Dr Deirdre Hughes, Director, dmh associates

With rapid change, risk, uncertainty impacting on individuals and wider society some serious efforts are needed now and, in the future, to support the leadership of thinking.

Education and employment systems are designed to support individuals to make the most of their talents and skills.

To broaden individuals’ participation into education and lifelong learning, this requires highly motivated professionals able to adapt and thrive within changing education and employment support systems.

I recently had the privilege of chairing an international virtual event, with over 110 participants, focusing on these hot topics. Here are some are powerful insights:

Doing is not enough and thinking is not enough: each is impoverished without the presence of the other.

To face and shape change and to play an active part in building future education and employment support systems, particularly in the aftermath of Covid-19, it is timely to reflect on what future leadership of thinking could offer to and for change, better chances and choices for all.

The Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL) think tank, established seven-and-half years ago, is now set to close later this year. A recent international webinar reflected on its extraordinary achievements, spearheaded by Dame Ruth Silver DBE.

Some selected examples include:

42 funded project grants, 82 publications, 84, videos, nine webinars and 12 large-scale symposiums. UK-wide insights to the College of the Future, the Centenary Commission on Adult Education, and the Institute for Public Polic Research greatly benefitted from FETL’s support. The British Library and University College London (UCL) want FETL’s materials for their archives.

This is the end of an era, but also a new beginning.

A wicked question:

Does Further Education (FE) need an independent think tank for the sector?

Dame Ruth Silver explains “Together educationalists are shaping a future that many of us will not be part of in the longer-term. A focus on the leader in the system, and the system in the leader is essential.” FE, skills and careers are corridors between and within education and employment. Finding spaces and places for collective thinking, creativity, challenging diversity and inclusion inequalities and nurturing professional curiosity is currently in short supply.

For the FE sector Pat Carvalho, Principal of Harrow College and Deputy CEO HCUC, thinks it is very important that FE colleges reflect their local communities and the students who come to their institutions. “We need to review what we do for students across the whole of the student journey and do this by looking through their lens. This too applies to our workforce and our staff experiences and how we develop them in our institutions. It has to be a root and branch review because everyone needs to be part of this.”

Professor Kris Magnusson from Simon Fraser University, British Columbia talked about “career helping” and highlighted the importance of harnessing perspective and emotion in everyday practice.

“The more deeply rooted our schema, the less likely we are to see alternative patterns or meanings.”

He cited this quote: “We cannot feel good about an imaginary future when we are busy feeling bad about an actual present.” Greater attention to emotional filters and ways to reframe greater dialogue within and between institutions, professions and sectors requires greater attention.

Dr Sue Pember CBE shared her insights on the leadership of thinking having worked in nearly every part of the education sector. She is a strong advocate for the adult learner – an activist who loves a good system. She believes in the last five years there has been a vacuum in thinking.

Reflecting on her experience of working with FETL Sue said: “Having the space to think, to think differently, and with others is incredibly important e.g., 

Matt Atkinson Managing Director, FE Associates, presented a series of practical ideas to stimulate intellectual curiosity. He reminded us of the importance of leadership in thinking and “poking and prodding through provocation” This is something FETL did well.

Thinking about informing the future thinking, Matt argued models for leadership training have hardly changed in recent years – they often miss the person at the centre and their teams. “We are in disconnected organisations and remote working is in norm.

Never before has duty of care been more important to us as leaders and employers.” He called for a rethink in the way leaders are trained - citing a ground-breaking approach, sponsored by FETL - involving how psychoanalysis and systems theory contribute to the leadership of thinking.

Education professionals have been driven by assessments, inspections, performance measures and, in some cases, unrealistic targets that impact negatively on the student or client experience. It is time for change.

Organisations such as FETL and the Black FE Leadership Group are so important as they ensure we are daring to ask the right questions, looking at and taking part in research about what we do as a sector to improve diversity and inclusion.

There is a need to:

  • consider the way we develop leaders in FE, skills and careers sectors
  • think about how we as leaders attach themselves to organisations and the leaders in the system from grassroots upwards
  • cultivate our own inner worlds, as well as remembering the complexity of the environment and outer worlds we all operate in
  • move to a centrally of people at the heart of organisations – develop them up to think about leadership.

As Dame Ruth Silver states:

“FE, skills and career development support are crucial: these areas of leadership education are loyal to the future – for all. Ethical excellence is something we much all strive towards.”

The conclusion from the online event – the Further Education (FE) does need an independent think tank for the sector.

Watch this space!

Dr Deirdre Hughes OBE, Director, dmh associates

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