FE hero: 'Without the funding, FE cannot survive'

Meet this week's Tes FE hero: Kerri Fitzpatrick, English lecturer at Leicester College

Tes Reporter

FE hero: 'Without funding, FE will not survive'

What is your name, job title and place of work?  

Kerri Fitzpatrick, English lecturer at Leicester College

How long have you held your current role, and what other jobs did you have before?  

I have been at the college for 16 years but teaching English for six years. 

Do you enjoy working in FE? And if so, why? 

Yes, I am not afraid of hard work, and I love a challenge. FE is undoubtedly a challenge, but it is precisely for this reason that I enjoy it so much. Someone once told me that if you can teach in FE, you can teach anywhere.

As an English teacher, I know first-hand that we need to get imaginative when delivering a subject that most students hate. We are constantly trying different methods to engage students who have come from secondary school without achieving English, students that are already demotivated or have struggled in the past. Getting creative is the only way to ensure that all learners work to their potential and are fully engaged.

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How – and why – did you first start working in further education? 

I started in FE teaching sports science. However, owing to how Leicester College was structured at the time, it fell to the curriculum teacher to also deliver English. As I said, I love a challenge, and to my surprise, I started to really enjoy it. I loved teaching sport, but personally, I get far more from teaching English. I feel that I make a difference, especially when students that have struggled for years finally pass their English exam.

Some of the students that we teach have never really been given the time and support they deserve while at school. As a result, they end up misbehaving in class, getting into trouble or simply have no confidence. They just need someone to tell them they can do it. Once you believe in them, they start to believe in themselves, and the misbehaving stops (mostly, we all have our bad days). I ended up doing the qualifications to teach English and moved entirely over to English a few years ago, and I have not looked back.

Briefly describe what a day at work looks like for you.  

A very early start, answering all the team messages from students. I then begin to check all my zillions of emails and try to complete some of the never-ending admin type jobs. I then set up my class and go over my lessons, and then deliver back-to-back classes from 9 to 5.

What motivates you in your workplace? 

I work with a great team, and we have a real giggle, but also, we support each other every day and the crazy things our job throws at us. The biggest motivator is the students: they join us in September with a real hatred for English and not wanting to pick a pen up, and we get them attending and thriving by the end of the year. 

What do you see as the big challenges for the FE sector in the next few years? 

Money. It is always money. The government want results, but they do not fund FE like other education sectors. 

What do you think our FE sector will look like in 30 years' time? 

That depends if the government are willing to fund FE. The recent clawback, for example, hit the college hard. Without the funding, FE cannot survive.

If you were made apprenticeships and skills minister, what is the first thing you'd introduce or change? 

Stop making all students do GCSE English. Some students just do not suit GCSEs, and functional skills English is far more suitable for them and allows them to achieve an English qualification they will use in the real world. How many builders, plumbers or hairdressers need 19th-century poetry? However, they do need to communicate, read and interpret information and write job applications things they learn from functional skills English.

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Tes Reporter

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