Welcome from Martin Reid: Back to business

A new academic year means the introduction of new qualifications, but the FE sector must also confront the bigger issues in society.

With the new academic term now underway, many further education (FE) professionals will be getting to grips with new qualifications, including the introduction of more T Levels. Against a backdrop of a government which has pledged to strip down the “confusing landscape” of qualifications, it’s likely there could be further changes in the pipeline. After the enforced changes to GCSE, BTEC and A Level qualifications for the past two years, it all makes for a complicated picture for teachers, which is something we explore in our cover feature.

As well as the day-to-day teaching, all practitioners are having to face the big issues in society, and with Black History Month on the horizon we take a look at how the sector is coping with the need to help create a more diverse and inclusive culture. There are a range of steps institutions can take, from providing inclusivity training to decolonising the curriculum, and you can read about some of these on page 19.

Unfortunately, the spectre of Covid-19 is never far away, and it looks likely that online learning will form part of the mix for some time to come. One issue here relates to ensuring learners are not left behind, and our advice piece on page 14 has a number of suggestions to how to make sure online sessions work for everyone.

On the subject of Covid-19, general FE colleges have been at the forefront of the battle to ensure learners are not disadvantaged, and will play an essential role in helping to deliver the government’s ambitions outlined in the Skills for Jobs White Paper. You can read more about this in our sector focus feature, and don’t miss our exclusive interview with Paul Nowak, deputy general secretary of the Trades Union Congress. He talks about the need to upskill people for the jobs of the future, and what needs to happen in FE to ensure the country has the skills it needs to compete.

Make sure you take a look, too, at our Knowledge section. Featuring in-depth research pieces from practitioners and other experts, this issue sees articles from Kayte Haselgrove on ‘thinking environments’, Laurence Elliott and Pascale Samy on creating student digital champions to encourage greater levels of online participation, and Sophie Harris and Melanie Lanser, who explore the concept of problem-based learning.

Finally, tickets are selling well for our second online annual SET Conference, with keynote speakers including research manager Yasmine El Masri, former international rugby union referee Nigel Owens MBE, and the ever-popular Geoff Petty. The conference will be held on Tuesday 2 November, and you can book your ticket on our website. I look forward to seeing you virtually.

Martin Reid, Director of SET

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