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

On BBC2 recently there was the start of a documentary that followed the life of surgeons and patients in a busy hospital. I caught up with the programme after reading about it in the Times on the weekend and it provided a somewhat harrowing but accurate analysis of frustrations, successes and failures of the current modus operandi of the NHS.

Without suggesting that the issues we face are comparable to the NHS we are in fact facing an emergency of our own in terms of the skills agenda. In many ways the absence of an equality of treatment and approach could dramatically affect our learners now and in the future.

We must put the learner first above all the bureaucracy and hurdles we face. If we are not careful, the very life-blood of Further Education will be seriously affected.

The answer is putting the control of learning fully in the hands of the agents of delivery and in simultaneously holding those deliverers to account from a quality, financial and progression perspective.

Cuts in funding and stagnant levels of funding are not the way to go ahead or indeed maintain standards. Investment is required.

Last Friday’s management team meeting at my College is probably a typical example of the ‘juggling’ that is required for success. In the meeting we covered the ‘SEND’ agenda and the increasing need for support recognising the attention now being given to mental health. We examined the recruitment of apprenticeships given the vacancies, but the shortage of young people in particular who want to take them up.

HE in FE was discussed within an environment that is facing difficulty given the removal of the cap and correspondingly increased competition. Salary differentials was on the agenda due to the different areas of delivery and also Ofsted due to the variation of self-assessment and inspection of our Academies and College plus the QAA higher Education quality approaches and so it went on.

The detail above can be considered from a variety of perspectives. Is this the norm anyway? Why do we have so many differences between funding, and alternatively why don’t we stop bleating about it and get it sorted?

The reality is, my team are not bleating on about it but in actual fact are trying to solve everything. My point is that the energy spent fathoming out some of the contradictions and lack of information generally could be better spent on advancing the learning agenda. It brings us back to the argument of a learning trust and, indeed, the need to bring such a model to fruition.

So is this an attack on the current system? No, it is an observation that the current system is a variety of current systems. All have merit in different ways: the academy trust, the career college, the UTC, the multi academy trust, the FE College the University etc.

In my college we have a Multi Academy Trust, the FE College, a University Centre, a Law and Professional Services Academy and a number of subsidiary companies carrying out

bespoke business such as offender learning. Each has, in the main, its own terms of reference, funding methodology, governance structure, approval structure, inspection methodologies, audit assessment and so on.

These systems have evolved through time.

But now imagine a high-tech solution of modules that make up a single computer program. They have their own procedures but they combine to form one set of actions. This surely is what FE and indeed learning methodology now needs – an appreciation of the complexity, an appreciation of differentiated models of learning, but one quality-assurance, funding and accountability mechanism.

In many ways this is the argument that some of the eminent and highly dedicated doctors and surgeons were making in the documentary last week, ie our evolved approaches are not jigsawing in any way. Well, perhaps it is time they did. Most of the ideas and systems of delivery learning are sound but they need to be joined up.

So, not a rant actually, but more an observation. My staff, your staff, will no doubt continue to make the best of the existing systems but refinement must surely be on the cards.

Dr 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

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