Another academic year advances and looking back over last year I am to some extent pleased from a student success perspective but worried from a directional focus.

It has been a bit of year really, involving Area Review, devolution, and Higher Education Review to mention just a few of the challenges that the College has faced. My message to colleagues has been not to take the eye off student performance while management fill in yet another set of bureaucratic papers and I am so glad we kept to the process because there have been plenty of examples of time wasting exercises.

To bring balance to the issue, there has also been the need to re-examine strategic planning and some of the financial gearing factors that are necessary. Simultaneously there is a danger of letting data wag the tail of curriculum delivery and then the deck of cards really collapses! The visits of the Area Review Assessors and Commissioner were probably the best part of the experience.

The devolution agenda has run in parallel with that of Area Review so you may have envisaged a major convergence of thinking in terms of skills funding approaches and maximising the benefit to the learner. Sadly, despite some real attempts to achieve this by my local council this became mass moving silos of data analysis. In fact you have to question how volumes of data inform strategic deduction. My experience from an Ofsted perspective is that performance data is crucial as long as it is in a format that enables rapid conclusions to be drawn. Interestingly, I was also amazed at the lack of knowledge of skills development from some of the colleagues I met during the process. Equally I also met very well informed individuals who wanted to ensure that money spent bettered the fortunes of learners to maximum impact level.

My Higher Education Review experience was probably the best of all the exercises I was involved in – I don’t know the result yet but there was academic rigour, testing of hypotheses and a genuine interest in how learners progress. It was unlike an Ofsted inspection from a methodology perspective but similar in terms of measuring student feedback and influence upon the curriculum. I wondered at times if the assessors would see the passion and enthusiasm of my staff and was told that this was well evidenced!

It has therefore been a mixed academic year, which has captured the idiosyncrasies of educational life, policies and approaches that are nothing short of daft and others that engage and give you hope for the future. As in previous years I have met so many people young, old, famous who have been at every level of the scale from plain ineffective to absolutely inspirational. The catalyst for undergoing this level of rigorous analysis is undoubtedly examples of poor performance in the sector and therefore the sector is far from blameless. Equally, has enough attention been given to the example of superb performance and why is there one rule for colleges and another for academies, schools and private training providers?

So as I look at the sector I am inspired by the examples of great performance out there in the sector – the recent TES awards that pinpointed top colleges and individuals that make a difference do just that. Well done to all those individuals and their colleges. Equally, the end of year shows that will demonstrate learners who have excelled beyond belief will continue to justify why the sector is so great.

My own college in Weston-super-Mare has brilliant staff and governors, a highly supportive local council, dynamic university partners and a LEP whose Chair and Chief Executive have promoted this key agenda of learner success. The bureaucracy outside this has only got worse and I am sick and tired of ‘the bums on seats’ brigade who are not interested in quality just revenue. I am a Principal but still a teacher at heart so it’s learners and their achievements that interest me.

If I was a great author I would probably be able to capture the essence of FE. It’s about recognising potential, giving hope and confidence and achieving the supposedly unachievable. It’s not about speeches about training where the learner is forgotten or indeed filling in another spreadsheet. Believe it or not it’s not about mergers – how many merged colleges do you know that are outstanding and brilliant (and not just by Ofsted standards)?

In a previous existence I observed a lecturer giving a talk on pastoral care to a group of bricklaying students at 3pm on a Friday! A difficult audience and a difficult time of day to have impact. “Tell me boys,” he said. “We have 5 minutes left - is there a topic you would like to discuss?”

One of the boys said: “Yes sir, let’s talk about sex!” His classmates murmured their support for the topic and I watched the lecturer.

“Of course boys” he said “but wouldn’t it be better to discuss something you know something about”. After a moment, one of them laughed and then the rest followed.

Now you tell me who knows about teaching and learning and the way forward. Balanced finances and top quality learning is the only way forward but you also need the brilliant teachers. To my colleagues across the sector, the future is in the eyes of the students you serve, their future is in your hands. Don’t take your eye off the ball of learning – it’s priceless!

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:


Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

Is this the most technologically advanced...

Graduates Honoured with Holographic Commencement Speakers in #VR & In-person, Outdoor Celebration with Zoom attendees on video wall.Thunderbird...

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel shared a video in channel. 3 hours 58 minutes ago

Announcing vGHC EMEA

Join us for our first-ever Virtual Grace Hopper Celebration (vGHC) in the European, Middle Eastern, and African (EMEA) region, which will be our...

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel shared a video in channel. 4 hours 2 minutes ago

vGHC Closing

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.

Podcasts

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.

Events

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