By Suzanne Savage, Assistant Lecturer and Doctoral Researcher in the Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences. Full article on http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/views/2016/05/19/five-burning-issues-time-to-reimagine-further-education/
As we eagerly await the first White Paper in a decade to address Further Education and Skills, I wanted to take a look at areas of concern for the sector. I asked facilitators of the upcoming Reimagining Further Education conference to be held on 29 June here at BCU, to share some of the burning issues they will explore.
- Leadership in Further Education: As we face a period of unprecedented change in the sector, do FE leaders need a new vision of their role? Dr Lynne Sedgmore, former leader of the 157 Group of Colleges, says: “Senior leaders and governors need to consider how they use their power and act on new ways of collaborative leadership in true partnership — beyond current formal hierarchy and tokenism — to liberate, engage, support and facilitate practitioners, and the professional power they bring, in much more innovative and radical ways.” What do you think? This and more will be discussed in the Leadership in FE strand of our conference.
- Accountability is often seen as the solution to quality in education, but Professor Ewart Keep of Oxford University warns that the current “low trust, high stakes inspection regime has a weak grasp of what vocational learning could and/or should look like. There is no widely accepted consensus about what the over-arching aims are that the FE system and individual institutions therein should be held accountable for.” This is compounded by new government initiatives towards local commissioning. Ann Hodgson of UCL Institute of Education asks “What are the respective roles of local, regional and national government in the governance of FE colleges and what should they be? What impact is the area review process having on the FE system in England?” If you would like to contribute towards answering these questions, join the Accountability, Governance and Area Reviews strand of our conference.
- Higher Education in FE: The release of the Higher Education White Paper this month has implications for colleges delivering HE courses because that provision will now be subject to the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). How will colleges juggle the requirements of both Ofsted and the TEF? Dr Karima Kadi-Hanifi, University of Worcester, says: “When evaluated from an exclusively HE perspective, FE is often seen as the inferior partner. But FE provision is very good, student-centred, inspiring and resilient.” To formulate the FE response to TEF requirements, sign up for the HE in FE strand of our conference.
- The introduction of the Apprenticeship levy in April 2017 creates unique dilemmas for colleges, and many of those who have historically focussed on classroom-based provision are not sure how to develop successful apprenticeship delivery. While fierce competition amongst potential providers is anticipated, can colleges harness some of the energy from the Area Review process to develop a more regional, coordinated approach to apprenticeship provision? Are employers ready for the introduction of the levy and resultant change to hiring practices, or do apprenticeship providers need to find new ways to work together with them? To join this discussion, sign up to the Apprenticeship strand of our conference, facilitated by Professor Chris Winch of King’s College London.
- Professionalism: In a deregulated sector, “how can we foster a more critical, dialogic and democratic professionalism at this time of great challenge?” asks Lou Mycroft, teacher educator at Northern College and co-founder of Tutor Voices. And despite deregulation, Tim Weiss, Membership Director for the Society of Education and Training Professionals, wonders “In a sector celebrated for diversity of delivery, subject area, learner and teaching staff alike, do we run the risk of losing this breadth and depth as we focus ever closer on “core metrics” such as maths and English, or does this underlying drive to improve the essentials enhance our diversity of delivery even further?” Help develop a vision by joining the Professionalism in FE strand of our conference.
The Reimagining Further Education conference will be held on 29 June, 2016 in the Curzon Building of Birmingham City University. Join the discussion on Twitter using #ReimagineFE
With an undergraduate degree in anthropology from the United States, Suzanne Savage has spent the last 30 years in a wide variety of teaching positions in Nicaragua, the Netherlands and the UK. Most recently she has been a teacher training manager and teaching/learning coach in UK Further Education colleges. She’s very interested in the relationship between education policy, teacher professional practice, and the lived experience of students in the classroom. Her current PhD research at Birmingham City University is on the use of video recordings in the observation of classroom practice.
Name: Dr Rob Smith
Role at BCU: Reader in Education
- Marketisation in education
- Education and social justice
- Education funding
- Educational leadership
Research you are currently working on: I am looking at FE funding and the impact of the funding regime on teaching and learning. This involves looking critically at performance data and detaching this from notions of quality. It interests me that all of the FE teachers I know understand that these data are largely inaccurate, and yet everyone ignores this elephant in the atrium. I am also interested in how this issue is shaped by (cultures of) leadership and management in FE. IN my view, there is a real danger in approaching education as though it were a production line or an exercise in counting beans. In FE, this approach has led to spoon-feeding and even force-feeding in order to ensure that colleges harvest income. This is bad for students, teachers and society at large. So why do we put up with it? I am also involved in an international comparative study into the way education funding in Israel, the US and the UK seeks to address the distribution of educational achievement with regards to students’ backgrounds.
Research methodologies you are using: My work is reflexive in the sense that it is grounded in a consciousness of how knowledge production has become politicised in educational research. Critics might view my work as primarily qualitative. To date it has mainly been quite small-scale, though my last piece of research involved an electronic survey that had 350 respondents. On the other hand, I view research that uses mainly quantitative data in a positivist way as problematic. I am interested in how quantitative data is often used as a short cut to understanding empirical phenomena and the consequences of this. In my mind, this is linked to marketisation and there are significant problems associated with this.
Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: HE educational academics were characterised by the last Secretary of state for education as “The Blob”. This pulled out into the open the fact that, broadly speaking, the views of educationalists have largely been marginalised by successive governments bent on developing markets in the English education system. The centralised governance of education through ‘big’ comparative data is an integral part of this. It drives a lot of developments but, to my mind, has also impacted negatively on our education system and on teachers’ work and lives in the last two decades.
Most influential research you have read/seen: From a macro perspective, I find Stephen Ball’s work very persuasive. On the ground floor, for teachers, I have enjoyed reading Jonathan Kozol’s books about his experiences working as a teacher in the US.
Advice for new researchers: Follow your passion. Be imaginative. Don’t be put off by academics who view themselves as gatekeepers who devalue what you do. Existing hierarchies can be the enemy of critical knowledge production – for obvious reasons!
Mini fact about you: I was brought up to interact with the caretaker, the crossing warden and the cleaner in exactly the same way as I interact with the doctor, the headteacher, the MP and/ or the Queen: as an equal. Some people have a problem with that.
Name: Rebecca (Becky) Snape
Role at BCU: PhD student and Assistant Lecturer.
- Creativity and Creative Writing in schools
- Widening Participation in Higher Education
- Special Educational Needs and Inclusion
Research you are currently working on: My PhD explores teachers’ perceptions of teaching and assessing Creative Writing at Key Stage Four.
Research methodologies you are using: I’m hoping to collect qualitative data to build on a quantitative study that has been conducted in my area recently. I’m looking to use semi-structured interviews, lesson observations and discourse analysis for my study.
Current issues, thoughts and reflections on education & research: I have too many thoughts to mention here! But I think it’s incredible the impact some research can have on education. Teachers and pupils alike have so many fascinating stories and ideas to share and I think it’s really important to have their voices heard in research.
Most influential research you have read/seen: I particularly like to follow research that has been conducted for The National Literacy Trust. Even though these tend to be quantitative surveys (I see myself as more of a qualitative enthusiast), I find these reports to be incredibly insightful and useful for my research. I also enjoy the work of Ken Robinson, Debra Myhill, Graeme Harper, Teresa Cremin, and Anna Craft. When I was doing my Masters dissertation I was really interested in the sociological side of education, so I was looking at the likes of Stephen Ball and Diane Reay.
Advice for new researchers: Set mini goals for yourself that you can work towards. What works best for me is to break everything down into more manageable chunks rather than getting too overwhelmed by thinking of everything I have to do for the PhD. I’d also recommend taking advantage of any opportunities and advice available when you first start your research project. There are lots of enthusiastic and forthcoming academics at BCU who you can reach out to for their thoughts about your area. There are also lots of extra research seminars and workshops put on, such as those delivered by the Centre for Academic Success, and I’ve found these to be really useful for developing my understanding of research.
Mini fact about you: Before I came to BCU I was involved with all sorts of things at my previous uni, from student support to classroom delivery. I was most involved with Widening Participation work, though, and am hoping I can get involved with WP here too at some point. I’m ‘first-generation’ myself, having been targeted and supported by an AimHigher programme when I was in Sixth Form, so I feel that it’s important to show those from non-traditional backgrounds that they can access HE. I’m particularly interested to see how creative approaches to WP can help to improve access. One exciting project I’ve been involved with is the ‘White Water Writers’ project, which works with many groups of learners who are from backgrounds of low participation in HE. I’m always fascinated to see how Widening Participation and Creative Writing can be brought together in innovative ways to raise confidence and ambition