What are college leaders' wishes for 2021?

Normality, collaboration and recognition from those in power: college leaders share their wishes for the new year

Kate Parker

FE in 2021: College leaders share their new year wishes for the sector

As we near the end of 2020, it's time to look ahead to what the new year could bring. With a FE White Paper expected early on, colleges expected to roll-out mass testing to students and staff in January and disruption expected for exams and assessment, it will be another eventful year for the further education sector.

But what are college leaders hoping 2021 will bring?

'A grown-up approach to failure'

Ian Pryce, chief executive and principal of Bedford College Group

"I'm wishing for a grown-up approach to failure. We've had to try many new things in 2020 and some have been spectacular failures. These should be forgiven and learned from. Pretending we never fail or that failure is a matter for blame is so 2019."

Wellbeing: 10 ways to protect your mental health over the holidays

More: 10 songs that sum up this year in education

Association of Colleges: What will 2021 bring FE?

'A year of no surprises'

Sam Parrett, group principal and chief executive of London South East Colleges Group

"Following such turbulent and extraordinary times, top of my 2021 FE wish list is certainly a year of ‘no surprises’. FE is set to take a central role in the post-Covid economic recovery and to do this effectively, we need less regulation and the autonomy to continue innovating and taking risks. 

"I hope that this will lead to improved status for colleges, with greater recognition and understanding of the essential role we play in the education ecosystem, as anchor institutions in our local communities."

'Peace for frontline staff in colleges'

Stuart Rimmer, chief executive of East Coast College Group

"My wish for the sector would not be about policy, exam boards, lobbying funding or White Papers, but a wish that our frontline staff doing a great and difficult job every day in colleges get a period of peace and some professional recognition and thanks from those in the highest seats of power. It’s long overdue."

'Equality of recognition'

Shelagh Legrave, principal and chief executive of Chichester College Group

"My wish is that there is equality of recognition for the role of further education alongside that of schools and universities."

'Improved collaboration'

Bill Jones, deputy chief executive of Luminate Education Group and principal of Leeds City College 

"My wish for the sector would be improved collaboration."

'Talking about the value of adult education'

Mel Lenehan, principal of Fircroft College 

"My one wish for 2021 is a conversation on the purpose and value of adult education #AdultConversations."


Anthony Bravo, principal and chief executive of Basingstoke College of Technology 

"My wish is simple: normality."

'A restful festive period'

Liz Bromley, chief executive of NCG 

"My wish for the sector would be that we can have a properly restful festive period so that we can maximise all the opportunities that we will have to make 2021 a restorative year."

'Using technology to enhance the student experience'

Simon Hewitt, principal of Dundee and Angus College 

"As we collectively plan for the future, and as blended learning becomes a more normal part of college delivery, we can never forget the importance of colleges in providing 'wrap-around’ support. Colleges are so much more than learning and teaching, they offer support and sanctuary to some of the most vulnerable in our communities. 

"Let’s not forget this, but work together with our learners to co-create how we use technology to better enhance and support their experience."

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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