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Natalie Perera, Chief Executive of the Education Policy Institute (EPI)

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Phase one of a new report, "Education recovery and resilience in England" published today [Friday 14 May] by the Education Policy Institute (@EduPolicyInst), finds that a three-year funding package totalling £13.5bn will be required by the government to reverse the damage to pupils’ learning as a result of the pandemic.

The independent analysis, which is the first study to model the impact of lost learning and set out a series of fully costed, evidence-based, proposals for government, shows that significant investment will be required to deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise to the nation that “no child is left behind.”

The government has stated that education recovery is central to its “build back better” agenda, and has already committed £1.7bn in short-term catch-up funding to support pupils in England in the wake of the biggest post-war disruption to the education system.

Officials are now finalising a comprehensive, long-term education recovery plan, which is expected to be unveiled soon by the government.

The new EPI report draws on its latest research on lost learning carried out for the Department for Education (DfE), along with economic modelling on the long-run impact of the pandemic on young people’s employment and life chances, and a review of the most effective policies in supporting pupils’ attainment and wellbeing.

To reverse months of lost learning and prevent total lost future earnings for pupils running into the tens of billions, the research shows that the government will need to put in place an ambitious, multi-year programme of support.

Policies which EPI is calling on the government to implement include extended school hours for social and academic activities, additional Pupil Premium funding, summer wellbeing programmes, more incentives for teachers to work in “challenging areas”, further mental health support in schools and an option for some pupils to retake the year.  

The series of education interventions total £13.5bn over the course of this Parliament and taken together, would seek to reverse the lost learning seen by pupils since March 2020. The package compares with the DfE’s annual schools budget for England of £48bn.

While regaining months of lost academic progress must be the immediate priority, the report argues that if implemented effectively, such interventions should be retained beyond the three-year period to address pre-existing inequalities in education and improve outcomes.

EPI research shows that prior to the pandemic, disadvantaged pupils were already 18 months of learning behind their more affluent peers by the time they took their GCSEs – with that attainment gap already starting to widen.  

The retention of these policies should also be met with further investment beyond schools – in wider children’s services and mental health services; supported by an urgent, serious child poverty strategy.

Key findings and recommendations

Recovery for older students: 16-19 education

16-19 education already faced severe challenges prior to the pandemic, seeing the largest real-terms loss of funding in any phase of education since 2010/11. The following policies for colleges, sixth forms and those studying apprenticeships will be required to reverse the impact of the pandemic:

  • Extend the 16-19 Tuition Fund for a further two years (2-year cost: £204m).
  • Provide funding to extend 16-19 courses for an additional year where there is demand (3-year cost: £990m).
  • Fund post-16 places in Alternative Provision (3-year cost: £263m).
  • Fund a new 16-19 Student Premium (3-year cost: £740m).
  • Target subsidies towards younger apprentices aged 18-24 (3-year cost: neutral).

How much learning have pupils lost and what will the long-run impact be?

The evidence on pupil learning loss, the impact on future earnings if left unaddressed and the level of remedial funding required.

  • Analysis of pupil learning loss by EPI and Renaissance Learning for the Department for Education, shows that by the first half of the 2020 autumn term, pupils in England had experienced losses of up to two months in reading (in primary and secondary schools), and up to three months in maths (in primary schools). Following school closures before Christmas and in early 2021, losses are likely to have increased further.
  • Based on an estimated range of pupil learning loss, this would result in total lost lifetime earnings for pupils of between 1 and 3.4%, equating to £8,000 and £50,000 in lost earnings per pupil. This would generate a total long-run cost between £62bn and £420bn across the 8 million school children in England. This range is likely to be a highly conservative estimate of the true long-run costs of lost learning.
  • Based on expected levels of learning loss, and taking into account the typical expenditure on schools, empirical evidence on the impact of additional spending on learning and the scale of interventions implemented in similar countries, an education recovery funding package of around £13.5bn will be required by the government.  

Education recovery in schools: 10 proposals to prevent pupils from being left behind

The following activities and policies, which are most likely to be effective in supporting pupils in primary and secondary schools, should be included in the forthcoming recovery plans:

  • Extended school hours: schools should be open before and after normal school hours for pupils to engage in a range of programmes, including sports clubs, social activities, games, pastoral support and academic programmes. (3-year cost: £3.2bn).
  • Summer wellbeing programmes: summer programmes should have an academic component whilst also providing an opportunity for young people to socialise through sports and other activities. The government has already made £200m available for 2021 “summer schools”, but these are mostly targeted at those entering year 7. The programme should be open to all pupils aged 5 to 16. (3-year cost: £2bn).
  • One-to-one and small group tuition: the government currently provides one-to-one and small group tuition via the National Tutoring Programme (NTP). It should continue to fund tuition over the next three years, either through the NTP or directly through schools themselves – depending on the success of the NTP over the next year. (£340m cost in total for 2022-23 and 2023-24)
  • An increase and extension of the Pupil Premium: The Pupil Premium should be increased to reflect the likely widening of the gap between poorer pupils and their peers following the pandemic. It should also be extended to those on a Child Protection Plan (CPP), given these pupils are more educationally disadvantaged. (3-year cost of increase: £720m. 3-year cost to extend to CPP: £390m).
  • Greater incentives for teachers to work in “challenging areas”: teacher quality is the most important in-school driver of pupil outcomes. Extra payments given to teachers to work in “challenging areas” should be doubled to £2,000 per year, extended to existing teachers, and focused on the poorest 20-25% of schools. (3-year cost: £135m).
  • Extra funding for schools to hire a mental health support worker: given that young people’s mental health has deteriorated over the last year, and the link between wellbeing and attainment, schools should be given additional, ringed-fenced funding to hire a support worker. This could be an educational psychologist, pastoral worker, or counsellor. Current plans do not guarantee immediate or sufficient support for all schools (3-year cost: £1.5bn).
  • New guidance to schools to support better wellbeing and inclusion: clear guidance should be given to schools to improve understanding of children’s complex wellbeing needs and the need to avoid exclusions following the pandemic. (3-year cost: neutral).
  • Softer accountability measures for schools in 2021-22: Ofsted should refrain from a “business as usual” approach and instead focus inspection on how well schools are supporting pupils following the pandemic. Given the changes to exam grades, school performance tables should continue to be suspended for the 2022 cohort.
  • A new continuous professional development (CPD) fund for teachers: high-quality CPD for teachers has been shown to have a significant effect on pupil attainment. The government should create a new and distinct CPD fund for all teachers which focuses on delivering high-quality support programmes with greater transparency and accountability. (3-year cost: £1.2bn).
  • Allow pupils to repeat a year if appropriate: to tackle some extreme individual cases of learning loss, the government should introduce a new right for pupils to repeat a year of education, where this is supported by their parent or parents. This would only apply to a very small minority of pupils. (2-year cost: £180m).

Recovery for younger children: early years education

Schools alone should not be left to provide support – the recovery must also include support for younger children in the early years – where high quality education and care can play a decisive role. The following policies should be included:

  • Increase funding for the Early Years Pupil Premium: bringing it up to the same rate as primary aged pupils. (3-year cost: £400m).
  • Fund a pilot study into the effect of higher quality early years education on young children: government funding for early years providers is below the OECD average. A pilot would provide evidence on the impact of high-quality provision funded at a higher rate than what is currently provided. (3-year cost: £83m).

Sector Reaction

Natalie Perera Mar20 100x100Natalie Perera, Chief Executive of the Education Policy Institute (EPI) said:

"If the government is committed to building back better and preventing the harmful and long-term consequences of Covid, then it needs to provide a serious funding boost of around £13.5bn over this Parliament to schools, early years settings and colleges.

“We are calling on the government to implement a series of effective, evidence-based policies from this September to support children and young people – not only with their learning, but with their wellbeing and mental health too.

“Education recovery should be the number one priority – but there is also wide consensus that we cannot simply return to our pre-pandemic education system. If these recovery proposals prove effective, they should be retained beyond three years, to tackle growing inequalities in education and to improve pupil outcomes.”

David Laws 100x100David Laws, Executive Chairman of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:

“Over the last year, children have fallen badly behind in their learning, and those who are disadvantaged have suffered most acutely. We have seen the worst disruption to education in our country since the Second World War. If the pandemic is not to scar this generation of young people, the Prime Minister needs to put in place an ambitious education recovery plan, based on sound evidence and sufficient funding.

“If we fail to make good the lost learning, there will be significant adverse implications for skills, earnings, economic growth and social mobility. That is why a properly evidenced education recovery plan is potentially a huge investment in our nation's future.” 

Chief Executive of AoC, David Hughes said:

“The last year has been like no other for students and today’s report from EPI rightly examines what is needed at every stage of the education journey because one size won’t fit all for education recovery. Further education had suffered neglect a decade before the pandemic and many students are nearing the end of their compulsory education. That is why young people must be a priority for urgent action and investment.

"AoC’s own Education Recovery Plan revealed that 77% of young people are behind where they should be at this time of the academic year. Young people leaving schools and colleges this summer face a tough labour market and the transitions from schools to colleges are more difficult than in normal years. Building the capacity to deliver takes time, so decisions need to be made very soon and as rightly stated in the report, there’s no use in funding one-year programmes, when the impact of Covid looks set to last for some time. Long-term, joined up opportunities that support everyone to progress with minimal disruption and get the skills needed for the future are the only way to prevent a lost generation.”

Paul Whiteman 100x100Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“Investment in education over the rest of this parliament needs to match the government’s stated ambition to not leave any child behind. That means not just dedicating enough money from Treasury, it also means ensuring that money reaches the children who need it most, and in the most effective ways.

“At the very least, the UK government needs to match the investment we have seen in other developed nations like the USA and Holland. Anything less from our government would be short-changing young people.

“Some children have been more negatively affected by the pandemic than others, and it is those from disadvantaged backgrounds that educators are most concerned about. It’s vital that any package the government puts together reaches those areas that we know to be the hardest to reach – from ensuring sufficient high quality access to tutors in every part of the country, and timely access to the support services children need, to giving schools the flexibility to focus their efforts on what they know works best and aim the money where it is most needed.

"The education recovery plan must focus on more than just academic 'catch-up', by providing investment in extra-curricula activities - including the arts and sport – while addressing mental-health and wellbeing concerns that have grown through lockdown. There are no quick or easy fixes here – the only way to ensure successful recovery for all is sustained, long-term investment and an evidence-led approach that doesn’t overwhelm children. The government needs to listen to the profession on recovery and get it right, or they risk doing more harm than good.”

Kevin Courtney 750x570Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

“The EPI report highlights the scale of the disruption caused by the pandemic and the necessary funding needed to repair the damage. The EPI estimates that interventions costing £13.5bn over three years are necessary.  

“The Government’s response is utterly insufficient. Instead, it must invest properly in education to enable children and young people to recover. The Government has only set aside £250 per pupil, which compares poorly with other nations such as the Netherlands and the United States who are investing £2,500 and £1,600 per pupil respectively.  

“The investment proposed by the EPI is for the purpose of education recovery caused by the pandemic; however, schools have been in financial difficulty for years. Before the pandemic more than a quarter of maintained secondary schools were in deficit and class sizes had risen sharply. In January 2020, a million children were being taught in classes of more than 30. 

“School budgets have been hit hard by coronavirus and have had inadequate reimbursement from Government. Schools have had to spend more on cleaning, heating, supply costs and other Covid security measures, while important sources of income such as from lettings is down. The public sector pay freeze in September is clearly intended to help balance the books - punishing teachers and support staff who have gone the extra mile during the pandemic.  

“The Government must prioritise education in the forthcoming Spending Review so that schools can increase the number of properly-qualified teachers on staff and bring down our historically high class-sizes. The solution to Covid cannot be yet more austerity.  

“For any plan to succeed we must also end the blight of child poverty – no longer can we allow children to come to school hungry.” 

Learning loss findings: analysis of pupil learning loss by EPI and Renaissance Learning for the Department for Education can be read here. EPI analysis of pupil learning loss at later periods in the school year will be published by the DfE later this year.
Education interventions: the series of evidence-based interventions for recovery are based on EPI’s own research and other resources including the Education Endowment Foundation’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit.
Education recovery in the devolved nations: The package and costs set out here apply to England. The concluding section of the full report contains headline implications for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Further recovery research: a further report will be published by EPI in the autumn, taking into accounting new data on lost learning from national school closures during January to March 2021. This updated report will also look at how funding should be targeted to pupils based on their levels of disadvantage and the extent to which there has been differential learning loss across different areas of the country and different groups of pupils. 
The full report (embargoed until 00.01 Friday 14 May) can be accessed here.
full set of costings for the proposed education recovery interventions can be found here.

£10 to £15bn funding boost needed for education recovery, says preliminary EPI report 

20th Apr 2021: Boris Johnson’s pupil catch up pledge: A new "Analysis paper: preliminary research findings on education recovery", released today [20 Apr] by the Education Policy Institute (@EduPolicyInst) shows that a multi-year funding package of £10-15 billion is required to meet the Prime Minister’s pledge to make up the lost learning seen by pupils as a result of the pandemic.

Based on initial economic modelling of the impact of school closures, the research findings reveal the scale of the funding response needed from the government to deliver on its education catch up commitments for pupils in England. The findings are released ahead of a final EPI report on education recovery to be published in May.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated that establishing a long-term plan for pupil catch up is “the biggest priority”, pledging that “no child is left behind as a result of the learning they have lost over the past year” and that the government will also plug the gaps in education.”

The government has provided some short-term funding of £1.7bn to support pupils, but has recently begun formulating a more comprehensive education recovery settlement, following the appointment of its Education Recovery Commissioner, Sir Kevan Collins. This long-term catch-up package is likely to be published in the coming weeks.

The latest analysis by EPI for the Department for Education shows many pupils had already experienced as much as 3 months of lost learning by the autumn term, with further losses likely following another period of remote learning in early 2021.

The modelling set out in today’s paper shows that, without ambitious funding and interventions which tackle the scale of lost education, there are likely to be severe long-run consequences for young people’s education, earnings and life chances, which would in turn bring damage to the wider economy.

EPI has published its preliminary analysis today in order to inform the government’s recovery plans over the coming weeks. A final EPI report, which sets out a precise long-term funding package and proposes a series of policy recommendations on catch-up interventions, will be published in May.

Alongside findings on the scale of the funding required in England, today’s preliminary analysis also outlines the level of catch-up funding required in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The analysis shows that £1bn-£1.5bn catch up funding will be required to support pupils in Scotland, £600m-£900m in Wales and £350m-£500m in Northern Ireland.

Key findings from the research:

How much learning have pupils lost?

  • The latest independent analysis on learning loss – undertaken by EPI and Renaissance Learning for the Department for Education (DfE) – shows that by the first half of the 2020 autumn term, pupils in England had experienced losses of up to two months in reading (in primary and secondary schools), and up to three months in maths (in primary schools).
  • Following another period of remote learning in early 2021, learning losses are likely to have increased further. EPI analysis on this learning loss will also be published by the DfE later this year.

The long-run impact of learning loss

  • Based on an estimated range of learning loss, EPI analysis shows that this would result in total lost lifetime earnings for pupils of between 1% and 3.4%.
  • This means that without significant policy action from the government, pupils could each see lost future income of between £8,000 and £50,000, equating to a total long-run cost between £60bn and £420bn across the 8 million school children in England.
  • However, this range is likely to be a highly conservative estimate of the true long-run costs of lost learning, given further expected costs in the form of reduced productivity, investment and innovation, the wider positive role of schooling on young people’s health and development, and the increased likelihood of widening inequalities.

The level of funding required to mitigate learning losses and narrow the gap

  • A three-year education recovery funding package for England of £10bn-15bn will be required from the government. This estimate is based on expected levels of learning loss, accounting for typical expenditure on schools, empirical evidence on the impact of additional spending on learning and the scale of interventions implemented in similar countries
  • Funding should be targeted towards existing cost-effective, evidence-based interventions, centred around additional academic programmes, improved teacher quality and support, support for vulnerable pupils, and extra-curricular programmes.
  • A recovery package must also encompass early years and post-16 education, as well as supporting children’s mental health and wellbeing.
  • However, a funding package which merely seeks to reverse the damage of the pandemic will be insufficient to address deeper problems in education. Prior to the pandemic, disadvantaged pupils in England were already 18 months of learning behind their more affluent peers by the time they took their GCSEs. This gap had started to widen a year before the onset of Covid-19. If the recovery package proves to be effective, then it should be sustained in the long-term to address pre-existing inequalities in education.
  • The nature and scope and of the immediate recovery package required strongly supports the need for a multi-year settlement. To enable activities, interventions and plans to begin from September 2021, this multi-year package will need to be put in place soon, well before the coming Spending Review this Autumn.

Education recovery in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

  • Based on the UK government allocating £10-15bn for a multi-year education recovery package in England, this would result in additional funding through the Barnett formula of £1bn-£1.5bn for Scotland, £600m-£900m for Wales and £350m-£500m for Northern Ireland.
  • These figures should be regarded as a benchmark to the level of funding required in each nation to prevent long-run economic costs arising from pandemic, though precise plans will need to be adapted to meet the specific education challenges in each country.

Commenting on the new analysis, Luke Sibieta, Research Fellow at the Education Policy Institute (EPI) said:

“Pupils have faced exceptional challenges over the last year, with many already months behind in their educational progress. If not properly addressed, our analysis shows this could result in reduced lifetime earnings of £8,000 to £50,000 per child, amounting to total losses of £60bn to £420bn for the country.”

“This is not a forecast of inevitable doom and gloom for today’s children, but a call to action for the adults and policymakers of today. Our modelling shows that a funding boost for education in the range of £10bn-£15bn is needed in England to counter the pandemic’s effects. The evidence clearly shows that catch-up is not a natural process - it requires active and sustained investments in high-quality teaching and interventions.

“If we are able to avert large, long-run economic costs with a properly funded recovery package, this will be a vivid demonstration of the incredible long-term value of investing in education, far larger than most government infrastructure projects.”

Natalie Perera, Chief Executive of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:

“Getting the long-term education recovery package right is a critical moment for our country as we look to recover and rebuild from the worst of the pandemic.

“This analysis shows that if the Prime Minister is to meet his key pledge to make good the learning losses seen by pupils, an ambitious, multi-year funding package of £10bn-£15bn is required. A final settlement which fails to meet this level would not only let down millions of young people, but could also spell serious consequences for the future economy.

“The government must follow the evidence as it formulates its policy response and put into action its plans for education recovery as soon as possible, well before the Autumn Spending Review.”

Sector Reaction to the preliminary research findings on education recovery (Apr 21) 

Kate Green MP 100x100Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“Boris Johnson has betrayed children by overpromising and under-delivering on catch-up.

“After a decade of neglect of children’s learning, with rising class sizes and increasing child poverty, the Conservatives’ catch-up funding amounts to a measly 43p per child a day. Their inadequate, poorly targeted tutoring programme is leaving thousands without support and they have no plan for children’s wellbeing despite having had months away from their friends. 

“Labour would put children at the heart of our national recovery. We need catch-up breakfast clubs and a national strategy to ensure every child recovers from the pandemic and is supported to reach their full potential.”


James Turner 100x100James Turner, CEO of the Sutton Trust, said:

“No one doubts that the impact of the pandemic on children’s and young people’s life chances is going to have repercussions for years – even decades – to come. Our own research has highlighted the disproportionate impact of school closures on poorer students, who have struggled most with home schooling. Today’s research adds even more weight to the case for a significant programme of support over the course of this parliament. 

“The recovery plan must be ambitious, long term and multi-faceted. EPI is right to call for a major funding boost to reflect the scale of the challenge. Crucially, that needs to be focused on the most disadvantaged, who have felt the effects of the pandemic especially acutely, and include the early years and FE sectors too.

“Without doubt, teaching is the most important factor in improving the outcomes of all pupils, especially the poorest. EPI are right to say this needs to be at the heart of the government’s support for schools. Investing in the recruitment of new teachers and the retention and development of the existing workforce needs to be prioritised. We’d also like to see incentives for teachers to teach in the most disadvantaged schools.”

mary boustedDr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said: 

“The National Education Union welcomes this important initial analysis by the Education Policy Institute looking at the scale of the challenge to help young people and their schools recover from the pandemic. 

“The educational divide has been growing over recent years. As the report points out British education has been blighted by increasing child poverty and that left many children extremely vulnerable when the pandemic struck. 

“We agree with the report’s conclusions that overcoming the pandemic is possible and that it should serve as a catalyst for sustained improvements in education. The scale of learning lost cannot be overcome by some short term, piecemeal measures such as catch-ups. This will require years of work and investment, not just in school but also extending the post-16 offer which has been cut so hard over the last decade.” 

“The report exposes the inadequacy of the Government plan to spend just £250 per pupil on educational recovery, whereas the United States are spending £1,600 per pupil and the Netherlands £2,500. 

“We agree schools need a multi-year £15 billion plan but for the plan to succeed we must also end the blight of child poverty – no longer can we allow children to come to school hungry.” 

Paul Whiteman 100x100Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“We need to be honest and recognise that recovery is not going to be a quick or easy job. Children are returning to school needing not just academic help, but a wide range of pastoral, mental health and wellbeing support too.

“Unfortunately a simple return to ‘normal’ isn’t going to solve things. It will take a considerable long-term investment of time, money, energy and resources, which the government must recognise and provide.

“High-quality of teaching is the most important driver of educational progress, and the best contribution the government could make is to value and invest in the teaching profession.

“And while education recovery can and must be led by education experts, the impact of Covid on children and families reaches far beyond the school gates, throughout the communities that schools serve.

“Poverty and disadvantage, poor wellbeing, SEND, discrimination and inequality are the fundamental issues harming children. These must be addressed by government if we are to make a real difference in the future.

“This will require the support of well-integrated and well-funded services across the whole of a child’s life. Sadly, these services have been seriously damaged by more than a decade of austerity.

“The government must commit to a school funding package that matches their education recovery pledge in ambition. But schools cannot pick up the pieces alone. Government must also invest in all the services needed to support a child’s whole life.

Mr Whiteman called on government to commit to make the required funding available, saying:

"Other countries have signalled heavy investment in young people and the services they require. Here schools have had very little help to defray the costs associated with the pandemic, while technical changes to the way the pupil premium is calculated has resulted in schools losing funding for those pupils that need most support. The nation’s children deserve better.”

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