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The premise of George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, for those that haven’t read it, was a dystopian futuristic society in which a colossal amount of control was placed on the way people spoke, acted and even thought. History was altered with the swipe of an eraser in order to meet specific political needs, and Freedom was stripped away from people by massive Government agencies such as the Ministry of Truth.

This obviously seemed quite plausible to Orwell when he wrote the novel in 1949, and in many respects he hit the nail on the head. Which brings me onto Further Education… Frankly, it’s hard not to be reminded of Nineteen Eighty-Four when you hear the phrase “Machinery of Government”. It’s a phrase from an Orwellian nightmare if ever there was one and I discussed the problems it will cause for the education sector in my last column on FE News.

Luckily, the motives behind Machinery of Government are far less sinister than those of the people who ruled over Oceania. They’re not scrabbling for power, rather, devolving it so local authorities take more control of further education. Fine, in theory, except we are faced with the prospect that those being given the power are not necessarily ready for it.

Again, unlike Orwell’s protagonists, we are in the fortunate situation that we can actually do something about this. The FE sector – with a particular emphasis on support organisations like NCFE, which works closely with colleges and training providers throughout the country, can help reduce the impact the Machinery of Government will have while it sorts itself out in the short and medium terms.

Firstly, I firmly believe that customer service should be at the top of the agenda. Ok, I would say that ‘service’ has been part of NCFE’s strapline for years, and we recently gained recognition for that as we scooped the Culture and People Award and were crowned Best Medium Organisation at the UK Customer Experience Awards. These awards included entrants from across a variety of sectors and marketplaces and were delighted with the results.

However, to put not too fine a point on it, our sector generally has a slightly shoddy reputation for customer service. There’s no question that most organisations could be doing a little better and, with MoG round the corner threatening to really upset the apple cart, the stability of the FE sector is seriously at risk.

If going the extra mile to make things easier for colleges and training providers is what it takes, then that is absolutely what we should be doing and we really have the chance to make a difference here, there has never been a better time to address the issue and start universally offering the sort of world-class, award-wining levels of service the sector deserves.

Secondly, there are an awful lot of questions still out there about MoG – many of which remain unanswered. What is being done to tackle what’s happening? Are there any other ways of preparing? Are there best practice examples that can be shared, or plans in place to deal with what’s happening?

The industry needs some real leadership right now – someone must grasp the nettle and find a way to bring all these answers together in a presentable, palatable form before next Spring. We need to work together to negotiate MoG successfully and I know this for sure: the first half of 2010 will be an incredibly interesting period.

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


Read other FE News articles by David Grailey: 

FE Titanic approaches the iceberg of MoG

We must help UK's young jobless get set for work

Sex, drugs and citizenship

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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