Give me something to Blog about

grant me the serenity to accept the things i cannot change
courage to change the things I can
wisdom to know the difference

It has been been just over a year since my last blog and somehow the blogsphere and the twitterverse did not collapse in on itself.

Its the summer break, a time to once again regrouop, reflect and maybe, even, reblog.

My last blog, which not ironically starts with the sentence ” when I decided to restart the blog” shows I have form, an unsuccessful history in trying to maintain a regular blog.

Looking at the ‘must read’ section of the TES F.E pages  shows that things don’t seem to have moved on an awful lot. So I can do a continuation of that blog. Arguing from a certain perspective, being student rather than employer focused.

so One Year Later.

(As of 21st July, the top 10 most read stories. pop pickers)

10; Ofsted: Wilshaw slams ‘alarming rate of underperformance and failure’ in colleges
9; Gordon Marsden: funding cuts have reduced colleges’ capacity to deliver HE
8; Employer contact ‘most useful’ form of careers advice, say nine in 10 students
7; Amanda Spielman confirmed as new Ofsted chief inspector despite MPs’ concerns
6; A third of businesses plan to cut non-apprenticeship training because of levy, poll suggests
5; Robert Halfon named as new apprentices and skills minister
4; Successive governments’ policies have ‘failed’ FE, claims former skills minister
3; Qualifications cull could kill off awarding bodies
2; Sainsbury review: what changes are on the way for post-16 education?
1; Ofstedwatch: the latest Ofsted reports for FE and skills

The focus, if you can call it, of the last blog is about the lack of focus on pre-level 3 courses. So let’s have a look through these 10 stories and see if, one year later, pre-level 3 student focus has improved at all…

10; Ofsted: Wilshaw slams ‘alarming rate of underperformance and failure’ in colleges
“an alarming rate of underperformance and failure, especially when we remember that the majority of 16- to 19-year-olds are educated in the FE sector. Right across the country, we find colleges that simply aren’t delivering what’s needed. In too many cases, inspectors are coming across weak provision, characterised by poor outcomes for learners and apprentices, high drop-out rates and sub-standard work experience placements that fail to develop students’ industry-specific skills.”
“…packing their curriculum with low-quality courses that fail to match the skills gaps in the local and national labour market,”

So it’s Wilshaw’s view of F.E, and his ability to improve morale in the sector hasn’t changed. “Colleges simply aren’t delivering what’s needed” and the only thing that’s needed is preparing for jobs that existed yesterday and completing maths and English education not achieved in schools. apparently.

9; Gordon Marsden: funding cuts have reduced colleges’ capacity to deliver HE
‘The shadow minister says cuts to Esol and adult skills have adversely affected FE provision. 
The government has “reduced the capacity” of FE colleges to participate…’

Excellent point, well said that Shadow Minister man. this covers the issue’s I want to look at.

‘… in higher education.

Balls. Of course. it’s all about delivering H.E in F.E. Post level 3 courses. Sigh. Next.

8; Employer contact ‘most useful’ form of careers advice, say nine in 10 students
‘A survey of almost 2,000 students concludes that information from employers and work experience were the ‘most useful’ sources of careers advice’

Well I’m glad the survey was done to tell me that. (he said snarkily) out of interest what were the least useful? Non-employers and time-off presumeably.

7; Amanda Spielman confirmed as new Ofsted chief inspector despite MPs’ concerns
‘Amanda Spielman has been approved by the Privy Council to become Ofsted’s next chief inspector’

congratulations, best of luck to her.

‘– despite MPs raising concerns about her lack of awareness of the FE sector.”

Of course she has a lack of awareness about FE. why wouldn’t she.

6; A third of businesses plan to cut non-apprenticeship training because of levy, poll suggests
“Getting the skills and education system right across the country, particularly in partnership with the devolved nations, will be a big challenge ahead for the new secretary of state.”

And at this point, I remain positive and open minded, that the new Education Secretary will have a focus on Learner centered and pre-level 3 education in F.E. Next!

5; Robert Halfon named as new apprentices and skills minister
‘Mr Halfon…   In 2010 he became the first politician to hire an apprentice, and he helped to create the Parliamentary Academy…
asks MPs to pay their apprentices the national minimum wage’

Which, it would be churlish not to admit, is a great thing. *Mini clap*

‘In 2011, Mr Halfon voted in favour of scrapping the education maintenance allowance. He also voted in favour of raising university tuition fees.’

Of course he did. NEXT!

4; Successive governments’ policies have ‘failed’ FE, claims former skills minister
‘John Denham calls for the creation of an ‘academic and policy council’ to inform FE and skills policy’

Interesting, tell me more.

‘successive governments have “not delivered a consistent approach to policy or implementation” to get employer-supported higher-level qualifications to become a major part of the skills system.’

(breathes) not learner supported, either, to be fair.

3; Qualifications cull could kill off awarding bodies
‘Switching to single versions may put small, specialist organisations out of business ‘
“The resources you have to put into bidding for, let alone winning, a government contract are just phenomenal.”
‘Federation of Awarding Bodies’ 130 members would be affected by the changes, according to chief executive Stephen Wright.’
“If you boil down vocational and technical education into 15 areas, they’re going to be so enormously broad that they’ll have the same problem that we’ve had with the 14-19 diploma: the standards are such a compromise that employers don’t really value them.”

But do LEARNERS value them?!?

2; Sainsbury review: what changes are on the way for post-16 education?

This actually really newads to be looked at in it’s own right.
I might actually do that…

1; Ofstedwatch: the latest Ofsted reports for FE and skills

Is a sobering read.

Be Seeing You. May be.


Reviewing “Reviewing post-16 Education and Training Institutions” by HM Government

When I decided to re-start the blog, I didn’t expect BIS to release a document entitled “Reviewing post-16 Education and Training Institutions” and I didn’t expect to write about it. Hardly a soft blog to relaunch. I’ve read it and I have some queries which I don’t expect to be answered here, but will keep them fresh in my mind as more information becomes available.

Disclosure: I didn’t vote for this Government, nor do I agree with their policies.

Focus: My teaching practice is focused on 15-19 Level 1 learners in a Creative and Visual Arts environment.

As i tweeted (@drkeevil) earlier I can’t read lines like “removing 6,000 low-value qualifications from performance tables and public funding.” without thinking about this interview with Stewart Lee;

In the introduction the document states that critical to achieving their objectives:
– “progress to high level skills valued by employers
– “responsiveness to local employer needs and economic priorities”

This doesn’t seem particularly student focused. Focusing on what employers what now, based on what customers wanted yesterday doesn’t prepare anybody for tomorrow. I don’t mean to be glib.

The intro goes on to discuss a new network of prestigious institutes delivering high standard provision at levels 3-5. So Level 1, where does this fit in?

Section 2 looks at ‘A national programme of area-based reviews’ and it suggest threading a fine needle. That post 16-reform is necessary, and i don’t disagree. They expect it to;
“enable greater specialisation”
“create genuine centres of expertise”
“teaching basic skills”
“maintaining broad universal access”

whilst meeting the employer needs mentioned early.

Section three mentions area based reviews which does at least mention

“access to appropriate good quality provision within reasonable travel distances, particularly for 16-19 year olds and students with special educational needs and disabilities” So here the focus is on goiod quality not great, and a decision on what is ‘reasonable’ in terms of travel distances.

The document finishes by saying;
‘Governing bodies will be responsible for deciding whether to accept recommendations relating to their institutions.” Yet no clear mention is made about what if they aren’t!?

It does go on to say;
‘It is important that college governors give careful weight to the long term stability of their institution’
‘To duty under chairty law to comply with legal obligations’
‘We expect institutions to take the right action, in light of the findings of a review, to ensure that they are resilient and able to respond to future funding priorities.’

Which only reminds me of the difficulties and battles many a primary school has had, and often lost, to avoid becoming an Academy. I wonder if people if people would fight with the some passion to protect an F.E college.
And I prepare myself to work for the newly formed ‘Kent College’ in 2017-18.

Be seeing you.

Is Gordon Ramsey the Answer?

In response to Vic Goddard’s Piece in the TES, July 25th 2014.
In which he applied Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares to schools, and I now look to apply it to my F.E class room.

Goddard discusses the menu, often muddled and irrelevant, as is the curriculum. The need to look at the number of classes and rationalise them. Teaching whats right for students, not for staff.
We changed the Level 1 curriculum last year and it certainly was an over populated menu. Developed according to what I thought the customer needed and finalised dependent on what staff were available.

Vic Goddard talks about Ramsey’s willingness to turn the dishwasher in the matre‘d. It is important to get the right people. Developing skills, making sure they are used effectively. Empowering people, asking questions about what they do, helping staff gain confidence.
Developing a team has proved a difficult and elusive task. Transient staff, misconceptions/ assumptions about Level 1 learners and funding cuts have caused an unsettled environment. Putting it politely.

Goddard mentions Ramsey’s listening to customers, and not just though what would be student voice or parents, but going out and meeting those who choose to go elsewhere. And finally there is talk of decluttering and ensuring the space is bright and clean.

The curriculum for the 2014 academic year has been simplified and refocused mostly through an understanding of what you can do with a Level 1 programme of Study. Ensuring that the course is relevant to the learners, unique to the college and achievable in the current climate of resourcing budgets.
The timetable has been reduced, which I am not happy about and seemingly powerless to address. Though it does an allocate an hour to online learning in preparation for the FELTAG report. Other changes caused by staffing have been made and I have attempted to adapt as best as I can to scheme a coherent programme.
The scheme of work has been developed to make student voice an integral part, as has my schedule to ensure more opportunities for discussion with parents. To ensure that the programme of study is not muddled and the curriculum is communicated coherently.
I remain perpetually powerless and frustrated over staffing. And thats all there is to say about that.
After a number of years of requesting, I have finally been given a Level 1 base room. A job has been put in to get it cleaned, a paint job and extra white/notice boards. To ensure that information is clearly displayed and student work can be prominent.

The important thing to remember about kitchen nightmares, is that Ramsey revisits. This isn’t a one-off, its important to maintain and continually review.
Prepare for when somebody wants to order off the menu.

eduBlogger Learner

Why blog?
For me it’s about accepting that I am trying to build credibility as an expert in something.
In this case being a Teacher/ Learner

(note I’m writing this on an iPad, using the WordPress app, this will either result in me marvelling at the godsend and only blogging using the app, or hating it and never using it again. There is no middle ground)


#followfriday: @sjbatch



You shouldn’t necessarily follow Stephen Batchelor because of his Twitter account as it is, but rather what it could be, if encouraged.

As a Teacher/Learner he was my first Boss and I find him insightful, often funny and rarely dull. ‘The Batch’ is the Director of H.E at MidKent College and the nearest I’ve had to a mentor in F.E. Whether he wanted to be or not. I wouldn’t have my teaching qualification without him. Thank you good sir.

Essentially, when they come for me, and they will, I can say it was his fault.

The author of Dummy books and occasional blogs, about History, go say hi and tell him I sent you.


As a Bonus; from the archive…



Personal Statement: Lecturer

This is part of a series of blogs in which I pull apart my personal statement (as adapted for my About page) to see what it means, and what it means for me. My job title, or at least the role I was ostensibly hired for is Media Lecturer. This is partly out of date, as whilst I am currently a course leader within the Media department, I don’t actually teach the Media production units any more. And it bristles me more than it should when I see myself referred to as such, as if the career development I have made has been ignored, intentionally or otherwise. But what about the title Lecturer, this bothers me also, again maybe more that it should, as I don’t feel it applicable to what I do, what ever that might be. Is a job title important, and if so what should mine be? I blogged about this before here when I discussed business cards, and toyed with the idea of having ‘Cat Herder on mine. According to this article in the Chicago Tribune, job titles are no longer a simple thing and the more specific we can get the better. Increasingly this has come to be two words seemingly put together at random, to create an evocative image of what the person does. Like ‘Probability Engineer’ or the aforementioned ‘Cat Herder’. However as this piece states more emphasis can be put on a job title then it is worth, for example when everybody is a VP, does it mean anything to be a VP?

“In most cases a job title is also worth nothing, especially to you. Authority, responsibility, control, freedom… those things matter, but those things are not automatically conferred by a job title.”

Dharmesh Shah; Founder and CTO at Hubspot.

According to Ask Jeeves, when asked

What does “job title” mean?

The answer was:

A job title is the name used to describe a specific group of tasks performed by an individual for a business or another enterprise. A job title is an efficient way to tell what a person does.

So what does this all mean for me? But am I really? According to the Oxford dictionary a Lecturer is


  • A person who gives lectures, especially (British) as an occupation at a university or college of higher education:

Well I don’t feel I give lectures and I don’t work in a college of higher education. This might be though because I think of lectures like this

and I might be in a rush to claim it if I thought of it like this


What do you think about the job title Lecturer?

Leave a comment and let me know.

More thoughts on this soon.

Be seeing you.

#followfriday: @mrssarahsimons

As part of #followfriday rather then just give you a list of names, I thought I would name one a week and why I follow them, and by default from a Teacher/Learner perspective, so should you.

Sarah Simons

Now the number one reason to follow Sarah isn’t because she once lived with Ken Barlow, although I can understand that you would think it might be.
The reason that I follow Sarah on twitter is because she is a, if not the, driving force behind #ukfechat as well as a writer on FE for the TES and producer of its FE focused podcast.
So you see if you are a F.E focused Teacher Learner, you will soon see that Sarah is a nexus point around which current FE debate and discussion occurs. As well as fighting the ongoing battle to teach Functional Skills (English) and develop resources so that others can do so as well.
Sarah can often be found harnessing people to lead discussions every Thursday at 9, but I also had the pleasure and opportunity to meet her in person at last years Sunday Times Education Conference, where she was as delightful in person as she appears online.
On a personal level as I continue to develop and drive my own Teaching and Learning forward, Sarah, whether she likes it or not, has become somebody for me to seek the opinion of and guidance from, and for that I am grateful.