It is no secret that the education sector is going through a somewhat turbulent time, as is every other sector in the current climate. However never have there been so many choices available to learners; GCSEs, A-Levels, the diploma, vocational qualifications, apprenticeships – with so many options it can be extremely difficult to decide which path to take.

There have been endless debates about whether A Levels reign supreme over vocational learning, and on how long it will take for the diploma to be accepted, but the truth of the matter is this: what works for one learner will not necessarily work for another.

Catering to individuals' needs is vital, but we also must not lose sight of the clarity and focus that's essential for our sector to provide the country with the skills it needs to thrive.

Different areas of education have been under much media scrutiny at certain points in the year so far. We are asked annually if A-Levels are growing ever-easier, yet the other side of the coin suggests that academic qualifications remain superior to any other category of achievement. More recently it has also been highlighted that the number of vocationally-qualified people in the UK far outweighs the number of jobs available.

Vast changes are occurring behind the scenes within various qualification categories, such as the new A* A-Level grade, the imminent transition of NVQs to CBQs (Competency Based Qualifications) and the NQF becoming the QCF.

Another concept has recently been thrown in for good measure – the imminent debut of the University Technical College (UTC). The first of its kind is due to open its doors to learners in autumn 2012 in Walsall. UTCs will bear a strong focus on vocational and work-based learning for 14 to 19 year olds; however the necessity of these institutions is already being debated before they have even been trialled. Not only has it been argued that colleges already provide the courses and technical content that these new-found specialist institutions propose to offer, but their claim to the 'university' status has also worried critics, who accuse UTCs of potentially misleading students.

This must all be a little mind-boggling to the 14 to 19 learner, and probably equally confusing for those looking to re-train or go back to learning as adults. It is certainly a lot for those operating in the further education sector to take in, which is why we have been working closely with our centres to ensure that any changes in the market are fully understood and that changes are implemented with the least amount of disruption possible. This way, the learner remains largely uninterrupted and is left to focus on studying and achieving those vital qualifications to be successful in the workplace.

So, does this mean that education should be streamlined to provide a 'one size fits all' remedy? Should certain qualifications be scrapped to refine such a complicated education system?

Variety, as they say, is the spice of life therefore in my opinion, the answers are emphatically 'no' on both counts. Every qualification that is available in the current marketplace will have relevance to the career and personal development of certain groups of individuals. We simply have to ensure that the right learning and teaching offerings are being made available to the right people and at the right times – and that the information about these offerings is communicated as clearly as possible.

What should also be commonplace in the learning structure is the teaching of core literacy and numeracy skills through specialised supplementary courses. NCFE's Get Set for Work suite of qualifications is one example of such a programme, which provides learners with the essential vocational, numeracy, literacy, ICT and personal skills required by employers.

Schools and colleges, teachers and parents, careers services and the Government must recognise that even from an early age, learning is a personal, individual journey. People's learning styles and abilities differ right across the board and how people shape their education is an entirely personal choice. Learners can seek all the advice in the world from family, friends, teachers and careers advisors – in the end however it is the individual interests, ability, talents and ambitions of each learner that will define their future success.

David Grailey is the chief executive of NCFE, the qualification awarding body

Read other FE News articles by David Grailey:

A transparent way forward for education

Proactively engaging the private sector with education and training

Filling the gaps amid funding cuts

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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.

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