Teresa Carroll, the Education and Training Foundation’s National Head of Inclusion

If you ask this question to your friends and family, you might get “it’s when you go to college to train to be a hairdresser” or “my neighbour does a bit of flower arranging at the community centre.

Is that Further Education?

And yes, those answers are right but Further Education (FE) is so much more.

Last year I was talking to a Local Schools Network together with the Careers Enterprise Company (CEC).

We were promoting the importance of high-quality information, advice and guidance to school leavers.

A teacher said to me, “well that’s all well and good but our local college doesn’t offer the courses our young people want.”

It dawned on me that a lot of people just don’t know what FE is and what exciting education and training opportunities the sector has to offer.

This is completely understandable when you start to describe the huge diversity of provider types, including specialist colleges, independent training providers, local authority and community learning to name just a few that are available.

And then add the vast array of different courses and qualifications these different providers offer; you can see the reasons why there isn’t universal understanding of what is meant by ‘FE’. 

So what is the FE sector?

We then set about creating a guide to tackle this issue at the Education and Training Foundation (ETF). As the sector-led, workforce development body for the FE sector our role and focus is to commission and deliver professional learning and development for the sector’s teachers, leaders, trainers and assessors to improve education and training for learners aged 14 and over. We hadn’t previously produced any resources to help potential learners continue their education journey in our sector. But without learners there wouldn’t be the need for the workforce we support.

Our new guide, So what is the FE sector?, funded by the Department for Education and developed with Ofqual, was therefore created to increase knowledge and understanding of the different types of organisations, the range of courses available, together with an outline of the qualifications offered within the sector for:

  • Those who want to carry on or return to learning
  • Family members, friends or carers who want to understand where to start looking to support others in continuing with their education
  • Teachers who want to make sure that their learners really understand the broad range of options in FE available to them
  • Those considering a career in teaching as they might want to join the FE teaching workforce.

Where FE sits in the education landscape

It’s the area that sits between and next to schools and universities that isn’t always thought of or seen initially. In its generally quiet (but increasingly not so) and understated (and sadly sometimes ignored) way, it is changing the lives of people from all parts of the community, young and old, in settled and newly arrived communities. The sector is there offering support so people can achieve their potential and feel good about themselves.

You can go to university through the FE route

It can develop your skills so you can get that job you wanted. It can help you to develop educational and industrial knowledge whilst making friends at the same time and much more. Personally, in my 20s I studied my A levels in classes offered in our local primary schools – an idea from one of our FE college. 

The youngest person in the class was 18 and the oldest were a couple who were in their late 70s. We used to joke that we were encouraging the primary school kids to learn as when they saw us, they must have thought, “we don’t want to still be coming to school at their age!” 

However, we now understand that people carrying on learning throughout their lives is exactly what our nation’s workforce needs – lifelong learning is a reality.

Today, FE is even more important than it ever has been

With the technological revolution and the recognition of new national and worldwide challenges, for example, climate change, new knowledge and skills for the future are required. We need to provide opportunities and harness the ideas from everyone in society.

The government has recognised the need to increase technical skills within our workforce and the introduction of T Levels in 2020 is one of many welcome initiatives to address this. And where are T Levels nearly all being offered? Why in the FE sector of course.

The difficulty in defining the FE system

This change highlights just how difficult it is to define the FE system as it is subject to constant change. Across the months of writing our guide, there were at least two new qualifications introduced into the system, and change is likely to continue. However, our guide is an excellent starting point for those who want to understand what the FE system is. We’ve had excellent feedback from those working in the sector who themselves hadn’t appreciated how diverse it is. 

We hope this guide helps you to make choices that take you and those you support to where they want to be. At the ETF we will continue to support the FE Sector and its workforce to make sure the outcomes of the learners that come into our sector continue to improve.

Teresa Carroll, the Education and Training Foundation’s National Head of Inclusion

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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.

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 May 2020, FE News had over 120,000 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.

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.

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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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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.

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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.

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