Typical Londoners – a mile north of the Watford gap and we were freezing. But luckily the annual AoC conference in Birmingham’s ICC was buzzing with lively debate and passionate discussion.
As anyone in the sector, or following the education press knows, Further Education faces tough times. A raft of changes and reforms including Maths and English GCSEs and the 2020 introduction of T-levels are set against decreased funding in real terms. We were intrigued to see how the conference would respond to these concerns.
It felt like with hope, and undiminishable pride in the sector. David Hughes, AoC Chief Executive, led with a rallying call - that for the sector to make the case for greater funding, all practitioners needed to unite behind a common sense of profile, prestige, politics and purpose. What is FE doing well? Who does it reach that no other sector can? What outcomes are achieved despite the difficult landscape in education?
The second day likewise offered some fantastic speakers highlighting the importance of FE in plugging the current UK skills gap, with a demonstration of how some Nordic countries have successfully addressed this issue with strong government support. The BBC’s Steph McGovern, keynote on the second day, reported that UK businesses greatly value the FE sector, and there was emphasis on the need for continuing education in the digital age throughout a learner’s career. The UK economy needs FE, and that message is key to its future.
Conversations with delegates showed that even in the face of adversity, FE practitioners are still exploring ways to improve their provision. They’re still investing time into quality CPD to help their teachers reflect on and action changes in their teaching practice. They’re still looking to the future and how they can best provide for the working world their learners will enter. This did indeed seem like a sector proud of its unique and enormously valuable identity.
If there’s any way CLA can help your FEI achieve its aims, get in touch. Whether it’s about how students access material, something you’d love to do in CPD sessions, an idea you have for how to best plan lessons, or simply a blog on something that went right with your resources, we’d love to talk, collaborate, and see what we can do together to support the sector and promote its essential work.