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Resources Tight, but the Profile of FE is On the Up, says AoSEC

If we are to listen to the various descriptions of FE, writes Jethro Marsh for FE News, then we end up being faced with something of an identity crisis.

For instance, if we are to take the description heard at the Association of Colleges (AoC) Summer Conference last year, or at the Learning and Skills Development Agency (LSDA) Summer Conference last year, then FE is Cinderella. So, FE is a pretty younger sister put upon by two uglier sisters (one can only assume school sixth forms and the universities) and an evil stepmother (possibly globalisation, possibly Fleet Street priorities) who nevertheless manages to go to the ball and actually dances with Prince Charming (it would be imprudent to even hazard a guess).

Forgotten Middle Child

Of course, things have moved on from there. In November of 2005, at the AoC’s Annual Conference in Birmingham, Sir Andrew Foster delivered his much ““ trailed and much referenced report on the future of the FE sector. In this, suddenly, FE had gained a place in the family tree; no longer the youngest, FE is now the “forgotten middle child” of education. At least that represented one step up on the rung, but this was still meant to indicate the level of ignorance that the general public demonstrate towards the true achievements and impact of FE.

One significant change had come over the representation of the image problem, however. Sir Andrew Foster referred obliquely to the fact that this image is to some extent perpetuated by the simple reference to it. Indeed, the fact that there is an image problem with FE is more often seen than the actual sector. In the South East of England, apparently, matters have been taken into their own hands; FE Colleges are working with the media to give the story, not the image, behind FE.

Speaking Out

One such example can be found in the broadcast recently that featured members of the student body of Canterbury College. The programme, broadcast by Meridan TV, focussed on catering students in the college and was shown at peak time. Fareham College has also been prominent, with two features recently on their Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy department and the Performing Arts department broadcast by BBC South Today.

A further programme from the BBC, in their BBC South East Today programme, featured Sussex Downs College and their launch of a Sport and Recreation Centre of Vocational Excellence. Speaking of the benefits of positive media coverage, Alan Corbett of the Association of South East Colleges (AoSEC), said: “We are delighted that the mass media is now keen to work with colleges and give air time to our successes.”

It is all too easy to plaster newspapers and saturate airways with negative stories; and this is indeed one of the tasks of the media. But this forms one part of the job of the press; the ultimate task is the honest and even handed representation of the news. Perhaps it is time to admit that we of the media have a penchant for the negative; perhaps we should accept our share of the responsibility, and redress the balance?

Jethro Marsh

Talk to the Monkey who talks to you in From the FE Trenches!

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