In January last year, I started this insight into my views with a posting titled ‘A new blog, for the New Year’. As we’re now knee deep in 2017, I’d like to begin this posting with the title ‘New opportunities for this New Year’.
As many of you will already be aware, I’m a person who’s glass is always half full. I believe that positivity in all we do helps to drive us forward, build aspiration and help us realise our goals. But I don’t think that I’m being unnecessarily optimistic when I say this year holds real promise for the FE sector at large, and also for East Kent College and Canterbury College.
But why this optimism, I hear you cry. After years of cuts as austerity budget after austerity budget have been levied upon the sector, it doesn’t necessarily seem rational to be so positive, surely? And yet I am, and this is why.
The FE sector is full of buoyancy. There’s little doubt that it’s a service built of passionate people, but just recently I’ve been seeing commitment, and drive within the sector, which are unparalleled. The manner in which so many within our sector leapt to its defence, in such a rational, analytical manner when we were attacked in a TES opinion piece for failing to help disadvantaged students, was truly heartening. And I’m seeing a greater drive to ensure no-one’s nicking our lunch, while as a sector we perform with greater professionalism than ever before. No-one could badge us as some kind of unloved Cinderella sector anymore.
I’m also seeing greater movements within our Government to help drive the skills agenda, and promote technical learning as a real option for our young people. There seems to be a greater commitment from our politicians to ensure that FE is no longer subject to the educational prejudices of the past; a realisation, if you will, that while the well-trod pathway through University is good, it simply isn’t the answer for everyone.
And of course, we’ve seen figures such as Sir Michael Wilshaw leaving office. Sir Michael never truly understood FE, and never seemed to care for it. His unrelenting attacks while in office were nothing but unhelpful, for a part of the educational framework which delivers so much, for so many students.
On a more local level, we’ve hit the ground running in 2017, working toward the proposed merger between East Kent College and Canterbury College. This will ensure that we are collectively delivering an immense range of opportunities for the 17,000 students who attend our colleges.
So set against that backdrop, why wouldn’t I be positive about what this year’s going to bring? We live in a land of opportunity in FE, and locally at our colleges. We live in a world where our passion, commitment and relentless drive to ensure the best outcome for our students, delivers us the opportunity to really change our communities for the better. And it is just this opportunity that I am seeing all around me in 2017. So happy New Year; I know it’s going to be a great one.