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Reimagining Further Education (FE)

Peter Steel, Business Relationship Manager at Open Awards, had pleasure in attending the “Reimagining Further Education” Conference on Wednesday 29th June 2016 at Birmingham City University.  

The event brought together practitioners, researchers and key figures involved in the FE Sector, to discuss a wide range of issues linked to the development, promotion, management, leadership and governance of curriculum and curriculum delivery in the FE Sector and its integration into Higher Education (HE).

The conference format included speakers from the HE sector, including those involved with national and international perspectives.

David Russell (CEO of the Education Training Foundation) and Sir Frank McLoughlin (Principal of City and Islington College, Chair of the Commission on Adult Vocational Teaching and Learning – CAVTL and founding member of the 157 Group) both provided valuable insights into the current situation within the FE sector and need to align education to employment – through a range of potential initiatives

Speakers highlighted a number of themes to illustrate the current situation with FE. These included, but limited to:

  • Under funding
  • Under recognised
  • In constant flux
  • Some weak institutions
  • An under-qualified workforce – linked to Professional CPD and Teaching qualifications

The “Regionalisation” of colleges in 2017, will include:

  • Regional Funding – linked to local priorities and local funding formulas
  • Regional Accountabilities – through the LEPs, Unitary Authorities and Politicians both Locally and Regionally
  • Locally devised and owned qualifications  

Professor Paul Hager (University of Technology, Sydney) presented an overview of “Beyond Competency Based Training” – an interesting insight into the Australian approach to Vocational Education Training (VET) that includes skills developed through both FE and Private Training Providers.

The theory and reality that “competencies” need to be viewed holistically rather than in isolation – to ensure than those skills not completed through a qualification, form part of the ongoing learning journey – skills such as professionalism, accountability and making judgements.

For extended thoughts about Problems of a Market Model VET, please see

For further information on all Paul’s publications, please see

Delegates pre-selected specific “Stands” to develop conversation and discuss how issues could be resolved. As such the morning sessions looked at the problems and challenges, with the afternoon looking at solutions.

The five Strands were:

  1. Sustainable Models of Teacher Learning in FE
  2. Accountability, Governance and Area Review
  3. Apprenticeships and Work Based Learning
  4. Leadership in Further Education
  5. Professionalism in FE / HE in FE

Peter Steel, attending the Apprenticeships and Work Based Learning strand, noted the following discussion points and themes from the group’s sessions:

  • The Apprenticeship Levy and the new Trailblazer Standards (transferable between employer’s without the inclusion of qualification certification)
  • Productivity and investment in the workforce
  • Developing quality programmes and qualifications
  • Learner or Worker?
  • The development of Level 3 Apprenticeship Standards
  • Defining Quality
  • More to WBL than Apprenticeships
  • Completing Level 2 Functional Skills – the impact of non-completion
  • Employers utilising “stand-alone” qualifications rather than Apprenticeships
  • Progression options and the development of Degree Apprenticeship and links to HE
  • Apprenticeship durations – to demonstrate full competence
  • Employer Engagement, support and advice
  • Traineeships – to support Pre-Apprenticeship programmes

Peter said “This was a very interesting and informative conference, raising awareness generally on a wide range of issues that impact on providing and maintaining high quality training within what is currently a remarkably successful sector. The opportunity to meet and hear from influential figures and practitioners and discuss and share initiatives, highlights the wealth of options that will ultimately benefit the learner and employer”.  

For more information, email



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