The Foundation's job is to get behind professionals in the FE and training system and support you in providing an excellent service to learners and employers.
It is a privilege to serve a sector as diverse, dynamic and vitally important as ours, and I am very grateful for the strong support and encouragement I have received in my first 3 months as Chief Executive at the Foundation. It is clear we are meeting a real need and that the FE and training system is ready to work together in partnership on self-improvement.
We have three top priorities, set by our Board in consultation with providers: improving English and Maths, supporting excellence in leadership, management and governance, and developing a vocational education and training system where employers and providers work in partnership.
The last three months have seen several major milestones reached in our own organisational development: the first meeting of our Expert Panels, the launch of our new website, and the incorporation of the redeveloped FE Advice and Online Learning sites under the Foundation umbrella. A revamped Excellence Gateway will follow in July, due to popular demand, featuring exhibition sites in key areas such as English, Maths and teaching learners with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.
More importantly, our programme activity is starting to be felt across England: more than two thousand teachers and trainers signed up to our GCSE Maths Enhancement scheme; our English Enhancement Programme is to be tested nationally following positive evaluations of the initial three pilots, which will result in an additional three hundred specialists English teachers trained up by the end of June; and the tender to develop a national Two Way Street framework is due out this month.
But one particular milestone deserves a special mention. When we were set up in Autumn 2013, a task near the top of the in-tray was reviewing the 2007 Professional Standards, and setting out clear expectations of effective teaching and training. This week, the Foundation is proud to publish the much-anticipated 2014 Professional Standards, an aspirational document enabling teachers and trainers to take responsibility for their own professional learning, and a major milestone in the drive towards greater professionalism across the sector. Almost 1,000 sector professionals and partner organisations were involved in developing these new standards, which will be used by Ofsted as part of their ITE inspections.
We would very much value your feedback on the new Standards, and hope you will assist the Foundation in ensuring they are embraced throughout the sector by sharing them with your colleagues and networks and discussing ways in which you can adapt them within your own context.
There are many challenges ahead for our sector – building capacity to teach English and Maths for all to Level 2 (including a big increase in GCSE), diversification of funding streams, adapting to new learning technologies and encouraging employers to invest with us when buying skills development (at the moment, only 16% of employer spend on training is won by our sector as commonly defined).
But I find deep commitment and professional excellence everywhere I go across our sector. These new stretching, sector-generated Standards will bolster that strength in experienced practitioners and help us to build it in new entrants. They also mean we can all be confident in our common understanding of what constitutes effective professional practice.
And that, in turn, wins the confidence of our ultimate beneficiaries: learners and employers. I commend these Standards to you.
David Russell is chief executive of the Education and Training Foundation