"A brief note of thanks... yesterday's conference in Guildford was the best CPD event I have attended in my entire career. The day was well organised but attending the workshops and listening to so many wonderful people kept me on a 'high' all day (still haven't quite returned to normal....). A great experience!!!! "
Jodi Roffey-Barentsen, Programme Manager, Farnborough College of Technology, March 2013
Assistant Principal - St Vincent College, Hampshire
Andy gives us his verdict on the first Newbubbles FE Conference on 22 March 2013...
Fantastic feedback has come back from delegates who attended our March 2013 National Conference entitled: 'The Future of Further Education". Andy Grant, Assistant Principal at St Vincent College, Hampshire gave us his thoughts by webcam:
Graded Observations - What the Experts Say
This is a short montage of clips from the Newbubbles Conference examining the problems associated with graded observations. Features Geoff Petty, Dr Matt O'Leary and Matthew Coffey from OFSTED.
An Interview with Geoff Petty
Geoff Petty gives his views about graded observation in an interview with Newbubbles.
Michael Portillo's Keynote Speech: "Further Education: Trying But Can Do Better"
Frank Coffield's Energising Keynote Speech and Rally to Teachers Across Further Education
Matt O'Leary Argues About the Merits of Graded Observations with Bradley Lightbody
An Interview with the Mayor of Guildford
An Interview with the Mayor of Guildford, Jennifer Jordan, 22nd March 2013, Newbubbles National FE Conference, Tom Fowler of the Guildford Dragon is the interviewer.
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Guildford Dragon, Surrey
27 March 2013
Michael Portillo Speaks Out Over Further Education at Conference in Guildford
By Tom Fowler
Popular broadcaster and former Conservative politician Michael Portillo hit out at a conference in Guildford saying that the UK’s further education system trails that of Germany, particularly with regard to apprenticeships.
Broadcaster and former politician Michael Portillo at the conference held at the Mandolay Hotel in Guildford.
He was speaking at the conference held at the Mandolay Hotel in London Road, Guildford, that was hosted by Newbubbles, a specialist company in further education training and consultancy.
It took place in the light of changes that are planned for further education and of government austerity measures.
The morning conference on Friday, March 22, not only had Mr Portillo as a keynote speakers, but also Frank Coffield, the Emeritus Professor of Education at the Institute of Education.
The event was created to highlight the impact of the government on the future of further education funding and curriculum priorities; while also to discuss the best use of pursuing a ‘measurement agenda’ and what ‘outstanding teaching’ means under the new common inspection framework.
It also looked at any improvements, while considering new ways to develop high-student achievement, all in the light of changes further education faces surrounding funding, structure and staffing.
Professor Frank Coffield gives his keynote speech.
The day started with two key speeches from Mr Portillo and Professor Coffield. It then went on to a panel section where questions were asked to multiple speakers. The rest of the event consisted of workshops on key issues affecting further education.
In Mr Portillo’s opening speech, which was both informative and comical, he compared the education system in Germany to the UK’s system; highlighting that Germany has been more successful than the UK, mainly in apprenticeships.
The former defence minister said this about the economy: “We’re absolutely flat lining, there is going to be no plan B. Even if the Labour party were in power today they’d have no plan B.”
Mr Portillo delivered his speech both confidently and charismatically.
In Professor Coffield’s opening speech he called the further education sector a “sick sector that’s part of a sick society,” and that “change in education is slow.”
He also gave his opinion on Ofsted, which he sees as a waste of time, adding too much pressure on teachers.
“I’m all for democracy, but there isn’t any politicians that I could stand,” he said with a laugh.
“If the Department for Education were a college, Ofsted would have repeatedly judged it ‘inadequate’ and closed it down.”
One question asked to both keynote speakers was: “Can we change the policies of further education without changing the role of the state?”
Michael Portillo replied: “No, we can’t change the polices of further education without changing state.”
Frank Coffield replied: “I think some advances can still be made in classrooms by considered enactment and careful evaluation of the more effective interventions.”
Portsmouth-based Newbubbles is a first-choice provider for educational products and services to many establishments within the UK. It aims to provide high quality, value-for-money products and services.
The managing director of Newbubbles, Paul Tully.
Its managing director, Paul Tully, when asked about the event’s success, said: “In terms of the quality of debate and the magnitude of the speakers’ reputation, I think we’ve got some of the best people in the business here, really talking passionately and talking on quite extreme issues. We needed someone like Michael Portillo who is incredibly charismatic. The whole thing can focus and revolve around him and he gave it that sense of gravitas.”
When asked why the group chose a venue in Guildford, Mr Tully replied: “We chose the venue that appealed to those who are simply based in London, Many of our speakers are actually from the London area too. Guildford seemed to be the right strategic place.”
Mr Tully has worked in further education for 17 years. He is passionate about developing young people who have struggled with their education.
On the future of further education, Mr Tully said: “The future needs to change because the government’s particular strategy is going to have a material impact on the quality of teaching staff, and also the quality of the environment that is provided for the students. We need to re-address that. If it means taking money from somewhere else in government spending I think it’s worthwhile.”
The Mayor of Guildford, Jennifer Jordan, is a retired teacher.
The Mayor of Guildford, Jennifer Jordan, attended the conference. She said: “It was brilliant, fantastically well organised with superb keynote speakers. They were all very good, very energising.”
“I do like it to be called further education, rather than just further or higher. I think they are vague terms. I’ve just taken my A-level psychology at Guildford College. Even at my old age you can still learn, and have to!”
The mayor, speaking from experience as a teacher, said of Ofsted: “They concentrate on the teacher, which they shouldn’t. They should concentrate on the impact it’s having on the students. As teachers we need to have someone to make sure we are doing our jobs properly. But coming in once a year, once every four years or spot checks once every six months, doesn’t show the true record of what’s going on in that classroom or in that school.”
She also added: “Wouldn’t it be lovely if we had classes of 12 students rather than 30. Within Guildford every school seems to be performing well, but there again, I’m going by these numerical statistics. More students are getting into Oxbridge, but is that a true measure of education?”
Other speakers at the event included: UCU policy chief Dan Taubmen, Joy Mercer from the Association of Colleges, Lynne Sedgemore from the Chair 157 Group, Dylan Williams from the Institute of Education, Phil Race from Leeds Metropolitan and Toni Fazaeli from the Institute of Learning.
Professor Frank Coffield gave an impassioned speech at the lively Newbubbles Annual Conference ‘The Future of Further Education’ last week, opening up an important debate for the sector.
The Emeritus Professor of Education at the Institute of Education, University of London, was on fire as he held the torch high for FE, particularly its learners and lecturers. He praised the many social benefits that participation in the sector brings, but also criticised the government for having a narrow focus on skills and employment.
High on his list of questions was whether students leave FE colleges as skilled workers as well as being active citizens - and whether they would cope with the main threats to our collective wellbeing, such as climate change.
He answered them with an emphatic ‘no’. And he made a good case, if it was needed, that it is government policy that stands in the way of the sector.
Throughout his speech Coffield gave a variety examples, ranging from the competitive nature that government fosters between colleges to the emphasis on business management rather than education practice, that he believes have been costly in human and monetary terms, and an emphasis of a type of learning that he likens to the sector illness of ‘bulimia academica’, which is also the title of his forthcoming book.
He said: “Our students are reduced to bulimic learning. To get through their studies and exams, they binge on information and in government induced bouts of vomiting, which we call national tests, they spew up as much as they can remember.”
The equivalent of a societal peer pressure on young people to want to be thin, seems to be the pressure to get an A* grade. Far from diagnosing the patient without having talked TO HER about symptoms, Coffield told his audience that he is frequently told on his working visits to colleges that the climate in the sector is “toxic”. He blames an increased amount of stress and workloads, declining sociability at work, endless paperwork, more surveillance of tutors and graded lessons. Instead, colleges should focus on becoming learning communities, in which learning becomes the central organising principle, not only for learners and tutors but also for managers.
He said colleges need to invest in TLA (teaching, learning and assessment) through substantial increases of their CPD budgets, stocking libraries with evidence-based education journals and books, giving staff opportunities to study for higher degrees, and giving senior management time to TLA by making it a standard agenda item.
Central to success is also the encouragement of risk-taking and an end to graded observations to encourage self- reflection, he continued. Coffield did not pretend that any of these ideas would be new to the sector, which he so clearly feels whole-heartedly part of, but that they need to permeate the system. However, he made it quite clear that there is much that the government needs to do to enable this, and central to that is the need for a professional voice of the sector that must be heard when policy is being developed.
“You are invisible when policy is being developed and you become indispensable when it has to be enacted,” he said.
He told the crowd of managers and lecturers that the sector prides itself on its responsiveness, but “I think you are too responsive, I think it is high time you stood up and started making minimal requirements of government.”
He finished by sharing what wakes him at 4 in the morning - the voice of the predecessors in FE asking: “What are you going to do to defend the sector?”
Andrea Gewessler is director of Change that Matters Ltd, an independent company working with organisations and communities to bring about transformational change through dialogue, collaboration and innovation, and is particularly active in the sustainability field. Her work is inspired by systems thinking, the U-process developed at MIT as well as some of the emerging social technologies such as Future Search, Open Space, Change Labs and World Cafe. You can follow Andrea on Twitter , and Facebook, or find out more about her by visiting www.changethatmatters.co.uk
(Photograph credit: Seamus Ryan)
Newbubbles is a successful specialist training & consultancy in further education, based in Portsmouth, whose mission is to support colleges and teachers improve teaching, learning & assessment in post-compulsory education using nationally-respected speakers and trainers