By Suzanne Savage, Assistant Lecturer and Doctoral Researcher in the Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences

Everyone reading this article will have sat through education conferences full of compelling speeches and interesting presentations, all of which made absolutely no impact on their daily lives as education professionals. I’ve been there too.

When we took a long hard look at the challenges facing the Further Education and Skills sector, we decided that we didn’t want any more talking head “experts” telling us what to do. Something different is needed. There are no easy answers, and it is only through collaboration that real solutions can be found. So we decided to put the “confer” back into “conference” and to #ReimagineFE on 29 June at Birmingham City University.

There is an unacknowledged crisis in conferences where we rally against the current state of affairs, but we don’t develop clear ways forward. Through #ReimagineFE, we are trying to rise to that challenge. Rather than just complaining about lack of resources/time/vision, we want to assemble professionals across the sector in problem-solving groups to tackle these problems head on.

It’s not enough for the FE Sector to find its voice; it needs to amplify that voice with a clear vision. And as Stephen Sondheim so rightly said, “A vision’s just a vision if it’s only in your head.” So rather than just talk and dream, our working groups will seek creative ways to connect their vision to the very real world of policy. These groups will be led by some of the foremost thinkers, writers, and practitioners in the field.

It’s uncomfortable to work in a new way. We know how to organise a “stand and deliver” conference. But to tackle the very deep roots of Further Education’s challenges, we need to come together and work together and collaborate together.

This is a new approach. It needs refinement. But most of all it needs your input. Will you join us on 29 June in Birmingham to #ReimagineFE?

*from Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George

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.

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