'Community of practice' to showcase FE research

A new project aims to raise the profile of FE research and promote the sharing of effective practice across the sector

Kate Parker

FE research: A new 'community of practice' has been launched to help colleges share research on best practice

A national "community of practice" has been launched to showcase and share practitioner-led research in the FE sector.

The project  – developed by Villiers Park Educational Trust – aims to raise the profile of FE research, build new connections between practitioner-researchers and promote the sharing of effective practice across the sector.

The community will have a particular focus on social mobility and educational access, and will include a series of monthly online discussions featuring both practitioners and policymakers.


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Funding to establish the network has been provided by the Further Education Trust for Leadership (FETL), and it has been backed by the Association of Colleges (AoC) and Sixth Form Colleges Association (SFCA).

Shining a light on FE colleges' innovative research

Dame Ruth Silver, president of FETL, said the initiative would “shine a light” on the research taking place across the sector.

"FETL is delighted to support the FE community of practice being established by Villiers Park," she said. "FETL was founded to strengthen the leadership of thinking in and about the further education system. This important initiative will shine a light on the innovative research taking place across the sector, and bring practitioners and policymakers together to explore how they can work together to bring about positive change."

Rae Tooth, chief executive of Villiers Park, said there was a wealth of wisdom in the FE sector – and FE research didn’t get the attention it needed.

“Research, and particularly practitioner research, in FE does not get the attention and support that it needs to make the biggest possible difference," she said. "We are delighted to be able to bring new and experienced researchers and practitioners together to share and explore their learning through practice to drive sector-wide development underpinned by collaboration and shared knowledge.”

David Hughes, chief executive of the AoC, said: “Further education is full of excellent practice but there is too little research into it – something we need to change. The community of practice is a great opportunity to showcase research and best practice, encourage more research within and about our sector, helping to build new networks and facilitate collaboration between further education professionals – helping to make our great sector even better.”

Bill Watkin, chief executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said: “Sixth-form colleges have a history of working with students for whom the widening participation agenda is critically important, and they will welcome this Villiers Park initiative. Colleges are committed to social mobility and educational access, and recognise the imperative to give a chance to all students, whatever their background, who aspire to higher education.

"Increasingly, college teachers are sharing research, ideas and strategies that open doors to the best opportunities for everyone in the college. This new community of practice will help them to develop and disseminate the latest thinking and ideas, helping all their students to realise their ambitions.”

The first online debate, Research in FE: Building an evidence-led sector, will take place on Wednesday 3 March at 12pm. The panel will feature Stephen Evans, chief executive of the Learning and Work Institute; Vicky Duckworth, professor in education at Edge Hill University; Sam Jones, lecturer at Bedford College and founder of #FEResearchMeet; and Ms Tooth, who previously led the evidence and effective practice team at the Office for Fair Access.

To attend the first discussion or join the community, please register here. 

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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