Is there a digital future for Further and Adult Education?

Guest Blog: Is There A Digital Future For Further And Adult Education?

Further and Adult Education needs to rapidly adapt to the changing digital world. Investment is needed in the digital infrastructure – and workforce skills it needs to support the needs of learners, employers and our communities. FELTAG has provided a catalyst and the movement and community are thriving but there is a policy vacuum.

It is almost 4 years since we published the FELTAG recommendations. And the Government responded rapidly to support all of the recommendations. 

Since then JISC have coordinated the efforts of the FELTAG coalition of partners, published their own updates and carried out an excellent job raising awareness and maintaining the momentum during that time.

Read the latest reports and progress updates:-

During this time we have had three FE and Skills Ministers, although the last one, Robert Halfon, did not have ‘FE’ in his title but ‘Apprenticeships and Skills’ instead, and in any case has just been sacked! He has been replaced by Anne Milton MP.

We also had the huge distraction and costly Area Based Review process which was a golden opportunity to realign the FE sector for a more sustainable, digital future. Although this was sadly traded for a handful of messy mergers and a few 6th form Colleges opting to become Academies.

It was nothing short of a scandal and such a waste of resources with a tremendous opportunity cost.

We have a huge push for a 3 million Apprenticeship target and a worry that a focus on targets may affect the quality.

So, at policy level we still lack the vision and understanding to reshape our sector; whose design principles were predicated on an industrial bygone era to ensure it is fit for the digital world.

And – on the ground, it is a different story. The case studies identified in the JISC publications, the £2m projects funded by the Ufi Trust and the increasing number of entries judged at the TES FE Awards this year for the innovative use of technology suggest that FELTAG is now a movement and a community, not just a report.

Whilst there is a policy vacuum at Ministerial level, there is a growing movement of innovation with teachers, learners and assessors and the awarding bodies are now investing heavily in technology.

The YMCA Awards report identifies packages of digital learning tools that reflect the needs of the sector and the challenges that busy educators face.

Next week, Bob Harrison is speaking at the AELP annual conference about the Digital Future for FE on Monday 26th June 2017 and at the FE Week Festival of Skills at Wellington College on Friday.

So, unlike the Ministers and policy makers with their thinking stuck in the last century, why not join the growing number of us reshaping Further and Adult Education for a digital future? Don’t wait for the Government… lets crack on.

Profile on Bob Harrison:-

Bob has spent 45 years working in schools, colleges, further, higher and adult education. He is Chair of Governors of an Outstanding provider Northern College in Barnsley, a Trustee of the UfI Trust a £50m Charity supporting innovative use of technology for teaching learning and assessment in further, vocational and adult education and a Trustee of YMCA Training and Awards.

He was a leading member of Matt Hancocks Ministerial Further Education Technology Action Group

He is an honorary life member of City and Guilds for services to vocational education and Vice chair of governors of a secondary modern school in Trafford. 

Follow Bob on Twitter: @bobharrisonset

What’s your view on digital transformations in the Further and Adult Education sector? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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