A report published this week by the Department for Education (DfE) has brought to light the key challenges facing the further education (FE) sector. Among them are shifting demands in leadership, a lack of CPD and inconsistencies in teaching quality.
The report, compiled by Dr Sue Tate from the University of the West of England and Professor David Greatbatch at Durham University, assesses the current situation with regards to teaching, leadership and governance in the UK.
The report begins by acknowledging that there many examples of great teaching in establishments across the UK. Teaching quality is largely assessed through lesson observations modelled on Ofsted practices; yet, it states that there is a lack of evidence on how such practices improve teaching quality and learners’ outcomes.
English and maths provision are pinpointed as areas of weakness in FE. This is largely attributed to the current shortage in specialist teachers, together with the lack of subject expertise among vocational teachers.
Pressures on leadership
The role of principal has evolved from chief academic officer to a job that combines academic responsibilities with those of running a multimillion-pound business. As a result, leaders have had to adopt new skills and change the way they approach certain activities and functions.
Yet, the report states that principals and senior leaders recruited from within the sector do not always have the skills to manage a large organisation. Meanwhile, those recruited outside of FE typically don’t understand issues related to the curriculum.
Critically, the report (p13) proposes that leadership have an ‘insufficient focus on teaching and learning’- a sentiment echoed in fejobs.com’s own research, and a good reason for college leaders to review again where they can use technology to streamline their approach to onerous but less critical tasks like recruitment admin.
Issues with governance
The operation of governing bodies varies significantly across FE colleges, says the report. These bodies are required to carry out demanding work and are facing a number of challenges, which has distanced some governors from their main activities, including strategy, planning and monitoring. At the same time, there is a lack of clarity or consensus on efficient processes for the self-assessment of governing bodies.
FE senior leaders were found to have an ‘insufficient focus’ on teaching and learning, which is linked to a lack of CPD to allow teachers to grow their skills. CPD is a top priority for teachers, though concerningly, 60% reported spending no time at all on it.
This strongly supports our FEJobs.com research, where an overwhelming number of lecturers want to see a greater focus on CPD where they work. Teachers are desperate to grow their skills and keep developing, and establishments which prioritise CPD see benefits in the form of better retention rates and higher quality of teaching staff. Download and read our full report here.