FE Voices

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Recent findings from the OECD - as reported by FE News - comparing the skills of 16-to-65-year-olds across 34 countries should be a real wake up call for the UK.

It confirmed what many of us see every day, whether we work in the sector or in business and we are looking to recruit talent: the skill levels of many school leavers are not really improving.

Whilst this is not new, the findings are similar to those from the past such as the Leitch Review in 2006 and the 2011 Skills for Life survey, the OECD report sets out how far behind the UK is compared to global competitors and, more worryingly, how we are falling further and further behind.

Many solutions have been tried by governments, of all persuasions, in terms of both standards – national literacy and numeracy hours, changes to the curriculum and the introduction of new qualifications for example – and structures – such as the move to Academies and free schools. Some of these are still relatively recent, with little evidence yet available on the efficacy of these interventions, but they do show how much thought, effort and resource is concentrated on schools in particular, and the skills sector more generally. What it also shows, though, is how difficult it is for the education and skills sector to concentrate on the job in hand: many argue too much time is spent responding to the latest government diktat rather than on high quality teaching and learning.

Alongside this the exponential rise in the availability of technologies which is also having an enormous effect. The introduction of MOOCs, for example, and the increasing prevalence of high-end mobile devices is changing the expectations of how people, of all ages, want to access and engage with their educational content. The world is changing and we need to change too if we are not going to be left even further behind.

One interesting finding from the OECD is it is the actual level of ability which is not improving. We can see younger students have more qualifications than older people but their ability to undertake tasks and solve problems is just not what it should be. Employers are constantly bemoaning the lack of basic skills such as maths and English amongst the young as well as those others skills crucial to being effective at work: team working and communication for example. What is needed is more time learning. For example in maths more time is needed to develop students' understanding of how concepts and processes can be deployed in real life and contextualised in different environments. Maths needs to be more embedded in other subjects with more functional understanding of the subject being taught. As well as this we need to ensure, once and for all, any teacher, of any cohort, can only teach maths and English if they have a sound knowledge themselves, the shortage of good maths graduates going into teaching, for example, is a real concern for the future.

What is clear is we cannot go on like this, countries in the Far East as well as those closer to home will continue to surge ahead. We need to understand what they are doing and look to replicate it in the UK. We also, as a sector and as professionals, need to have an unwavering commitment to improving these skills, at all ages. The OECD set out how those countries with a large share of low-skilled adults, including the UK, need to make learning more accessible. At learndirect this is what we do – make learning available to people in their local communities and in their workplaces.

Government support for Apprenticeships, new approaches to the governance of schools, integrating skills and employability services, introducing Traineeships – all these policies should help to make a difference. The challenge for the sector is to ensure these policy developments meet the needs of our learners, now and in the future. My focus is on ensuring learndirect meets the challenge.

Sarah Jones is chief executive of learndirect, the nationwide e-teaching organisation


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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 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.

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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