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Filling a youth-shaped gap in the FE White Paper: Reducing inequalities in post-16 progression

Blog Editor, IOE Digital16 February 2021

FE White Paper: boost for status of colleges needs proper funding to make it fly

Blog Editor, IOE Digital25 January 2021

Andy Green.

The much-delayed Government White Paper on skills (Skills for Jobs: Lifelong Learning for Opportunities and Growth), published last Thursday, holds few surprises; it has already been widely trailed in Government announcements and reforms over the past year. What is most notable, though – and very welcome –  is its unusually strong statements about the centrality of Further Education Colleges to the Government’s skills agenda in post-Brexit Britain, arguably a distinctive contribution from the current Secretary of State for Education.

In his strategic speech to the Social Market Foundation last June, Gavin Williamson positioned himself as the champion of Further Education and the ‘forgotten 50 percent’ who do not go to university. He promised to be the Secretary of State who would finally ensure that technical education in Britain achieved the prominence and status it deserved.

His rationale is widely shared: that ‘building back’ after the pandemic will require a sustained focus on addressing the shortages in higher technical skills which have been growing in recent years and will be amplified by Brexit. FE colleges can be – and should be – central to this endeavour, he says, and (more…)

Covid-19 and FE – developing citizens, not just skilled workers

Blog Editor, IOE Digital26 June 2020

IOE Events.

In the face of the dramatic events of the past few months, further education colleges have demonstrated their resilience. They have been flexible, fleet of foot and characteristically student-centred.

They are about to be presented with a new set of challenges: a new cohort of students who have missed out on several months of their education, a significant drop in apprenticeship opportunities, and communities hit hard by the economic fallout from the pandemic. What will enable colleges to not only ameliorate the impact of these developments, but turn the seismic disruptions of 2020 into an opportunity to realise a more positive future for the localities they serve?

We brought together four representatives from across the FE sector to share their views for our latest debate What if… our education system changed for good in light of COVID-19? Part 2 – further education, chaired by the IOE’s Alison Fuller, Professor of Vocational Education and Work and Pro-Director (Research and Development).

Colleges are most readily associated with attending to the immediate skills needs of the labour market. In that regard they will need to respond swiftly and strategically (more…)

Making post-GCSE decisions during the Covid-19 crisis: the need for action

Blog Editor, IOE Digital16 May 2020

Lorna Unwin, Ruth Lupton, Stephanie Thompson, Sanne Velthuis, republished from the BERA blog.

In the public debate about the impacts of the Covid-19 lockdown on education, much attention has understandably been given to concerns about disadvantaged children falling behind at school, and to the potential impact of the estimation of examination grades on young people’s post-school prospects.

Much less has been heard about disruption to the practical processes that would normally be getting underway now as 16-year-olds decide their post-GCSE future. So it was good to hear David Johnston MP at the House of Commons’ education committee’s session with Gavin Williamson (starts 10.09am) urging the secretary of state to monitor destinations data as a measure of the Department for Education’s success in mitigating the impacts of the crisis. Responding, Williamson expressed concern that young people who are out of school or college this spring and summer may not be urged to take up the opportunities available to them.

Our ongoing research for the Nuffield Foundation focusses on the post-school transitions of young people who do not achieve the benchmark grade 4+ in English and maths. This group is more likely than their higher-attaining peers to be disadvantaged and/or to have special educational needs. In 2019, 23 per cent of
(more…)

So what is Further Education? And why is it so hard to define?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital19 January 2018

Martin Doel.
According to a recently released CBI Report – In Perfect Harmony: Improving Skills Delivery in England – the English skills system has undergone 28 major reform programmes in the past 30 years. The result, the report argues, is alienated firms, confused training providers and a failure to deliver on skills needs. Somewhat ironically, as is often the case with such reports, the CBI then go onto propose further reform of a current programme – the apprenticeship levy, less than 9 months after its inception in April last year.
(more…)

Priorities for a new government: advice from our academics part 2

Blog Editor, IOE Digital12 May 2017


The IOE blog has asked colleagues from across the Institute what’s at the top of their wish list. We are publishing their replies during the run-up to the election.
Primary Education
The new government should take a new approach to primary education that sees this stage as a unique time in children’s lives. This will require them to look again at the purposes of primary education.
The current statutory assessment system is not fit for assessing children’s learning and needs radical change. The government should:

  • Move to national sampling.
  • Abolish the current SPAG test and phonics screening test and replace with more appropriate measures.

When it comes to the National Curriculum, the government should: (more…)

Technical education: going beyond parity of esteem

Blog Editor, IOE Digital10 March 2017

Matthew Harrison
The announcement of a further £500m a year for 16-19 technical education made in the Budget this week, along with a 50% rise in the training provided to a total of 900 hours per year from 2019, has been warmly welcomed by business, industry and in education.
It is about time technical education got the investment in its foundations to compete with the best Vocational Education and Training (VET) systems around the world.
The Chancellor’s announcement produces 15 new ‘world class routes’ of ‘equal value to A Levels’ to ‘prepare school and college leavers for the changing job market’.
There have been similar announcements before, dozens of them in fact, over several (more…)

Dear Secretary of State for Education…

Blog Editor, IOE Digital14 July 2016

Now we know. Justine Greening, MP for Putney, Roehampton and Southfields, has become the new Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities. Her brief is to include higher education and skills, formerly under the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. Downing Street says the education department will take on responsibility for: “Reforming the higher education sector to boost competition and continue to improve the quality of education that students receive; and delivering more apprenticeships through a fundamental change in the UK’s approach to skills in the workplace”.
Ms Greening, one of the few education secretaries to have attended a non-selective state secondary school – Oakwood Comprehensive in Rotherham – was previously Secretary of State for International Development. The new education secretary has a background in accountancy.
While teacher supply –  discussed in a recent IOE blog post – will be at the top of her very full in-tray, she will also need to master a wide range of topics from Academies to Teacher education. As early as next week, she will have to steer the Higher Education and Research Bill through its second reading. Here, IOE experts suggest priorities for Ms Greening to consider in key areas of education policy. (more…)

FE funding: less bad than feared but still very tough

Blog Editor, IOE Digital4 December 2015

Brian Creese.
You cannot deny the political cleverness of the Chancellor. A week on from the Spending Review people are still shaking their heads at how much less bad it was than they feared. Many are already sitting down to plan the next five years given that, unless those billions slip back behind the sofa again, there is at least some predictability in funding for the sector.
Earlier this week I was sitting round a table with colleagues from BIS, SFA, Niace, UCU, AOC and a range of think tanks looking at where the spending review leaves Further Education (FE). This slightly rosy view, maintained by BIS spokesperson Bobbie McClelland was finally punctured by Gila Tabrizi from UCU, who pointed out the catastrophic cuts in funding suffered by the sector in the past five years, and that even the spending review settlement of funding being ‘protected’ still amounted to a real cut in the adult budget of 8%. Funding for the sector will remain very tough for the foreseeable future.
There was much agreement on the main issues confronting FE at the moment, the extension (more…)

How England's emetic testing regime is causing new academic diseases

Blog Editor, IOE Digital6 May 2014

Frank Coffield
Students are contracting a new disease – bulimia academica – defined as repeated bouts of bingeing on information and regurgitating it in exams. The pressures on students to obtain the best possible grades have become so intense that they feel forced to resort to ingesting large amounts of information and then, in government-induced bouts of vomiting, otherwise known as national tests, they spew it out.
The term – bulimia academica – is not being used lightly as that would insult those suffering from bulimia nervosa. Instead it is considered to be every bit as serious as its medical counterpart. Far from feeling better afterwards, students end up feeling empty and educationally malnourished. The students I’ve interviewed in FE and Sixth Form Colleges come to associate learning not with growing self-confidence and a sense of achievement, but with stress and self-disgust. Learning for them is reduced to the skill of passing exams rather than the means of understanding and coming to love the subjects they’re studying.
The cause of this new disease is no mystery. The increasingly punitive testing regime in England is responsible. Politicians from all the main parties will have you believe that it is robust and rigorous. It’s neither. It’s purgative and emetic and as such is both ineffective and inefficient.
This learning disorder is compounded by its equally distressing twin – anorexia academica – that affects individuals and the system. Some students become anxious about being seen by their classmates to be clever; they restrict their intake to bite-size chunks of information which makes them easier to swallow – the educational equivalent of chicken nuggets. In their teenage years, they lose their previously keen appetite for learning, give lame excuses for repeated failures to learn and pretend to have studied when they have not; and pretend not to have studied when they have. They spend their time reading self-help books about study skills without ever acquiring any. This response may be the self-harming outcome of having been tested every year since they were five years of age, a regime which has turned their stomachs against learning.
The education system also shows symptoms of the same malaise, with some curricula driven by qualifications that have had the educational nourishment stripped out of them. Groups of students can be found in colleges discussing topics about which they don’t have sufficient knowledge to form opinions and so their learning remains shallow. We offer young people so-called ‘transferable’ skills and then discover they need to be in command of a body of knowledge before they can be either critical or creative.
What’s to be done? In a new book, published this month by IOE Press, called Beyond Bulimic Learning: Improving teaching in Further Education, I’ve scoured the research literature for (and tried out in practice) the most effective interventions; and I discuss the results. Even within the tightening parameters set by government, we can still work at transforming our colleges into learning communities and our tutors into experts in teaching, learning and assessment (TLA). Now that Ofsted has decreed that no college can be judged ‘outstanding’ without being ‘outstanding’ at TLA, the best response is for colleges to access the growing body of knowledge on TLA. And this book is devoted to showing how that can be done and is being done within some colleges.
 
Frank Coffield is an emeritus professor at the IOE
This post has been re-blogged from IOE Press blog
A book launch for Beyond Bulimic Learning: Improving teaching in further education will take place at Blackwell’s Bookshop at the IOE on Wednesday 7 May 2014 at 6 p.m.