FE in Wales: we keep rolling with the punches

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09 December 2016 by ATL
The ever-changing landscape of Further Education keeps everyone who works in the sector on their toes, argues ATL Cymru President Lesley Tipping.
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Whatever changes are thrown at us, we take on the chin, knuckle down and carry on!

The impact of the Qualifications Review for the post 16 sector, the complete change in the planning and funding methodology, vocational sector reviews, recent shrinking funding routes, the early impact of Brexit, shrinking demographics, mergers and restructures.

These are just a few of the hooks, jabs and uppercuts that the sector in Wales has had to deal with in the last few years.

The colleges that have withstood all the changes have responded in a variety of ways by constant restructures, minimal pay awards to staff and implementing a new national contract with clear rigidity. These colleges have had to become more innovative in their approaches to funding and learn to work with a variety of partners to maintain their level of service. The best of these have worked with the unions to try to take their organisations forwards positively although a minority have made these changes in a ruthless manner leaving many good staff at the wayside.

Times of extreme change can be very challenging and cause concern, worry and stress to those affected. However, what the sector is now finding is that its new leanness has made it look at itself and how it delivers its service. More time is being spent to deliver to learners in new ways, including the use of on-line and blended learning. This is not replacing traditional teaching but enhancing it and ensuring the sector is keeping up the technology that learners are familiar with and enjoy.

In some colleges, staff are being offered a good variety of CPD to ensure they are keeping up with technology to deliver effective methods of teaching to suit their learners. There is a lot of up-skilling taking place to support everyone in the sector at all levels. At least 2 rounds of national management training have taken place in partnership with the AOC in England as the sector understands the need for future succession planning. There is now a clear focus within the organisation on ensuring the service they offer is of a high standard and of value for money.

Moving forwards into the next academic year, FE will start to see the impact of changes in the secondary sector: new GCSEs and their outcomes; more learners leaving schools with at least a Foundation Level Welsh Baccalaureate; improved Digital Literacy skills and even further forwards the impact of the Donaldson Review for young people.

The sector is waiting to see what the Diamond Review means both for Further and Higher Education and also how changes around apprenticeships and higher apprenticeships will affect it. Even more change!

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Educational reform