Thursday, 22 December 2016

The Christmas Pudding of Life, and Education as Flour

If life was a Christmas Pudding, then education would be the flour.

It’s not going to deliver a delicious festive treat all on its own, but combined with all the other ingredients, it becomes something meaningful and delicious.

The great Christmas Pudding of life

 An obscure thought, but one which I’d like to expand on briefly. I decided upon the analogy recently, when I was asked by the Dover Business Forum to help launch the new Future Skills for Dover report. You can see the report in full here, but at the time I recall thinking that while developing the necessary skills for an area’s future are deeply important, it takes more than just that to create a great place to live – a great community if you will.

So what are the other ingredients in this Christmas Pudding? There’s little doubt that they’re many and varied, but there are some key things which would go into it. In Dover’s case, many of these ingredients are already there – the infrastructure, for example, with strong transport links from the docks, and the M20. Housing too, is one of those big things, and Dover’s playing its part in developing for the future, with more housebuilding taking place there than any other district in Kent. Jobs are clearly an important part of the place-making pudding too. Dover’s economy is buoyant currently, with retail investment, and a number of large companies looking for further expansion. And then there are the social factors – the mix of people and their demographic segments, family units, political beliefs, and, of course education opportunities.

These different ingredients – alongside many others I’ve neglected to mention – bind to create our societies, and our communities. And it’s just these communities which our College seeks to improve – either through delivering the best, most relevant curriculum we can, or through developing all of our students in an holistic manner, to ensure they ‘buy in’ to their community.
STEM are key skills required in Dover's education mix right now

That’s the reason we took part in the Future Skills for Dover research; ensuring we are delivering the best possible curriculum, which meets the needs of the community, and local employers, makes what our College does – namely delivering education – more meaningful. It means that we are helping to develop the area’s community more, not just its peoples skills. It makes our brand of further education less one dimensional, helping to develop more than just an individual’s skillset.

And that’s essentially the mission for East Kent College; we are committed to developing the prosperity and well-being of the communities we serve.

So to return to my original analogy, in the great Christmas Pudding of life I firmly believe that education – and more specifically further education – has a key part to play. It’s about developing the place, not just the people, and delivering a great community. I’m glad that our College has the strong local partners, and the vision, to ensure that we’re doing all we can to achieve this in the future.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Keeping promises and taking on challenges

Let me make something clear; I’m not a runner. I love my team sports, and I’m a committed and enthusiastic cricket player for my local side, but I’ve never been described as a runner of any sort. 

Despite that, I do stick to my promises, and I made a very important one in 2015, to a very important student. I’ve blogged about Emily Mackay before, so if you don’t know her story, take a look here

Needless to say, for those who knew her, Emily was an inspiration. She was heroic in her fight against cancer, and when I was lucky enough to present her with the Principal’s Award for Excellence at our 2015 Student Awards, I made the promise to her I would run the London Marathon for the charity she cared passionately about, the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Emily on the night I made my promise to her
The charity which Emily cared so much about is truly an excellent one. It actively supports all those aged between 13 and 24-years-old who have been diagnosed with cancer – that’s around seven per day. And it’s the only charity which has been specifically set up to support these young people. I know that the Teenage Cancer Trust helped Emily in her fight against cancer, and now I would like to help them continue to make a difference.
Emily was passionate about supporting the Teenage Cancer Trust
After Emily lost her battle with cancer in June, I resolved to make good on my promise to her. So earlier this year, I applied for a place to run the 2017 marathon on behalf of the Teenage Cancer Trust. I found out that I had been successful in my application, and would be taking part in 2017’s London Marathon.

And so I come to that initial statement I made; I am no runner but this year, I will be running. I’ve begun my training regime, created my sponsorship page, and have set my goals. And though I’m under no illusions that it’s going to be easy, I’ll be running for Emily, because she – despite her young age – was an absolute inspiration to me, and all of those around our whole College community. It is because I am #inspiredbyEmily, that I know I will make it around the marathon, and despite the fact it’ll be tough, I’ll be spurred on by her memory.

If you’d like to donate, please see my Virgin Money Giving fundraising page here . I’ll be using the hashtag #inspiredbyEmily throughout my journey, and would love it if you can tweet your support using this. 

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Keeping it local for the best results

We’re going full circle. Before the industrial revolution, the vast majority of the country lived where they had grown up for their whole lives, never moving away from their childhood towns and villages. There was a greater focus on community, with the prevailing ideology of building a life in one place.

But that provincial lifestyle changed dramatically after industrialisation, with jobs drawing people from the shires into larger urban enclaves. Instead of the local farmer, baker, or indeed candlestick maker, being the primary source for produce, society began manufacturing in larger batches. It moved away from artisanal tradecraft, in favour of scaling industries to create efficiencies. This, it must be said, served the country relatively well for a period, with huge advances in technology, as well as rising standards of living for many.

But it was far from a perfect way of doing things, and over the past decade or so, society has begun to beat a retreat from this style of living. Campaigns for locally sourced food are on the rise, with growth in the number of farmers markets, as well as organisations like Produced in Kent promoting smaller producers. And people’s lifestyle habits are also beginning to change to reflect this, with fewer choosing to relocate large distances to find work, preferring instead to get a job in their local communities.

But what exactly does all this have to do with the world of further education? It’s simple really; FE has, to one degree or another, been replicating this newfound desire for local. Our College works in partnership with all of our local councils, and many of the key employers in our campus areas.
We’ve worked hard to build strong partnerships with large economic bodies such as the South East Local Enterprise Partnership and other important groups in order to identify and isolate key skills gaps in the local, and regional economies that we work in. But above all, we’ve worked to ensure we are nimble in our curriculum offering.

We’re constantly striving to provide the right skills for our local communities; the skills which are needed by business in those areas. That work which we do, will enable our students – once they finish their learning – to move more fluidly from the College, and into the wider world of work. It boosts their employability if we’re able to give them the skills needed in their communities. And that in turn boosts our communities, while ensuring the best possible outcomes for all of the College’s students.

We’ve worked hard to tailor our offering in each of our campuses, building close partnerships with employers, councils and a range of other groups. In Dover, we’ve seen work taking place on our engineering and hospitality offerings, as those are key sectors, while in Folkestone we’ve invested significant sums developing our construction trades and creative areas.

Why? Because those trades tally directly with what’s required in the district. Marrying our curriculum with local economic demand drives our students onto better progression, benefits their economy, and also delivers for the community.

It’s exactly that kind of holistic working which will ensure that further education – the engine of our economy – continues to deliver for everyone, far into the future.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Can I change your view on selective schooling?

The world of selective education has been on many people’s minds recently, following the revelation by Prime Minister Theresa May she would be actively looking to expand the system. It’s very much a polarising subject, with an equally long list of advocates and detractors.

And while a previous Labour Government attempted to do away with grammar schools, and the current Conservative Government favours an expansion of the system, it isn’t a purely party political issue. There are those Labour supporters who would favour their children going to a selective school, while there are Conservative voters who are utterly ambivalent about them.
Theresa May and education secretary Justine Greening Credit: Russell Watkins/Department for International Development
Whether or not the expansion of the grammar system is a sensible move or not is undoubtedly a tough nut to crack. As someone who received a secondary modern education, before going to University, you’d expect me to say that there’s fundamentally no need for selective education. But in some senses, you’d be wrong.

There is a strong case to be made for it, which – to one degree or another – hinges heavily on the results accrued by those with that grammar education. There’s no doubt that academic attainment is better in selective schools. With a whopping 94.8 per cent achieving five or more A* to C GCSEs, it’s clear there’s significant success. Contrast that with the secondary modern, which only manages a paltry 48.9 per cent of pupils achieving five or more A* to C GCSEs, and you’d think it was open and shut, and that expansion of this system should be pushed forward aggressively.

But then, to every Yin there tends to be a Yang. We are, after all, dealing with statistics – and as a mathematician at my core, I’m all too aware that you can present the same set of numbers in different ways. Obviously selective schools have the odds stacked in their favour for high academic achievement. After all, that’s how they choose their students to begin with; those who have the highest academic potential. But what happens when you look at the value added – performance after controlling for prior attainment – by the selective system?

Key stage 2 to Key Stage 4 students in selective schools managed to achieve a ‘value-added’ score of +24.8 according to a recent Government briefing paper. This means, that on average, these students achieved 0.5 grades higher in each of their eight GCSE subjects, than they otherwise would have.
To contrast that, for pupils at non-selective schools in partially-selective areas progress was slightly below average (- 1.6). That meant they achieved a quarter of a grade lower in one subject. But progress was lowest in non-selective schools in wholly-selective areas, such as the system we have in Kent. In these areas a score of -6.7 has meant pupils achieved on average one grade lower in one subject. This shows that there is indeed a limited amount of value added to those who make their way into a selective school, but, that it comes at a price.

And that price can be a steep one, particularly when you consider where the majority of students who attend comprehensive and secondary modern schools come from.

One of the primary reasons behind the Government’s promotion of the expansion of selective schools is social mobility. The theory is those from deprived backgrounds are able to rise up and achieve as a consequence of their raw natural talent due to the selective system. The problem with this argument is that fewer of those from deprived backgrounds ever actually manage to get to a grammar school.
Selective schools have markedly lower rates of deprived children, with a schools census by the Department for Education showing just 2.6 per cent receiving a free school meal. That contrasted directly with an average from all secondary schools which sat at 14.9 per cent. And it’s not just the free school meal statistics which show the typical grammar school’s pupil base. A report undertaken by the Sutton Trust in 2013 showed a large proportion of those at grammar schools had arrived there from independent preparatory schools. This serves to illustrate if a parent has some cash, they can essentially buy their child a place in a grammar school – not something which is an option for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This all means that currently, those who are deprived remain at a disadvantage to those from more affluent backgrounds.

Another issue to consider when thinking about why selective schools manage to get much better academic achievements are the teachers. Selective schools have the most experienced staff by far, with 54 per cent of teachers at a grammar school boasting more than 10 years’ experience. Contrast that with secondary modern teachers, who have just 41 per cent of staff with that level of experience. It may go some way to explaining additional value which is added to those pupils who find themselves at a selective school.

As I said at the beginning of this piece, the selective debate is a matter of perspective, and one which transcends most boundaries. Many favour it, and many others abhor it, but one thing is certain; it is a deeply complex issue, which cannot look at achievement in isolation. There are a wide range of factors which feed into this debate, from deprivation, to teacher experience, and even armed with this knowledge it’s still not a simple decision. But though it isn’t easy, we will nonetheless need to make a decision to ensure the brightest and most positive future for all of our school children. Let’s all just hope the right one is made.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Efficient delivery and great building blocks

It’s a turbulent time in many sectors in our society. Following years of austerity, demographic change and other changes, many businesses and other organisations have moved to working more closely with one another. In my view, that makes sense. I have, in other blogs, spoken about my belief in the value of synchronicity and also about the importance of partnership working.

So when there were discussions for East Kent College and Canterbury College to build closer links – initially with our higher education delivery – it seemed like a very sensible idea to me. That happened back at the beginning of 2016, and since then our partnership has grown. The two distinct colleges now share an executive team and certain elements of our corporate services, creating leaner, more effective and efficient organisations. This enables us to deliver more, with less.

Canterbury College
And delivering more for less is one of the best ways to operate. That’s true not just for our colleges but also for our students. Tough funding environments and changes may act as a catalyst to this type of change, but ultimately it’s what we should all be aiming for anyway. It doesn’t matter whether we work in further education, or in any other sector; always striving for greater efficiency makes sense. When you look at the most successful businesses – the Apple’s and Google’s of this world – you can see quite clearly they’re always working to deliver more efficient models, with the most relevant products.

But a rise in efficiency doesn’t mean there should be any compromise in standards. Quality is still one of the fundamental building blocks of success for any organisation. Without a high quality product, no business will ever really be as successful as it could be. And a high quality technical and vocational education is something we’re working hard to maintain – and grow – with this partnership.

The partnership – in essence – is attempting to create a high quality product coupled with an efficient delivery. If we’re able to generate that, we’ll be aping a very successful business model indeed. And that, in a nutshell, is what we’re aiming to achieve with this partnership.

The Broadstairs Campus of East Kent College
So what has it delivered so far? It’s already brought savings, created significant efficiencies, and has helped us ensure that quality is delivered to a raised benchmark standard. It has meant that we’re able to use scale to ensure that we can provide our students – whether from Canterbury College or East Kent College – with the highest quality education, and the best possible outcomes.

And the future of this partnership is even more exciting. Why? Because as we move forward, we’ll be able to do more work in this realm, continuing to boost our students’ opportunities and outcomes while retaining vibrant and distinct further education offerings across the whole of east Kent.

Friday, 26 August 2016

It may be risky business but innovation shouldn’t be easy

Risk isn’t normally a word that you’d associate with the world of further education, but it is one you would associate with innovation.

I’ll make this clear right now; I have deep admiration for those who are willing to take risks in order to innovate. Whether that’s in the FE sector or elsewhere, pushing boundaries in order to build better outcomes is neither easy, nor always rewarding. But when it pays off, it can genuinely raise standards for whole sectors.

The world of FE does take risks, and of this I’m proud. I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by other sector leaders who’ve been brave enough to push forward and help innovate. But it’s not a simple process in this sector, and too often the consequences of failure may appear too great for an FE leader, to be worth taking the risk. After all, how many Principals have remained in post after suffering an inadequate rating by Ofsted? And how simple is it, in a sector with a tight funding regime to take a risk – however calculated – on something which might not work. I know first-hand that it isn’t easy, and I believe it can drive other FE leaders away from taking on the challenges of our sector through innovating. Sometimes though, an inadequate rating or wrestling with funding challenges have to be the price paid by those brave enough to be the first to do something.

I’m proud to say our College has taken risks throughout its history. There have been a number of risks – some which have paid off, and others which haven’t. Who, after all, could forget the time we opened a training centre at an airport which then promptly closed its runway for the last time. But that’s the struggle – we weren’t aware the airport was going to close at the time we started planning for the centre; in fact, all indications were that it would be successful, and there would be plenty of investment in the area. The positive thing was that the College was willing to take that risk in order to more closely marry our skills curriculum with what local business demands.

That failure highlights just how innovation isn’t always easy – after all, if it were, everybody would be doing it and it would cease to be innovative. Often it takes multiple attempts before there’s any success whatsoever, and there’s certainly never a guarantee that pioneering ideas will work out.
You also need to be clever about how you innovate in further education – there needs to be some degree of crystal ball gazing, and a genuine understanding of the communities you’re working in, and your local economy. Marrying skills delivery and local economies is never an easy task, but it’s an important one.
The Yarrow hotel is a risk, but will benefit students enormously 
We’ve recently taken a huge risk, opening the first ever training hotel which is owned and operated by a further education college. The Yarrow will provide a proving ground for our hospitality and catering programme areas, giving them the best possible experience to take out into the world of work. And I do believe that will marry with our local needs, situated as the hotel is in one of the country’s tourist hotspots, and a place where the local economy is crying out for skilled hospitality and catering employees. Despite those beliefs of mine, it is nonetheless a risk. If it pays off, it’ll be an incredible opportunity for our learners, as well as a real asset to the local economy, adding value to its current offer. And you know what; if it doesn’t succeed – and I truly don’t believe that will happen – we’ll pick ourselves up, and start work on our next innovation. That’s what this sector must be all about; continuing to strive for excellence.

Students will get to experience a vibrant, high quality live work environment, gaining new skills
The world of FE needs more people taking risks, and it needs more leaders willing to walk away from their comfort zone. We’re in a real period of rapid change, and if we are to truly make the progress which our students deserve, then leaders must continue delivering the innovation which will make further education the finest possible offer available.

So long live the pioneers, the innovators and those who are willing to take a risk in order to drive up standards, and drive forward further education, and I hope we see more of them as we all move forward together in this wonderful, vibrant sector.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Connections make the world go round....

I recently wrote a piece for the magazine published by the Kent branch of the Federation of Small Businesses. It was a piece about my belief in building partnerships and relationships with employers to ensure that our College delivers the skills wanted by employers and the local economy. 

For those of you who don't read the magazine, I've published the article in full here....

Connections are what make the world go round. From the personal to the professional, it’s the connections we build which help to define us. And in business there’s little difference, with many of the deals which are done, helped along by a professional’s network. 

We are building relationships with creative employers in Folkestone, helping deliver the skills required in the local economy
In the past links between business and education were clearly defined. For many years business worked in partnership with education providers, delivering high quality apprenticeships alongside institutions. That fell out of favour through the latter parts of the 20th Century, with many students taking a higher education pathway and getting a degree, as opposed to learning ‘on the job’ and gaining technical vocational skills.

That shift though, is now going full circle with a far greater emphasis being placed on real skills based learning. As a consequence, East Kent College has been working to build ever-stronger partnerships with many of the county’s major employers, while also identifying local skills needs. It’s certainly not easy to build a strategic partnership with a major employer, but they are far simpler to identify than the raft of small and medium sized businesses which make up the backbone of our economy. And in our communities, it is just those businesses which we need to begin engaging with in order to truly bridge the gap between industry and education. So I would ask you to consider what we can do to help your business, and what you could do to help a student into your industry. 

We are investing in our construction facilities to ensure we can help meet the skills shortage in the industry
If you’d like to find out more about building a partnership with East Kent College, get in touch with our business development team by calling 01843 605040

Friday, 22 July 2016

Doing the Ministerial shuffle

In the last few weeks, Britain’s political landscape has been shaken. The first big change was the EU Referendum result, with the subsequent resignation of David Cameron, the Conservative leadership race and finally the appointment of a new PM, alongside a team of new ministers.

As someone who’s always been proud to say they attended a comprehensive school, I felt that it was positive news the new Secretary of State heading up the Department for Education shared a similar educational background.

Justine Greening’s appointment to head up the department has doubtless come as further good news to those who attended a sixth form college, as she is well known for sitting her A Levels at one, before progressing on the well tread higher education pathway. This, it has been argued, will stand her in good stead as she moves into her new position. The chief executive of the AoC, Martin Doel, told TES that he was ‘pleased’ her good knowledge of the FE and skills sector as well as other college issues. The new Secretary of State herself also feels comfortable with FE, stating in the past that it was a ‘vital’ pathway for students, and also promoting her commitment to education as a tool for social mobility.

Justine Greening comes to the role from DFID Pic:

But she will undoubtedly face challenging times, as austerity endures and funding continues to dry up. There are also other big changes in her own department, which will undoubtedly cause fresh challenges, as the DfE takes on responsibility for further education policy, alongside apprenticeship and wider skills policy.

These changes make a lot of sense in my view, with the DfE able to act in a more strategically synchronised manner – a style of working I’ve previously advocated. Rather than the DfE’s responsibility for education automatically cutting off at age 18, the new changes will ensure that there is greater joined up thinking in order to ensure that students – whatever their age – are getting the best possible further education outcomes. And surely that’s good news.

This new style of working will also mean the incoming Apprentices and Skills Minister, Robert Halfon, gets the benefit of working in one department, rather than splitting his time between BIS and the DfE. And Mr Halfon will be bringing a solid knowledge of the FE and skills sector to the role, having had significant experience of it and as a leading Westminster champion for apprenticeships.

Robert Halfon is the new skills minister Pic:

So am I pleased with the changes at the Department for Education? While I’m certainly not disappointed by them, I think it’s really a question of waiting to see what happens as a consequence of the ministerial shuffle, as well as the departmental shuffle. I would like to think joining up the responsibilities of the new Apprentices and Skills Minister to have him working with one department will make education policy ever more robust for every learner, but as with most things in life, only time will really tell.

Regardless of what might happen in future, I would like to wish all of the new ministers a warm welcome, and say that I look forward to working with you to further our common goal of getting the best possible outcome for every student.

Monday, 18 July 2016

The importance of synchronicity in Further Education

Synchronicity. A simple word, but a tough concept to actually deliver. Nonetheless it’s a way of working which our College has tried to adopt in recent years, and we’re now beginning to see the fruit of our labours in a number of ways.

So what exactly do I mean by the word synchronicity in a further education context? For East Kent College it means working innovatively to deliver first class skills training, but also ticking other boxes at the same time; a holistic style of strategic planning which feeds down into our work at an operational level. Rather than simply providing the maximum number of courses, synchronicity ensures that the training is also in harmony with local needs. It means our staff working alongside business to ensure that skills gaps are filled through relevant training, resulting in better progression for our learners.

We have a couple of good examples of this behaviour in action recently. Working in partnership with Dover’s Marine Skills Academy – set up by the Viking group of companies – we’ve begun offering a marine engineering qualification from our campus in the town. It’s a good example of how we’ve looked to the local economy, identifying partners to highlight skills gaps in the area, before looking to deliver courses which help fill them.

We’re investing in areas which require better facilities to help deliver the skills the local economy needs too. Our construction area in Folkestone has recently received £1.48 million funding in order to expand its existing facility. This was based on the need for new skilled workers in the area, with the Construction Skills Network South East estimating that 970 more bricklayers alone will be required across the region by 2019.

Our employability area is also delivering results by working in partnership with local business. The team has begun a system of ‘sector based work academies’, which give their employability students intensive skills training for particular areas of the local economy in need of workers. Through the programme, they’ve managed a number of high profile placements, ensuring that students taking the programme are progressed into a suitable role which they are likely to stay in over the long term.

And of course, we have our new training hotel, The Yarrow. The College identified that there was a need for greater hospitality, and professional catering skills in the local area. With a buoyant tourism industry in Thanet, it made perfect sense to ensure our students were getting the high quality, real world commercial training required to be successful in this industry. The Yarrow helps ensure that we can deliver this for the local economy, and our local community.

But synchronicity isn’t simply about marrying education and the local economy. It’s also about ensuring the College, and its students are integrated into their community. I have already talked passionately about our community social action programmes in two of my blogs which I have linked here, so will instead highlight a couple of other instances of the College delivering for the community.

Ensuring that synchronicity is embedded in every aspect of the College, right down to the fabric of the buildings we develop, is core to the philosophy. One great example of this is the recent launch of our new Michael Wright Centre for the Creative Industries on the College’s Broadstairs Campus. A large new capital development project, from the very beginning our design brief required the architect ensure community functions could take place in the building. That was delivered, and we’ve already opened up the auditorium to local groups to use, with great success.

Our Edge creative agency in Folkestone has also worked to build links in the community. The town – which has a booming creative sector – has seen the area working hand in hand with the local newspaper, producing a range of high quality photojournalism which has been published regularly. It helps students build a professional portfolio, and network, while ensuring the local community is able to appreciate the work the College does. It also helps build the reputation of the students, and the wider work which is done on the campus, building the profile among stakeholders, the public and local businesses.

It is this type of holistic, synchronised further education provision which has helped the College embed itself into our communities, better the outcomes for our learners, and deliver the necessary skills for the local economy. It helps us make the most of every opportunity, and ticks all of the different boxes we want – as a whole College community – to deliver.

Friday, 13 May 2016

The importance of getting the basics right

Just a couple of weeks ago campaigners from a group called ‘Save our Early Years’ announced that there would soon be ‘catastrophic’ staff shortages in nurseries. Why this dire prediction for an entire industry – and one which is of critical importance? English and mathematics.

In September all nursery staff will be required to have at least Grade C GCSEs in these subjects, with Government deeming numeracy and literacy skills an essential component to work in this sector.

There is little doubt that these subjects are two of the most basic, and yet fundamental skills a person can have in our society. The importance of a good knowledge of both is clear. After all, English, both written and verbal, is critical to communicating successfully, and as a person who chose to train in maths, the importance of a decent understanding of its principles is all too clear to me.

You could say that these two areas of learning, above all others, are the building blocks for growing a person’s knowledge in other subjects. If a student is unable to communicate clearly and accurately, how can they progress their studies in other areas?

But despite that importance, there is a real struggle in FE to help our learners’ progress in both English and maths to Grade C at GCSE level. It isn’t a lack of desire on our part, nor is necessarily a lack of resources. Instead, it is a battle to inspire students who, having left school without the all-important Grade C, simply do not want to learn these key subjects.

And while there is – in my College, and many others – a real emphasis placed on the importance of learning these basic skills, improving results is neither easy, nor simple. Our maths and English tutors are being asked to achieve something in a mere 36 weeks which the pre-16 education system has failed to do after 11 years. And they are being asked to achieve this with the most challenging students; those who have already failed to achieve the required standard in these core subjects. That’s no criticism of the schools – rather the system itself – but it does place the issue into context, illustrating just how difficult it is for the FE sector to perform in this key test.

And yet FE is beginning to win the battle, with the Department for Education recently publishing a report (Level two and three attainment in England: Attainment by age 19 in 2015) which found that students achieving level two English and maths had risen from 67.8 per cent in 2014, to 70 per cent in 2015. Hardly meteoric, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.

And our college has also seen some successes, with good levels of achievement in a blended learning pilot we delivered last year. In fact, at East Kent College our students managed to achieve a fantastic 585 qualifications in English, and 588 qualifications in Maths. As a mathematician, it’ll come as little surprise that I’m particularly proud of our achievements in that subject, with a cross-campus rate of A* to C passes for 16-18 year olds at 31.8 per cent in 2014-15. During that academic year our Broadstairs Campus performed best, with a solid 37.2 per cent of all 16-18 year olds entered into GCSE maths getting the targeted A* to C grade. It’s also an area which Ofsted, at their recent visit to our Dover and Folkestone campuses flagged up, stating that “the focus on English and mathematics remains unrelenting, and the college’s determination to get this right is beyond reproach.” There is still more to do to meet the GCSE maths and English challenge, but FE – and East Kent College – is improving.

That’s good news for learners, for FE and for college principals across the country; but it’s not nearly good enough, and in fact a recent study of skills in England by the OECD has shown that the UK is still far below other countries in terms of numeracy and literacy. In fact, it sits very close to the bottom of a list with more students who’ve progressed to university with weak literacy and numeracy than most countries. And that’s the learners who have progressed to higher education – the story is worse between 16 and 19-year-old learners, with one third of them considered to have low basic skills.

So what now? What do we do as a sector to continue to grow these achievements? I suppose in many ways, we should treat maths and English studies as a bedrock to a student’s learning, because more than any other skills they may develop, these are the foundations for everything else. And our students can’t just be expected to learn these skills in a subject specific vacuum. Instead, we need to embed this core learning into everything we, as a sector do with our students. In order to grow their skills in their chosen areas, we need to ensure that high quality maths and English learning is emerging in all of their study. That means if we have a student on a professional catering course, tutors need to build functional maths and English skills into their everyday learning.

The challenge though, becomes even deeper when – as is the case for East Kent College – the areas in which it is located are economically deprived. Much of a student’s educational results are dependent on parental background, with those from disadvantaged areas less likely to achieve a high standard in core skills like maths and English. In constituencies with high levels of deprivation, the challenge to teach these skills to the required level becomes even greater. There is as yet, no clear solution to creating equity with more affluent areas in this respect, and that will continue to make the teaching of these core skills more challenging for colleges such as my own. Despite that, I’m proud to say that our commitment to promoting these basic skills is unwavering, and in fact has never been stronger than it is right now.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Investing in the future of our creative sector

As a College which is passionate about ensuring our students have the best possible outcomes, we have worked hard over the past few years to ensure the courses we offer mirror the opportunities available in our local economies.

One of the fastest growing sectors in Thanet over the past few years has been the creative one. It has seen wide scale growth as cash has poured into regenerating Margate, first with the Turner Contemporary and then with Margate’s Old Town. The sector has also grown more broadly across Kent, providing almost 14,000 high quality jobs for those with the right skills.

This week East Kent College officially launched its Michael Wright Centre for the Creative Industries. The entire building is dedicated to ensuring that our students who want to break into this competitive sector have the finest facilities available to them. Ensuring they already have experience of working with industry standard equipment is of real importance if they are going to be able to move from our College straight into this exciting sector.
It was also a wonderful opportunity for me to meet up with the former Chair of our Governing body, and the man who the building was named after, Professor Michael Wright CBE DL.

L-R Graham Razey, Lucy McLeod, and Michael Wright
Michael was the man at the helm of East Kent College when I joined, so effectively became my boss and line manager. He became a real mentor to me, showing me the value of taking control and standing behind my decisions. I was proud to see our new building bear his name, as a legacy of his time working with East Kent College and promoting the cause of further education. It was his vision which saw the creative sector as a key area to expand into, in order to ensure the best opportunities for the young people who study with us.

When the building was conceived by Michael and other senior members of the College, the hope was that it would become a centre of excellence for the creative industries, with the highest specification equipment. That dream has been realised, with state-of-the-art technology embedded throughout the building, ensuring students are able to get the best opportunity to learn, create and build their skills. A large auditorium, digital media suite with the latest in computing technology, and large music performance spaces all mean staff and students are given the best opportunities to teach and learn.
Michael Wright sees students using the Mac Lab
These features also mean that the building is able to serve as a venue for community use, with the Principal of our Broadstairs Campus, Lucy McLeod, highlighting this as being one of the key uses for the auditorium. It has already held a talk about the history of the E-Type Jaguar, with a leading expert discussing the history of the company, and there are plans afoot to create a community choral society as well.

It’s a building which ticks all of the boxes, with our local economy, community and education all playing their part in its creation.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

The problem with being too personal

It's with a certain sense of irony that I write this blog, and once you get into the meat of it, you'll understand just why.

That's because I've started to wonder just how possible it has become for a professional person to split their personal and working lives. In an era where tools like social media are a 24/7 instrument, and blogging is for all, the lines are becoming - perhaps somewhat dangerously - blurred.

But is it important to split these two potentially competing things, and is it even possible when a person's views will inherently bias them in their professional setting? It’s a debate I not only think we should have, but must have.

We all need to think more carefully about personal comments being made in a professional capacity
So what’s galvanised me into action on this topic? Some of the recent comments made by Sir Michael Wilshaw, the man who heads up Ofsted are responsible for making me reappraise how the personal and professional intermingle. The comments Sir Michael chose to make in a very public manner took aim at the world of further education institutions, despite the fact that his organisation is responsible for inspecting, and grading, those very establishments. Those remarks, it could be argued, are at odds with the impartiality that his office demands. And yet Sir Michael, a man held in great esteem by many, still thought it was appropriate to make them. And not just make them, but defend them in the face of a veritable onslaught from the further education sector. His defence was that the remarks were not a bias, stating “it’s criticism of what we see — and have seen for a number of years.”
Sir Michael Wilshaw Pic credit: UK Government
And while I may not agree with Sir Michael’s statements – in fact, I absolutely disagree with all of these particular pronouncements – and think that his attempt to defend them was poor, there’s clearly a bigger issue at play. Namely, that the real problem is not what he said, but how and when it was said. He chose to air his very personal views, not on a blog like this one, or on his Twitter feed (both of which are fairly clearly forums for opinion), but during an evidence session to the Education Select Committee.

That is where the real issue lies; the fact that he made very personal comments in a very professional setting. And his comments were presented as being fact, as if all of the FE sector was “in a mess.” In my view (and I recognise that some will disagree with me) the platform which he has as a consequence of his job shouldn’t be used to make a case which is inherently personal. Nor indeed should anyone’s position be used to make personal comment.

With that said, the issue of making personal comments in a professional context is one which needs more debate. That is because our lives are becoming ever more blended, with professional aspects mixed more fully with our personal lives. As this professional and personal integration speeds up due to technological advancements and changes in working styles, it will become an issue which grows far faster.

So what are your views? Let me know in the comments below.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

The true value of social media in a connected world

The world is more connected than it has ever been before, with social media leading the charge in real-time communications. With a whopping 236 million monthly active users on Twitter, and a massive 1.59 billion monthly active users on Facebook, the numbers are undoubtedly impressive. And while you might assume that a lot of the messages, tweets and wall posts are little more than noise, all of the tools which are now at our disposal mean we can promote and celebrate what we do more than ever before. It gives us an unrivaled opportunity to promote our message to a truly huge audience.

Recently I was honoured by Jisc – which supports the post-16 education sector in all things digital – as one of the FE sector’s top social media practitioners in the country. It’s certainly something to celebrate, as greater amounts of our lives are now being lived online and the world of social media has become a key channel to influence, converse and broadcast.

This week it has been National Apprenticeship Week 2016. It has also been the first time I’ve ever taken part in what is colloquially known as a ‘tweetathon’ – a concentrated burst of tweets by different individuals and organisations on a specific topic – normally using a hashtag to indicate that topic. The tweetathon – organised by Nestle UK – was to celebrate skills training, apprentices, and the contribution they have to UK productivity and business.

The tweetathon brought together a wide variety of individuals and organisations promoting National Apprenticeship Week
The online event proved valuable in pushing the message far and wide to a very large audience. A total of 37 Twitter users took part, managing to reach over 168,000 different accounts. That generated a huge 450,412 tweet impressions, ensuring that apprenticeships at East Kent College got great promotion.

But social media isn’t just about promotion – it’s also about celebration and it’s a tool I often use to congratulate staff and students at the College. Many of our competition successes are documented on social media with results rolling out in real-time, allowing other members of the College to know what’s happening at every moment. East Kent College even created a dedicated Twitter feed, and hashtag, to live tweet all competitions our students attend.

And we don’t stop at just Twitter as a platform. At last year’s World Skills UK final, our creative students at The Edge produced a video which documented the journey of the College’s competitors. It was uploaded to YouTube after the competition, and continues to pay tribute to the efforts of the staff and students who worked so hard to get to the finals. While much of the content which is viewed and posted on social media bears only a fleeting interest, that video and those tweets are enduring for those who took part in that competition, and remain as a record of their hard work.

And that, for me, is one of the most important reasons to use social media – it’s an unparalleled platform to celebrate what our College does well, whether that be delivering fantastic apprenticeships, or showcasing real tradecraft at World Skills. And that is exactly why I’ll continue to be an advocate for the world of social media long into the future.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Improving outcomes – and not just for students

As the Principal of a college which spans four distinct campuses, stretching across a large portion of Kent's coastline, improving the outcomes for our thousands of learners is our business.

But in order to do that, and to really ensure the College's students get the highest quality education I need each and every staff member to also be working hard. We recently celebrated our annual Star Awards, which showcases the diligence of our staff, highlighting individuals who have consistently gone above and beyond in order to better our students. It is what we all do, consistently, because it is what we are all passionate about. So it really hurts me to see that recent statements from the University and College Union (UCU) are branding college leaders like myself, as people who have failed to back their staff, or lobby to ensure the best outcomes for them.

Our staff are our stars
So let me tell you a quick tale about a job interview I recently held. When the candidate asked me what scope there was to develop their career, I was proud to have an answer which promoted my personal and professional belief that staff - or human capital in business-speak - are our greatest resource. ‎Telling that interviewee – who eventually became a member of staff with us – that we would back him, and invest in his development sums up what East Kent College, and many other colleges across the country are all about. Namely improving people, whether they be staff, or student.

After all, it is the collective staff passion which creates the environment that enables our students to succeed, and while I have a guiding hand on the tiller, it wouldn't be possible without their hard work and dedication. In return, I dedicate myself to ensuring our staff have the best possible outcomes, whether that is through workplace training opportunities or being a considerate and flexible employer.

Now, with all that I have said so far allow me repeat a point which is key; my personal belief is that our staff are our greatest asset.

I'm committed to always fighting for the best possible outcome for the College's staff members
With that in mind, understand that I will always fight for the best possible outcome for staff, and will lobby and work tirelessly to ensure they are well looked after. The dedication I give to their cause is matched by the dedication they give to our learners.

So perhaps before other off-the-cuff statements about college leaders being unwilling to fight for their staff are made, those who make the comments should visit colleges up and down the land, meeting with principals like myself, staff members who are joining, and those who have been part of our colleges for some time. We are, after all, all on the same side and with the same fundamental goal; to get the best possible outcome for FE, for our students, for our communities and for our staff. I hope that everyone keeps that in mind.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

The College celebrates Community Day across our campuses

As most readers of my blog will already be well aware, I’m passionate about social action. For me, learning doesn’t just happen in a classroom or workshop, and the education experience shouldn’t begin and end when a student walks off one of our campuses. In my view, we would be doing our students a great disservice if we didn’t help them become more rounded individuals by encouraging them to take part in social action projects.
Staff and students ready themselves for a litter pick
Today is our Community Day at East Kent College, and I’m satisfied that it has been one of the best in our history. Our Community Days are a time when all of our students and staff, across our campuses take on a project to benefit the area they live in.

Students help spruce up Kingsnorth Gardens
This year we have seen projects involving students cooking food for charity, cleaning up public gardens in Folkestone, litter picking elsewhere in their communities and taking on a full range of projects. Many of these projects are related to students course areas as well, giving them the opportunity to not just learn more, but also benefit their community.

This year, I made my way down to our Folkestone Campus to see the work being done by our construction programme area on a long-term community project. The College is working to bring a historic building called Radnor Park Lodge back into use. As part of a wider partnership with Shepway District Council, the heritage building will also become a tea room, run by catering and supported learning students once complete.
Shepway District Council leader David Monk sees some of the work done by students
The project epitomises the philosophy of the College, and my personal educational philosophy; in essence, improving the outcome of our students by getting them engaged on live commercial projects, while also doing something to bring real and tangible benefits to the local community. And that’s what East Kent College is about really; improving everything in our communities, whether that’s people, or places.
Staff worked on one of Margate's community gardens

Monday, 8 February 2016

The inevitable consequence of 'education snobbery'

For the past few decades successive British governments and industry leaders have promoted the idea that the gold standard of education is one garnered at a university. These bastions of knowledge, it has been said, will produce the right type of employee which we need to grow UK PLC and prosper as a country, and individually.

In fact, I myself am a product of the ‘higher education for all’ mind-set. I grew up in a family where a university education was something to strive for; an aspiration for myself and my siblings. And I took a committed approach to pursuing a very pure academic pathway, taking on A Levels in Maths, Physics and Chemistry. It led to me becoming the first in my family to take a degree, with Maths as my chosen subject. So I am, in essence, the epitome of the education policy to funnel as many people through the higher education pipeline as possible. And now, I intend to tell you just how wrong that philosophy is – not for every young learner, but for many.

There is no doubt that for some, a university degree is the way forward – it was the way forward for me – but, and this is the crucial bit, it should not be considered the best or indeed only way for a young person to get an education.

We’ve seen the results of this philosophy coming home to roost recently with the publication of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) ‘Employer Skills Survey 2015’. The report highlights what many in FE have known all along – that there has been a growing divide between the needs of employers, and the skills students enter the workforce with.

The survey of some 91,000 employers highlighted the fact that almost a quarter of job vacancies were left unfilled due to a shortage of skills. Many sectors which rely heavily on real tradecraft currently lack the new blood needed to keep them alive and flourishing.

Students on our Folkestone Campus learn some of the real tradecraft required in the local economy
In Kent – as across the UK – the construction sector is a key industry. Its contribution to the local economy is enormous, with a whopping 15 per cent of all jobs up for grabs in the county part of the sector. It’s well known already that there is a severe shortage in the number of skilled construction workers. The report once again highlighted that a lack of new blood is stifling it – and that, it could be argued, will have knock on consequences. If there’s not the manpower to build, construction inevitably takes longer. That could lead to new offices, homes and regeneration projects taking longer than they should, potentially stunting local economic growth prospects for the longer term.

It has, undoubtedly become a societal issue – our nation no longer appreciates the value of a high quality technical education. But this must change, and it is beginning to do so. There are clear indications that the Government, at least, understands the value of FE. Education secretary Nicky Morgan recently said we must ‘abandon education snobbery’, and allow colleges to promote themselves freely in schools. The principle is certainly something which I, and many in FE welcome; now we just need to see all of the the fine detail.
The Education secretary Nick Morgan has called for the abandonment of 'education snobbery' Pic: Policy Exchange
  The FE sector will need schools to work with colleges in much the same way as they work to promote taking a university degree – not as a second choice to an academic education, but as an equal to one. We need to wash away this idea that a further education is somehow a poor man’s version of higher education, or that the students who go on to attend college have been ‘failed’ by their teachers. Instead we must level the playing field and ensure colleges are thought of in the same positive way which universities are.

The comments coming from government on this matter have been positive, and are to be commended, as is the drive for a new generation of apprentices. But there is still inherent prejudice, with equally negative comments emerging from the man who heads up Ofsted, Sir Michael Wilshaw. In a speech Sir Michael deemed the whole FE Sector ‘inadequate at best’. In my view, this type of commentary is unhelpful at best, and downright disingenuous at worst. Many FE colleges provide excellent technical, vocational training which can lead students directly into the local workforce.

So why then does this prejudice continue? That’s the question which I would ask of Sir Michael, and all of those teachers who feel they have ‘failed’ if their pupils end up going to an FE college rather than taking the route to university. The only time they’ll truly fail their students is if they continue with this outdated, outmoded and frankly archaic belief that a one-size-fits-all academic education is best, and fail to give young people the opportunity for a technical, vocational one.

If we don’t solve this prejudice against the world of FE, then there’s little doubt that the emerging skills shortage will continue to grow.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Inspirational actions by College student

There are a number of things I absolutely love about my job. One of them is seeing how our students progress through the College, and slowly but surely improve and grow as individuals. It’s a real passion of mine to improve the outcomes of students. And in seeing all these students make that journey, every now and again a student will come along who has their own inspirational story.

One of these students was honoured at an Association of Colleges (AoC) reception at the Houses of Parliament yesterday after being highly commended in its prestigious Student of the Year Awards.
Emily Mackay’s story at East Kent College started in just the same way as thousands of other students who have passed through our campuses over the years.

Emily celebrates with College tutors and family

She first enrolled in September 2013, choosing to study Level 3 Professional Cookery.  But just months after beginning her course Emily was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer known as Osteosarcoma. The rare type of cancer – which she refers to as her ‘designer cancer’ – affects just 150 people across the UK each year; a fact which motivated Emily to begin a blog to highlight it.
After the diagnosis Emily underwent a variety of treatments – including surgery – which pushed the cancer into remission. She was given the all-clear by doctors in July 2014, re-joining the College in September that year.

But Emily’s battle with cancer was not over, and just months later this time last year, she was diagnosed as having a tumour on her lung. She said at the time that she wasn’t surprised at another tumour being found, bravely stating she was ‘just happy to have got this far’. In a heroic move she vowed not to let cancer rule her life, or waste her time, and decided to continue her studies while fighting the illness. Throughout her second round of chemotherapy, Emily courageously continued to study diligently. Following treatment she was told that her pelvic tumour and lung tumour were stable.

Emily with Thanet South MP Craig Mackinlay

But just before Christmas last November, while in London receiving radiotherapy for the tumour in her lung, Emily lost all sensation in her arm. She was rushed to hospital where she was diagnosed with a brain tumour around the size of a walnut. She underwent surgery and the tumour was successfully removed. However over Christmas it returned, and in January she was back in London for another operation to try and remove it. She’s currently recovering from the surgery, but managed to attend the AoC function yesterday.

She received the highly commended award for showing commitment to her College work while displaying heroic levels of bravery during the last couple of years. I’m not sure many teenagers would have had the strength of character to continue when faced with such adversity. Her tale is truly an inspirational one – and one which I think we should all pay heed to. She has never given up, like so many people would have under those circumstances, nor has she approached things with negativity. She would have had the perfect excuse to quit College and simply do as she had pleased, but she chose to keep learning, keep trying, keep working despite the difficulties; in an age of aspiration, I know that’s something I personally strive for. And it’s because of that, that I would like to pass on my heartfelt congratulations to Emily. She’s an inspiration to everyone at East Kent College, as well as students across the land. She deserves that accolade, and many more in the future.

If you’d like to read more about Emily and her battle against cancer, you can do so by visiting her blog at

Monday, 25 January 2016

Partnerships are the key ingredient for apprenticeship provision

For many years, apprenticeships were the gold standard for people looking to start their careers.

This coming together of business and education as a partnership launched hundreds of thousands of successful careers over the course of centuries, with countless tradesmen learning their technical craft while working ‘on the job’. 

But as time changed, the apprenticeship fell out of fashion, with learners instead opting to take a university driven pathway rather than a technical, vocational one.

Now though, as the UK economy begins to re-balance, and there’s a realisation that actually, we need the real trade-craft which the apprenticeship system used to provide, it has become a central government ambition for this pathway to grow once again.
Automotive apprentices hone their skills
That ambition has been given a target – three million new apprenticeship places to be created by 2020. It’s not going to be a simple order to fulfill, but the benefits of moving back to a system where apprenticeships are considered a high quality alternative to university are all too clear.

For a start, they’re real jobs for those who get an apprenticeship – a way for these individuals to earn a wage while they build up their skills base. It’s an investment in our young, with the deal struck that they actually need to get out there and participate, working to grow their abilities.

Apprenticeships also offer a way for industry to define and grow the skills it requires. Some sectors – such as construction – are in real need of fresh blood to continue growing, and apprenticeships are the perfect way to help start meeting this shortage.  There are some serious benefits; not just for students, but also for businesses.

But there are still a range of challenges faced by those involved in delivering apprenticeships.
For FE providers, the big challenge is clear – building the strong relationships and partnerships with business that’ll allow them to ensure they’re able to help deliver the right skills for the local economy.

The best people to help FE colleges navigate the skills needed in the local economy are local businesses – in fact, that’s the only community which can accurately tell education providers what’s wanted. While most FE providers are likely to already have close links with many of the businesses in their communities, it’s growing in importance to build those partnerships. They’ll help the education sector understand what works, and what doesn’t for business, as well as what skills are needed. 

Government is working hard to help nurture this relationship building and recently announced its new Apprenticeship Delivery Board. The board brings together a range of business leaders to help drive the Government ambition forward. However it has come in for criticism due to a key omission in the board’s makeup – a sector leader who represents small and medium sized businesses. In east Kent we already know that makes up one of the big drivers of local economies, so my College is already working in partnership with the SME community. I would hope that the Government will find a way to include this valuable section of the economy.

What the creation of the board does mark is a move in the right direction – the creation of a holistic strategy which starts bringing business leaders, local economies and education providers together. And that’s exactly what’s needed.

So, although we’re well into the month of January, and New Year celebrations are but a distant memory, one of my wishes for 2016 is a greater coming together of industry and FE so that together, we can improve the outcomes for students, communities and the local economy.

East Kent College is always looking for business partners, so if you would be interested in working with us, please get in touch with the College.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Not just another brick in the wall – the wider benefits of social action

So it’s official; social action projects – defined as practical actions in the service of others to create positive change – not only do good for the community, but also for the young people who take part in them.

Recent analysis of youth social action projects – funded by The Cabinet Office – has shown unequivocally that those who take part in social action projects develop some of the most important skills they need to succeed in later life. Some of those programmes which were analysed were organised by my College.

Students take part in the 'Brush up Broadstairs' project
The research found that young people taking part in these projects improve a range of skills. These included their empathy (up 8 per cent), problem solving abilities, co-operation, ‘grit’ and community spiritedness (up 9 per cent).

These are all things which – few would disagree – have a real world impact, not just on the local community of the young people taking part, but also on the local economies. Of course measures like ‘grit’ may well be somewhat subjective, but the mere fact that the data suggests those who took part in social action projects had more of it can only be a positive thing when it comes to getting employed, and staying employed. Those who took part in social action also had a far more positive outlook on life, with far lower levels of anxiety reported.

The data also highlighted another positive for young people looking for jobs – interviewees were found to be 10 per cent more likely to be hired if they had taken part in some sort of social action project. Volunteering was also found to triple a young person’s chances of getting that all important interview itself.

Charity cookery on the Broadstairs Campus
So what does all of this mean for further education? It’s fairly obvious really – if we want to improve the outcomes of our young people, sometimes it’s more important to get out of the labs, the workshops and the office spaces, and into the real world where they can make something better.
My College takes this seriously. We’re driven by improving the outcomes of our students. The obvious benefit for students taking part in social action projects has led us to commit six weeks of the academic year as ‘progress weeks’. Students then get to tackle a range of projects which help their local community, while also making them a more rounded and capable individual – what I believe FE should be doing at all times.

So if you’re an education sector leader, ensuring those in your care take part in social action can pay off not just for the local community which is helped, but also for the student themselves. That’s surely what we all want to achieve.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Partnership projects on the cards after catch-up with MP

Today I had the pleasure of hosting South Thanet’s MP, Craig Mackinlay at our Broadstairs Campus. It isn’t the first time Craig has come to the campus, but it was great to have the opportunity to sit down with him and discuss partnership working on future projects. 

Further education was recently recognised by a report from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills as having a significant impact on getting people into work – something which our employability department are working on across all three of our campuses. 

As Craig has a clear interest in this area – as a member of the Work and Pensions Select Committee – I feel that there could be real opportunities for us to work with him on improving outcomes for those out of work.

My meeting with MP Craig Mackinlay

I also got to update him on many of the different things which the College is working on. As a key Government ambition, apprenticeships are one of the key areas which we are trying to grow. 

Statistics released recently by Government showed that despite a drop in apprenticeships started in the South East, the constituencies in which East Kent College works had seen solid growth. 

Folkestone and Hythe saw the highest number of new starts across the county last year, with 1090 new apprentices starting – up from 960 the year before. Dover and Thanet also saw considerable growth – testament to the great work our apprenticeship team is doing to offer more of these opportunities. It’s certainly an area which I’m eager to see continual future growth in, and one of the prime opportunities for East Kent College over the next few years.