Dr Susan Pember

Studying at Home

Over the last 14 weeks our young people and adult learners have been confined to their homes with a hope that they could study online. This has generated a whole spectrum of reactions from heightening existing anxieties to removing worries as staying home feels safe.  

Some students have spent the time fruitfully and enjoyed the freedom to work at their own pace, others have found sitting in front of their computer has made them bored and listless, there are others who have just not engaged in any form of learning but, whichever category they fall into, they have all missed the community atmosphere of learning.  

The students who got bored and didn’t fully engage with online learning (if they ever got started) may have reacted in that way regardless of what was on offer.  But, did delivery styles, the degree of engagement with teachers and friends and their need to feel they still belonged to something have a part to play in this? 

There was much talk in the early weeks of lockdown about schools, colleges and adult education centres providing online tuition.  On TV we saw students sitting down for Zoom/ Teams classes, participating and integrating with their peers and teachers, doing PE and having large assemblies online.  However, it appears that some sectors were able to move their provision online quicker and more effectively than others.  

Universities moved first (some almost overnight), with colleges and some schools embracing new interactive digital delivery methods within weeks but many schools have not been able to make the full use of the available technology.

Low Active Engagement

For many students, the experience has not been interactive at all, it has been about material sent to them such as pre-recorded video and work sheets.  On reflection, this might have been adequate for a lesson or two, but not for every subject and every day of the lockdown. This lack of active engagement has meant that many students have had no exchange of views with anyone outside their immediate household for more than 12 weeks and, for some, no communication about their learning. 

Recent research shows that millions of young people have not been involved in any academic work at all during this time and, when asked why this is the case, they give a variety of reasons ranging from: “I couldn’t do it by myself, I needed the teacher to explain,” and “just doing work sheets is boring,” to “I was sad because I wasn’t in contact with my friends,” and “my friends aren’t working so why should I,” or “there is no space to work at home,” and “I have to share the laptop with 4 other family members.”

Some adult students said “my priority is my children, so they come first with use of the laptop,” and “I found it difficult without a teacher,” or “I was furloughed/ made redundant so I’m not sure if this course is still right for me.”

The common thread running through these responses from both young people and adults is the importance of the role of the teacher and it will be interesting to see in any future research whether engagement (or lack of it) with teachers has made the difference between students staying active online or not. 

Catch-up Study

Come this September we will have a mix of students, some who didn’t do anything during lockdown, some who did a little at the beginning and then gave up, and some who worked continuously for several hours each day.  Schools and colleges will have a near impossible job of setting out their offer to meet the needs of these different categories of student.  Government has recognised this issue and announced catch-up funding for schools.  However, we also need to consider those students who worked hard throughout lockdown and ensure they don’t feel let down if they have to repeat work they have already done.  

Although government has recognised that students may have missed out on content, we should also be concerned about the other skills they may have lost.  Almost all of these students will not have been in formal learning for 9 months and, as well as picking up on subject content they have lost, the new curriculum will have to support their wider recovery. Many students will need to learn to engage with learning again and regain confidence and concentration skills and providers will need to re-establish their normal routines.   

Both teachers and students will have work through a whole range mental health and wellbeing issues, especially dealing with anxieties about returning to formal education.  Some young people will have the added stress of re-establishing friendship groups, made worse by relationships having continued through social media for some individuals whilst others may have been left out and this may reinforce feelings of isolation.  For adults, there will be concerns about staying safe and making time for learning and, those who may have lost their jobs, might feel their energy has to go into finding a job, not improving their skills.

Issues for Post-16 Policy Makers

We need to learn lessons from the past 12 weeks and be prepared for an uncertain future, not forgetting the possibility of a further lockdown.  

We have to work on the physical infrastructure for learning from home, for example, ensuring every student (starting with those facing external examinations) has the appropriate digital devices and internet connection.  

We must develop new interactive content and delivery which supports creativity, fosters collaboration between learners and the construction allows for feedback and reinforcement of learning. 

Finally, we must now train and retrain teachers in interactive online delivery and, most importantly, develop students so they have the mental strength and reliance to make the most of this new online interactive learning experience.

Susan Pember CBE, Holex

'Revolutionary Forces'

In the immediate aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is easy to forget that there were wider revolutionary forces at work on the UK’s economy before the virus outbreak.

With issues such as Brexit, the rise of automation in the workplace, longer working lives, and poor UK productivity brought into even sharper focus, education and skills organisations, NCFE and Campaign for Learning (CfL), jointly commissioned the ‘Revolutionary Forces’ discussion paper.

Published on 6 July 2020, the collection of articles, penned by experts from the FE sector, as well as labour market economics, employment and mental health, urges Government to ensure that the plans outlined in the forthcoming post-16 white paper are sufficiently flexible to meet the immense changes faced by the UK economy throughout the 2020s. 

The authors explore some of the key challenges facing the nation throughout the 2020s which the DfE needs to take into consideration when writing their recommendations:

The authors are:


You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video


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