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.

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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.

#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.