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The future’s bright for Further Education….


Further Education colleges are often regarded as institutions for social welfare rather than educational establishments, and are seen by some as second best for young people, lagging behind Higher Education institutions.

So writes Peter Kingston in an article for the Guardian this week. In it, he quotes James Murphy, a consultant who's worked with a number of corporations and public sector institutions, guiding them on branding issues. Murphy says it's time for those involved in managing Further Education to stop regarding their key aim as "to rescue the poor and disadvantaged". Murphy tells Kingston that although there are plenty in the sector who have devoted themselves to helping youngsters in deprived areas develop their skills, Further Education as a whole needs to put this to one side in order to concentrate on promoting itself to a wider audience.

Murphy says he is much impressed by the work being done in the sector, having taken a close look at the Association of Colleges during their recent rebranding exercise (which includes a newer, more simplified logo). An evolution in the image and outlook of colleges will make it easier for them to secure vital resources, he says. But he sees the potential for the sector as far more than "just social work. It's not just people living in bad urban estates for whom colleges are the only exit." Further Education, he says, has a vital part to play in boosting skills in the economy to increase competitiveness, and the Association of Colleges should push home this message on behalf of the entire sector.

TrainingZONE says: The Learning and Skills bill should certainly help to push FE colleges into the limelight. Speaking at the introduction of the Act, Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett said that "the new Learning and Skills Act gives the first ever statutory entitlement to learning for all 16 to 19 year olds and also for the first time a statutory duty on a public body to promote participation in learning." His speech reflected a need for inclusiveness within learning provision post-compulsory education: "One of the greatest challenges facing the country is to modernise and reform learning and skills delivery and raise the levels of achievement for every age group. In the past, a minority of people obtained the learning and skills they required. For the majority, getting a job at 16 was the order of the day. Those days have long gone."

With FE and HE colleges able to collaborate with local schools to educate 14-16 year olds in some areas, the opportunity to reach out to both schools and the HE sector gives FE colleges the chance to play a vital role in helping to make sure formal learning at all stages can be made relevant and useful to today's world of work.

Do you work in Further Education? How do you see the future for the college where you work? Have your say by adding a comment below, or e-mailing the editor.


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