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.


#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.

“We have to change the negative things into positive…

Director of Audition and Itchi the Killer

Director of Audition and Itchi the Killer

The following is a quote from the talented Movie Director, Takashi Miike , and as I read it, I can’t stop thinking that the sentiment applies to how I feel about F.E and Level 1 programmes.

So here is the quote:

“We have to change the negative things into positive. In today’s Japanese film industry we always say we don’t have enough budget, that people don’t go to see the films. But we can think of it in a positive way, meaning that if audiences don’t go to the cinema we can make any movie we want. After all, no matter what kind of movie you make it’s never a hit, so we can make a really bold, daring movie. There are many talented actors and crew, but many Japanese movies aren’t interesting. Many films are made with the image of what a Japanese film should be like. Some films venture outside those expectations a little bit, but I feel we should break them.”

And here is my bastardisation/ adaption:

“We have to change the negative things into positive. In today’s Educational environment we always say we don’t have enough budget, that there isn’t enough support for what you do in class. We can think of it in a positive way, meaning that with the freedom offered with Programmes of Study we can have any class we want. After all no matter what you do it’s unlikely to gain public acclaim, so you can make a really bold, daring Scheme of Work. There are many talented students and teachers, but many classes aren’t interesting. Many lessons are planned with an idea of what a lesson should be like. Some PoS venture outside those expectations a little but, but I feel we should break them.”

The Sunday Confessional, and this Blog returns…

First use of the blog since July. (shakes head at self)

I want to use this time for better focusing on what can I do differently, rather than veering towards whining about the actions of others. I am keeping a journal (badly) failing to write in it at the end of every day, but I am writing in it, and using it to write this!

Tuesday was a classic piece of work procrastination, as I focused on tidying my educational books behind my desk. They are collected thematically now, and look nice. This was of course an essential task to get done.

I now have two to do list note books, one for keeping track, and then one for daily to dos. I need to, there are lots to do!

Wednesday was a tough day, I had been involved in a couple of meetings that went very well, meanwhile some students of mine behaved badly and so I had to deal with that rapidly. I have been blessed so far this academic year with general good student behaviour, but there was almost a teacher muscle memory in terms of speaking to the students, their parents and anybody else involved.

Thursday was great, a friend of mine came to the college and delivered Stand Up comedy workshops. He spoke about stand up, delivered some set, attempting to make 15 teenagers laugh, and then they were supported to write their own material. A whole 30 minutes. And what was great was that they did it, all of them, and most of them took the opportunity to perform it. Times like this I love my job.

Friday was another tough day. Went into work Saturday, to do timetabling, this has been a them that I am a Martyr to. Had to move some classes round due to staff change, and I did my classes last. Like I said, I’m a Martyr. I don’t mind going in on Saturdays however as it means I spend less time working from home.

You know the old work/life balance.


Plan more. Plan better.

Blog more. Blog better

Be seeing you.

This Teachers Life

First blogged for MidKent 5th Dec 2012

In which Steven becomes the Cliff Richard of MKC blogging. You do not hear from him all year then he releases greatest hits just in time for Christmas. With enough new material to make it almost seem worthwhile.

Things have changed, as they have a habit of doing. When last we met I had a goatee beard. Now I have a full beard. Important changes make us reconsider our life choices, our daily choices and occasionally our lack of choices. Who we are, defined by something other than what we do, and why we do it. Next month I will have been employed at MidKent College for five years. My interests, perspectives and knowledge have changed dramatically in that time, but an aspect of my attitude and sensibility has not. What changes will occur over the next five? I ask myself a lot.

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I recently went to a conference that looked at the future of Media and Film education. There was much discussion about primary, A-level and higher education, but not further education or the lifelong learning sector. “However, not enough discussion is given to the role of FE, and the fact that for many students they are the first generation to stay on at college or sixth form, let alone go to university.” – Me, previously. I still don’t understand students, but I think I’m closer. Thanks to a colleague I have been reading ‘Why Children Fail’ by John Holt. I understand that for some of them, choosing isn’t pro-active, its just better than having no choice and doesn’t fully mean they have clear aspirations. “Students are great. They challenge my perceptions and assumptions…and they enable me to have a class and a job and a home. That’s very important to remember.” – Me, previously.

“Though teaching isn’t a job is it? It’s a vocation, a calling. One of those roles we choose to do because we believe we can make a difference…” A touch of cynicism there, which I have since underpinned with theory, thanks to our friend Stephen Brookfield, who states:

“Reflection becomes critical when educators consider how to challenge our own untested hegemonic assumptions to uncover practices that appear to make teaching easier but actually work against our own long-term interests. Hegemonic assumptions are those that we think are in our own best interests, but have been designed by others who are more powerful to work against us; they have, however, become so embedded in our practices that we can no longer identify the oppression or disenfranchisement contained within them. Examples of hegemonic assumptions include beliefs about teaching as a vocation or calling that justify an overwhelming workload to our own physical and mental detriment.”

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So, as it is the end of the year, what are your academic New Year’s resolutions (that you will admittedly break straight away)? Academically, how will you lose those extra pounds you’ve gained? Academically, how will you experience more culture? Academically, how will you…etc. If you do ‘something’ a certain way, is it because that is the best way to do it, or is it the way it has always been done?

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I still don’t have a business card. I think about it occasionally. Rarely. But I do wonder. Maybe 2013 I’ll get one. Who would I give them to?

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I updated my CV recently, for reasons that were beyond my control (honest!) I’m no longer a school governor and there were a couple of other things to remove. I recently enquired about a slot as a speaker at a conference, and they informed me they could only offer lunch and kudos. Well, that’s all I ever ask for. How is your personal literacy? If you had to write a bio about yourself, when would you begin? What would be the most up-to-date thing about you?

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I’m still lucky and enriched by the conversations I have with colleagues, though there seems to be less of them these days. Less time, though no less inclination. Something to note for 2013. How much of that chat will be productive? Depends on your definition of productive and if you consider touching base important. I do. There is an Anglo-Saxon term – Wyrd. Considered by some to be the personification of fate. The more you try to achieve, the more people will arrive to help you.

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Whilst getting myself up to speed, I rediscovered the following set of questions, around the subject of state, and realized I had never answered them myself. I’m going to spend some time doing that. Will you? Are we bored of the lesson we haven’t even taught them yet? When we plan our schemes of work, our lessons, how much do we take mood into account? How much has the phrase ‘death by PowerPoint’ affected our decision whether or not to use PowerPoint? If your lesson was a colour, what colour would it be?

How is your flow? Is your skill level equal to the challenges you face? Are you bored? Are you aroused? When was the last time you learned new skills, and do you have challenges that enable you to use them?

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Before I vanished I asked the question of whether you feel valued and how much are you worth. In an age of austerity and public sector pay freezes, I really must get back round to that question as well.

Be Seeing You