• Cinderella and other stories…an exploration of practitioners’ views on bringing further education out of the shadows

      Thompson, Carol; Hopkins, Neil (University of Verona, 2019-05-08)
      Further education (FE) has frequently been portrayed as «the Cinderella service» in relation to other phases; a «submerged space» operating below the surface and out of sight of mainstream educational policy in England. A contrasting view depicts a sector often considered a panacea for social concerns. FE is charged with supplying a skilled workforce and has been portrayed as a vehicle for enhancing economic development (DfEE 1998, Leitch 2006). Despite this it has repeatedly suffered funding cuts (Tickle 2014) alongside imposed political change. This research explores the stories of tutors and managers affected by managerial processes in English FE. The findings revealed the impact of corporatisation on leadership as well as on tutor and student agency and explored how professional collaboration enabled practitioners to challenge the prevailing systems-driven culture in ways which would help the sector step out of the shadows.
    • Developing a mission for further education: changing culture using non-financial and intangible value

      Hadawi, Ali; Crabbe, M. James C.; Central Bedfordshire College; University of Northampton; University of Bedfordshire (Taylor & Francis, 2018-01-29)
      In his keynote lecture at the Reimagining Further Education conference in Birmingham in June 2016, Sir Frank McLoughlin was clear that the sector ‘needed a mission’ to unite around, and to let people know where it is going’ (McLoughlin 2016). This was endorsed by the attendees, who felt that it would enable the sector to regain ownership of what it stands for nationally, regionally, and locally. Such a vision is needed to create a TVET (Technical and Vocational Education and Training) sector that is targeted to develop an effective shared culture in the further education sector, close skills shortages and skills gaps in education, enhance community cohesion and improve productivity. This vision needs to have a robust measure of impact that aligns with the vision. One possibility is to explore a non-financial and intangible value metric where social value is aligned to the sector mission. A robust measure will enable key stakeholders to agree on areas of focus in a specific geographical location or a specific time. Such a measure might challenge the need for the existence of regulatory bodies such as Ofsted in the way they operate now. With such a robust measure of social value/impact, Government will not need to issue a white paper every time a response to a localised issue is required. We suggest that the Social Earnings Ratio (S/E or SERatio) is such a robust measure. For example, if the need in a certain locality is to address skills gaps/shortages or to focus on community cohesion, all that is needed is a change in the weighting of the various components of such a measure. This will allow development of a Further Education mission which can be utilised nationally, regionally and locally. In this article we develop this idea and provide an illustration of how the SERatio could be applied to an FE college.  The example we use is that of a small FE college with an annual budget of £12m. We demonstrate, using SERatio, that this college produces an intangible value of approximately £40m per annum. Such an approach will enable Further Education to become the strong owner of its mission and vision in the future, and allow it to develop its own culture and expertise to the maximum of its potential.
    • Finding the glass slipper: the impact of leadership on innovation in further education

      Thompson, Carol; Further Education Trust For Leadership (FETL, 2018-06-11)
      The rise of commercialisation within education (Courtney 2015) brought with it a number of systems and processes which have had a significant impact on how professional roles are enacted.  In particular the increase in the scrutiny of Teacher activity has been viewed as leading to a reduction in professionalism (Ball 2003, Ball et al. 2012).  In Further Education, this has led to the development of a more defined, potentially formulaic and less autonomous approach to teaching (Avis 2003). In addition, the codification of 'good' teaching and learning embedded through teacher education, the Professional Standards (Education and Training Foundation 2014) and bodies such as Ofsted has provided very distinct guidelines to direct teachers' activities in the classroom. This research forms part of a Fellowship awarded by the Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL).  The main aim was to explore how leadership within Further Education (FE) impacts on teaching and learning, specifically on the autonomy Teachers have to construct their work in creative ways. The project investigated how professionals are constrained or empowered to develop methods which allow them to innovate rather than replicate in the classroom; ultimately creating an environment which inspires and challenges learners.   Semi-structured interviews with Teachers, Managers and Leaders were used to explore factors which both enabled and constrained innovation in the classroom. Findings outlined a range of similarities for all groups in relation to specific 'enablers' to creativity and some distinct differences in those factors considered to be constraints.  One significant difference was the perceptions of Teacher agency which influenced attitudes to whether or not Teachers were willing to move away from more prescriptive approaches in order to explore alternative methods.  A stark contrast was found between the views of Teachers and Leaders in relation to the constraints, or freedom to be found in the teaching role suggesting miscommunication or misconception by one or both parties.
    • ‘Give ‘em the old razzle dazzle’: surviving the lesson observation process in further education

      Thompson, Carol; Wolstencroft, Peter; University of Bedfordshire (Routledge, 2014-07-07)
      This paper examines the key role that graded lesson observations have within the measurement of quality in the post-compulsory education sector. Using semi-structured interviews, it looks at their impact on participants and also their execution in light of their stated purpose to ‘improve teaching and learning’. The sample selected included teachers, quality managers and initial teacher educators and covers a geographical spread from the north Midlands to London. The findings suggest that the lessons observed bore scant resemblance to the day-to-day teaching of participants. Instead teachers talked of the need to ‘put on a show’ and how they treated the annual observation with a mixture of trepidation and cynicism. The realisation that observations failed to measure what they were designed to measure was shared by other participants with quality managers, ostensibly the people who were employed to raise standards, also acknowledging the limitations of the process. The observation process was designed to reward outstanding practitioners, however, teachers talked about their reluctance to strive for outstanding grades due to the perceived onerous duties associated with achieving a top grade. Instead teachers talked about the way in which they aimed for a grade two in order to maintain a low profile. Despite the widespread cynicism amongst all participants, there was a universal belief that some form of measurement was needed to ensure that standards were maintained.
    • Promises and lies: an exploration of curriculum managers experiences in FE

      Thompson, Carol; Wolstencroft, Peter; University of Bedfordshire (Routledge, 2013-11-28)
      This article examines the important but under-researched role of the curriculum manager within further education. It reviews managers’ perceptions of the role through the lens of the professional–managerial paradigm, with a particular emphasis on the conflict in values experienced by managers trying to implement processes driven by the financial imperative whilst ensuring that their focus remains student-centred. The sample selected mirrored the current curriculum management profile within further education and included seven managers (four female, three male) covering a geographical spread from the North Midlands to North London. The day-to-day reality of the role was reflected in a perceived lack of power and autonomy dominated by a sense of frustration that the initial perception of the job was not matched by the veracity of the position. Participants spoke about having to deal with a large number of obstacles that hindered their ability to make a difference; notably, organisational systems and processes, staffing problems and a perceived intransigence and lack of support from senior management resulting in the adoption of a variety of personas in order to cope with the demands of the role.