this month with reference to learners with learning difficulties and disabilities. The Government proposals are for the monies associated with such learners to be handed over to local authorities who will then set the agenda for the future. It is a new agenda which will place significant risk and accountability upon a local authority and the need for relevant authorities and their partners to work together on such a strategy is paramount. The idea is that the local authority will be able to concentrate on quality and value for money simultaneously and it can work if it is collaborative. In North Somerset we have a collaborative agenda through a dynamic North Somerset Partnership and excellent support from the LEP, EFA and SFA.  Wherever you are, get this in place!

Let’s look forward to a highly successful Autumn Term for everyone involved with teaching and learning.

Paul Phillips is principal and chief executive of Weston College, Weston-super-Mare

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Educating yourself in Prison: an inside job

Educating yourself in Prison: an inside job

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter yesterday

RT @NCFE: ‘For as long as humans have worked, and whatever industry they may have worked in, success has always been predicated on having t…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page