From education to employment

Reimagining Further Education

As I write, Further Education and Skills professionals anxiously await the publication of the first FE White Paper in a decade. Our sector has become adept at adjusting to the shifting sands of education policy.  Nonetheless, unsustainable budget cuts have forced difficult decisions on provision, Area Reviews are changing the very fabric of colleges, and Ofsted’s Chief Inspector has even labelled the entire sector as “a mess.” Devoid of meaningful democratic consultation, policy is being created and implemented for Further Education without significant involvement from sector professionals.

A chance meeting during a shared taxi ride gave birth to the idea of “Reimagining Further Education” through a discussion-format conference. Recognising the need for national forum of sector leaders and practitioners, Dr. Matt O’Leary, Reader in Education at Birmingham City University, and Norman Crowther, ATL National Officer for FE, decided to organise a conference which would allow delegates to collectively design a future for FE. Rather than continue to react to policy, Reimagining Further Education has adopted a unique discussion approach where delegates will proactively create solutions for the sector. We aim to put the “confer” back into conference!

Scheduled for 29 June, 2016, Reimagining Further Education will ensure conference delegates actively collaborate with each other. We have eschewed passive presentations in favour of discussion groups which will critically examine where we are and—most importantly— formulate where we want to be as a sector. The organisers want to create a vehicle which will give participants the opportunity to create a vision for the future. Understanding the financial pressures facing FE professionals, Birmingham City University have worked hard to keep the fee at £50 for the entire day, including lunch and all conference materials.

A broad swathe of Further Education leaders have agreed to facilitate this novel conference format. Keynote addresses will examine the current landscape of FE, but most of the delegates’ time will be spent in small participatory discussion groups organised on specific themes. The morning discussions will set the scene by defining current challenges, and the afternoon session will seek to develop creative initiatives which enhance agency, workforce development and the professional ethos of all FE practitioners. These discussion groups will be facilitated by chairs and discussants, all of whom are key figures in the field, committed to capturing the voice of the sector and arriving at real decisions on the future of Further Education.

The six thematic strands of discussion are: Apprenticeships and work-based learning; Accountability, Governance and Area Reviews; Sustainable Models of Teacher Learning; Leadership in FE; Professionalism in FE; HE in FE.  You will be asked to sign up for one strand to follow throughout the day.

We are delighted to be joined by three keynote speakers:

  • David Russell, CEO of the Education & Training Foundation
  • Sir Frank McLoughlin CBE, Principal of City and Islington College & Chair of CAVTL
  • Professor Paul Hager, University of Technology Sydney

Tickets can be booked and the full conference programme can be found at We anticipate this will be a popular event due to the timeliness of the theme and the low cost, so early booking is advisable.

You can follow conference developments with the Twitter hashtag #ReimagineFE 

Reimagining Further Education has been generously sponsored by The Education and Training Foundation, The University and College Union (UCU), and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).

Please join us on 29 June, 2016 at Birmingham City University’s Central Campus and contribute to the important work of Reimagining Further Education. For more information, contact [email protected].

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