The transformative power of FE

What motivates you in your work every day?

According to a recent Education and Training Foundation (ETF) landmark survey of more than 4,200 teachers, trainers and leaders, 82% told us that the most rewarding aspect of their job is inspiring students, changing lives, and making a difference. The survey also revealed the frustrations of working in the sector, with key challenges being lack of funding (31%), recruitment challenges (19%), and the changing landscape of FE (18%).

Yet what we find when we speak to staff working across the sector is their absolute drive and commitment to do the very best for their students. We know that every day, the sector is enabling stories of transformation for students and learners. Through your dedication and commitment, students are being exposed to new experiences, gaining new skills and grasping new opportunities.

Stories like these are happening every day across the sector.

Stories from across the sector

Thomas Rea, Lecturer, Walsall College

How did you get to where you are now?

I'm a lecturer in business studies and Esports at Walsall College. I decided to work in Further Education because I have wanted to be a teacher since I was at secondary school. From studying business studies at university to becoming a business teacher in a secondary school, I naturally progressed into FE. I haven't looked back since then.

Thomas Rea

How has working in FE transformed your career?

When I started in a secondary school, I was very much under the impression that teaching was a linear approach. You are a teacher; this is your role and this what you must do. When I moved into FE, I realised that teaching isn't just about what happens in a classroom, it's actually encompassing everything around it as well. Tools such as the professional standards have made me understand that it is not just about my impact in the classroom, it's about everything else, the whole college and the wider community.


What inspires you to turn up to work every day?

Being able to teach the students and watch them progress. Watching that development and witnessing the difference between the beginning and the end of the year makes it all worth it.

Rachel James

Rachel James, Assistant Principal Teaching and Learning, Barnsley College

How did you get to where you are now?

I joined the FE sector as a lecturer in creative industries. I didn't know too much about the sector at the time, but I immediately fell in love with it. I worked in different roles across the curriculum and quality and eventually became Assistant Principal of Teaching and Learning.

What made you choose to work in Further Education?

I wanted to be in a fast-moving environment which really allows learners to have that vocational experience. To me, it is the best place to gain knowledge and skills as that practical environment allows you to learn as much as possible from industry professionals.


What is the transformative impact that Further Education can have on learners?

When it comes to 16 to 18-year-olds, I think it really allows them to develop and grow as young adults. It represents an amazing platform to get them ready for independent living, university, or employment. It's a great opportunity for a fresh start and it is just a wonderful atmosphere for them to be part of.


Can you tell us about the transformation you've seen in your students?

Our students are exceptional. They knock our socks off every day. The most recent inspiring moment for me has been witnessing how much they enjoyed digital as part of their learning. On some occasions, students become our teachers and seeing them taking ownership of their learning is important.

Marisa Ferguson, Learner Development Coach Coordinator South Bank Colleges

How did you get to where you are now and what made you choose to work in Further Education?

I think what attracted me most to this role was the way that they had embedded pastoral care into the students’ curriculum. I studied education studies, and while I always had intentions of being a teacher, I was keen to find a role that allowed me to fulfil more pastoral roles. I started teaching in secondary schools and when this role came up, I went for it.

Marisa Ferguson

What inspires you to work every day?

Oh, I love my job. I genuinely love my job. And I think one of the unique things about my role is getting to see students start in September. They have these ambitions, they have these goals, but they also have a lot of challenges and a lot of life happening that makes achieving those goals a little bit more difficult.

And so being able to contribute to the process of empowering them and the process of seeing them step into their own leadership and take charge of their journey is just amazing.

I get to be a small part of that every day.


What do you admire about your colleagues at the college?

I think what I find really inspiring about teachers is their ability to translate the wealth of information and knowledge that they have into accessible bite-sized pieces. It is amazing to see them take their students on a learning journey to develop their skills in a subject or industry as well as their confidence. It's a transformative experience, and I think our teachers are so skilled at facilitating that transformation.

Anthony Dunn

Anthony Dunn, Construction Lecturer, Barnsley College

How did you get to where you are now? 

My role is a T level lecturer at Barnsley College, I deliver the technical qualification design, surveying, and planning.

I started learning at this college when I was 18. I did a sports science course but went away from education for a while and worked in construction until I eventually came back to university. From that point on, I got into education and an opportunity to start teaching came up; I progressed up the ladder from there. I started studying and developing my technical knowledge around the qualification that I deliver now. It’s been 12 years so far.

How has working in FE transformed your career?  

I feel that I'm constantly learning because every week is different, in terms of our tasks and the qualifications we deliver - there is a need for constantly adapting. The ETF training around T levels and other tools are helpful.


In your opinion, what do you think is the real transformative power of education?

The most transformative aspect of FE is that we have a real impact on a student's life coming into further education. It's a real defining point and I think it's probably one of the most influential parts in someone's life - they have to think about what they want to do and where they want to be in 10, 15 years’ time. The experience they have within FE will also play a massive part on where they go after college and that is essentially down to staff.

Our work

What drives our work at ETF and SET is putting teachers, trainers and leaders at the heart of all we do. By supporting you on your professional journey, we want to help you provide the best learning experience to your students and learners.

We hope you were just as inspired as we have been, reading the examples of the difference that practitioners are making to learners’ lives.

Visit our Together we transform webpage to learn more.