On Tuesday 17 January, the Society for Education and Training (SET) held its annual conference at the Vox Arena in Birmingham. This year’s event was chaired by Sarah Simons and had over 320 attendees from the FE and Training sector. In this article, Dr Lynne Taylerson and Mozz Baker share their reflections on the conference.
Tuesday 17 January saw the much-anticipated face to face return of the Society for Education and Training’s (SET) popular annual conference. This year’s vibrant event at the Vox Arena in Birmingham, chaired by Sarah Simons, attracted over 320 FE and Training sector colleagues. Supported by inspirational speakers including the fantastic Bonita Norris and a whole host of exhibitors, it was a highly energising day for all attendees. Networking was a core part of the conference, with the ‘knowledge zone’ providing an interactive space for sharing information and ideas and stimulating debate.
Dr Lynne Taylerson ATS/CTeach, a Midlands-based teacher educator, researcher, and mentor, and Director of Independent Learning Provider Real Time Education, and Mozz Baker, MSET QTLS/ATS MCMI, an Advanced Practitioner at Walsall College, share their conference reflections here, including key themes that emerged from the day.
“Sarah got the whole hall laughing about topics in the news, and also touched on the serious issues facing the sector. She highlighted the pressures of the funding crisis and stress levels on both staff and learners, and how we all need to make our wellbeing a priority. Her message that we need to build communities of solidarity, and that we must value and look out for each other, was really powerful.
And for me, the main theme emerging from discussions at the conference was the importance of values. We are motivated to act by what motivates our hearts and minds. It all starts with the staff who deliver and we need to acknowledge that we must look after ourselves to then be able to serve the sector.
“When faced with daily challenges, many of us are tempted to tackle everything at once, and this was clear from many discussions. Reflecting on this, it struck me that it is all about the journey and ‘success by smallness’: many small steps or improvements will eventually lead to overall success. This then allows us to press on to the next goal. It is the thrill of the challenge that keeps us moving forward. This was the striking revelation in Bonita’s inspiring address – achieving ambitious goals such as climbing Mount Everest involves breaking it down into a series of small steps!
“This conference and other opportunities that SET opens up for collaboration are key to developing our networks and communities, which is so important in helping us lead the development of skills within our localities, regions and nationally.”
“The need for, and value of, community was a significant theme for me at this year’s SET conference. On the #AmplifyFE stand many delegates were looking to make connections with like-minded professional networks. We were delighted to help them do this with offers of podcasts and blogs to help them amplify their projects and communities. The value of FE to the individual, the community, and the country were common themes in our conversations, as was the need to shout about what a powerful and essential sector FE is and how it is so often undervalued.”
Reflecting on sustainability, a central theme of the conference, Lynne said:
“The conference saw many powerful conversations on sustainability, both in scheduled sessions and within peer-to-peer discussions. Highlights included Jane Chillingworth of #SustainFE engaging delegates on how we move the ESD agenda from gathering the low-hanging fruit of simple recycling to taking contextualised approaches to embedding sustainability in every vocational specialism. Joyce Chen’s session on Joint Practice Development was also inspiring. She detailed educators’ journeys from despair to empowerment, by building a connected community and a research culture.”
Mozz agreed and added:
“When it comes to sustainability, there is a groundswell of motivation to bring about change. We think we have achieved very little but we are doing more than we realised and can take these ideas back to our organisations. EDI and Sustainability are so closely linked and discussions with sector colleagues at the conference helped to bring clarity to the way we can develop both these crucial areas together in our provision. With many debates centred around effectively engaging all learners, including those with special educational needs, the need for a whole organisation approach for bringing about genuine inclusivity came across loud and clear.”
Reflecting on another session in the day, and how this linked again to the theme of community, Lynne said:
“I was lucky enough to attend the ETF’s ‘Research Round Table’ in the morning, where a diverse group of educators and leaders discussed how we can empower a curiosity-powered research culture in FE. The group concluded that the sector must encourage educators to be practitioner researchers who critically investigate their identity and practice –and importantly disseminate their findings to peers.”
Concluding her reflections on the conference, Lynne added:
“From the delicious buffet lunch, to the amazing informal networking opportunities and the chance for so many diverse sector professionals to come together to share their stories, it was great to be able to share a physical space again after the last few years of enforced separation.”
“After an excellent day away from the classroom and the office with the space to think and start reflecting, I am looking forward to unpacking all the ideas and suggestions shared, and will be planning how to share them with my colleagues who could not attend for themselves.”
Find out more about SET membership, here.
Mozz Baker, MSET QTLS/ATS MCMI is an Advanced Practitioner at Walsall College who has worked for over two decades in further education delivering further and higher education qualifications in construction. He has experience as a lecturer, middle manager and senior manager holding various roles from Senior Tutor in Construction, Head of Faculty for Construction and Motor Vehicle and cross college leadership as Head of Tutorials and Student Voice. His areas of specialist interest include all things construction, management, motivation, leadership, safety and sustainability.
Dr Lynne Taylerson ATS/CTeach is a Midlands-based teacher educator, researcher and mentor and Director of Independent Learning Provider Real Time Education. She specialises in digital skills and learning development and designs curriculum for initial teacher education and leadership CPD. Lynne is currently working for ALT/Ufi on the #AmplifyFE project exploring how vocational educators and elearning designers can help narrow the digital divide for learners most impacted by it.