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CEL Leadership Conference Sees FE Delegates in Q & A Bonanza

The highlight at this year’s Centre for Excellence in Leadership (CEL) Leadership Summit was its “Talkback” sessions, a highly interactive forum for all heads, principals, directors and the sector press to debate and discuss on issues concerning the FE sector today.

The CEL was launched in October 2003 to ensure world-class leadership within the learning and skills sector, as a key national agency within the “Success for All” initiative. CEL has an exciting and crucial role in contributing to the Government’s vision to position UK leadership as world class by 2010. CELs remit is to foster and support leadership improvement, reform and transformation throughout the sector.

It serves the existing and future leaders of all providers through programmes, events, support services and bespoke consulting assignments. The “Talkback” session of the Leadership Summit took place after the keynote presentations from Bill Rammell MP, Ruth Silver and Warren Bennis. Following the recent White Paper on further education and Sir Andrew Foster’s review, CEL’s objective in adopting the “Talkback” format was to bring sector leaders together in an innovative forum that would not only provide feedback to government but would also prove extremely valuable to delegates themselves.

Articulate Best Practice

There were several purposes for these “Talkback” sessions. It gave the conference attendees the chance to articulate and exchange effective practice from their direct experience showing where and how some of the proposed changes are already happening. As there is always more practical experience and know-how than we assume, these sessions enabled discussions on issues with colleagues in different but similar situations to their own to reinforce their capability and inspire further developments.

It also gave the scope to look forward and imagine in practical everyday detail how it is like when changes are happening, by creating a positive, attractive preferred future. Appreciative Inquiry (AI) techniques, described by Magruder Watkins, were used to design the way these sessions were to work. These techniques also consist of five “core processes”, which require attendees to choose a positive statement to enquire into existing positive and life-giving experiences; discovering consistent themes or stories as a basis for further exploration; creating shared images for a preferred future and designing innovative ways to create this future.

Sudakshina Mukherjee

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