9 things education leaders are hoping for in 2021

From respect for FE to a smooth exam season for students, leaders share their hopes for the new year
3rd January 2021, 9:00am
Kate Parker


9 things education leaders are hoping for in 2021

Fe In 2021: What Fe Leaders Are Hoping For

The past 12 months will not be forgotten in a hurry, but what could 2021 mean for FE? Nine sector leaders share their hopes for the sector: 

The opportunity to rebuild the economy

Gillian Keegan, apprenticeships and skills minister 

"FE is the key component for rebuilding the economy. My hope is that the sector steps up to this opportunity, that it sees it as an opportunity. I am very hopeful for 2021; I'm looking forward to the white paper, I'm looking forward to the spotlight coming on our sector and I am looking forward to our sector exceeding expectations."

2020: A whistle-stop tour of the year in FE

Wishlist: What are college leaders' wishes for 2021?

The future of FE: What will 2021 bring?

Respect, funding and trust for colleges

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges

"My hope for 2021 is that colleges are given the respect, funding and trust to be able to meet the growing demands for the education and training they can offer to support people, productivity and place, in a year in which we need to focus on supporting communities and the economy to recover from the pandemic."

Principle of choice

Jane Hickie, managing director of the Association of Employment and Learning Providers 

"Independent training providers and other AELP member providers are ready and determined to play a full part in supporting employers, apprentices and learners as part of the economic recovery which will hopefully follow when we are finally rid of the pandemic. Young people must not be left behind, and retraining must be available to adults still in work and for those who have sadly lost their jobs. 

"We must trust individuals to be able to make their own choices in the type of learning that best suits their needs in a rapidly changing landscape, and I would expect the principle of choice to be firmly embedded in the FE white paper rather than the state deciding what's best. Individual skills accounts should be firmly on the agenda for 2021."

Recognition and appreciation

Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association

"My hope for 2021 is that all young people will be awarded the grades they deserve in their exams this summer, that teachers in colleges receive the recognition and appreciation from society for their Herculean efforts throughout 2020, that college principals continue to have the autonomy to make local decisions for their students and staff, and lastly, that we can emerge from the pandemic era with a bright future ahead, making the most of all the lessons we have learned."

Adults back into learning

Sue Pember, policy director of HOLEX 

"My hope is that there is a collective effort to get adults back learning with other learners, with clear progression routes and funding that recognises the true cost of delivery." 

Higher value on provision for students with SEND

Clare Howard, chief executive of Natspec

"I hope that everything we might have learnt in 2020 about valuing our public services and protecting the vulnerable translates into action - properly resourced action that supports FE and places a higher value on the incredible provision in the sector for students with learning difficulties and/or disabilities."

A pay rise

Andrew Harden, head of further education at the University and Colleges Union

"Further education staff have gone the extra mile during the pandemic to support students to overcome the challenges created by Covid. The commitment of staff to their students should be celebrated and recognised in 2021 by government and college leaders matching this commitment and giving staff the pay rise they deserve; £400m of funding landed in colleges this year, yet after more than a decade of austerity and real-terms pay cuts to college staff, all that the Association of Colleges felt able to recommend was 1 per cent.

"Trust in the sector between staff and leadership is at an all-time low. The only way this can be rebuilt in the new year is with total transparency so staff can know where the missing millions are. In so many ways our sector is at its best when we are all pulling together with trust and solidarity, and that would be my greatest wish for the sector in 2021."

Support staff recognised and rewarded

Jon Richards, head of education at Unison 

"My hope is to see support staff recognised and rewarded for the vital jobs they do. Without cleaners, site teams, technicians learning-support assistants and many others, colleges wouldn't have been able to operate during the pandemic.

"In 2021, the government must recognise this work and fund a decent pay rise for all staff who've suffered years of devastating cuts."

Full investment in FE

Salsabil Elmegri, NUS vice-president for further education

"One thing I am hopeful for in 2021 is that the FE sector is recognised by the government and is fully invested in by them. This includes a full investment in the digital side of things so students are able to attend their lectures."  


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