FE Heroes: 'There is a genuine local focus in FE'

East Surrey College teacher training lecturer and mentor Jose Aguiar explains why he loves the FE sector

Tes Reporter

FE Heroes: Colleges have a genuine local focus, says Jose Aguiar of East Surrey College

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

Jose Aguiar, teacher training lecturer and mentor at East Surrey College, which is part of Orbital South Colleges.

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

I have been in my current role at East Surrey College for three years. As well as being responsible for the delivery of teacher training courses, my role includes working on behalf of the group to raise awareness of the opportunities that a teaching role can offer to local residents. We have been able to offer delivery through in-person and online sessions, flexing our delivery model to meet the needs of our students and the changing environment. The recent changes to delivery have enabled students to see first-hand how important it is to be responsive and share their ideas across various mediums.

Prior to this, I had quite a few roles in the industry sector and in the education sector. After completing my degree in philosophy in Portugal, I worked as commercial director in a textile company, where I stayed for six years. When I moved to London, I worked for prison education providers: Nescot College, Kensington and Chelsea College, and Manchester College; delivering prison education, teaching citizenship and diversity, working as a course leader for PSHE and setting up educational projects. I also work as an independent educational consultor. In this role I work with Learning Skills Network delivering training to staff in FE and secure environments, the Honda apprenticeship programme, the Anne Frank Trust, teacher training with a number of FE colleges, writing a toolkit about “learner voice”, creating and developing education courses and resources. For the last seven years, I have been involved with HMP Pentonville developing a further and higher education curriculum.

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Background: Call to give every prisoner access to digital learning

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

I always believed in the transformative power of education. When I moved to the UK, I decided on a career move and embraced my passion for education. My first contact with FE was in Northern Ireland in East Down Institute (South Eastern Regional College) in 2004, where I covered sociology lessons.

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

One of my favourite things about my job is the variety. I deliver three teacher training courses (classroom-based and remotely): Award in Education and Training, Certificate in Education and Training, and Diploma in Education and Training.

I’m also involved with our learning and skills tutor (LST) for apprenticeships and with the work to expand teacher training provision across the college group.

No two days are the same and no two classes/students are the same. However, all days include some of the following elements: checking emails, Teams and education news, delivering a teacher training session, planning and designing sessions, mentoring trainee teachers, lesson observations, meetings with colleagues involved in teacher training, interviewing prospective students, catching up with internal and external stakeholders, uploading materials and information on Teams, marking and IV-ing assignments.

It's never boring, and I learn so much from every experience

What motivates you in your workplace?

Trainee teachers motivate me on a daily basis. Their achievements and willingness to become qualified teachers to change their students’ lives and offer opportunities are inspirational. All students are different. Their experiences, personalities, knowledge and ambitions enrich the classroom culture and the learning experience. We learn so much from each other.

An inclusive college culture, support from colleagues and senior management at East Surrey College, also plays a major role in my daily motivation. They provide an amazing work environment.

Share an anecdote about a student or learner who has inspired you...

A few months ago I received this email from a former trainee teacher on the Diploma in Education and Training course: “I finally got a position as an art teacher within a school and sixth form.

"I had a challenging interview, and even though I had prepared, none of those questions seemed to come up. However, I was asked lots of questions that were all similar to what you had taught so I was able to recite certain things you had said!

"It’s been hard to get a job like this because the positions for art teachers are rare, but I'm so pleased. Just thought I'd share the news and thank you also.”

This, coming from a trainee teacher who endured personal, health and academic challenges during her course, was truly inspirational.

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

Yes, I believe we can make a real difference in people's lives and in the local community. There is a genuine local focus on FE education. All sorts of students come through the door of an FE college: the bright school-leaver, the adult facing unemployment, the non-native speaker, the individual who wants to follow a vocation or higher education. They all have an eye on their future and we can help them achieve their goals.

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

The further education and skills sector has been overlooked and undervalued compared with the higher-profile schools and higher education sectors. The FE sector has for many years suffered from underfunding and inconsistent policies. There have been a few reviews, such as the Leitch review on basic and intermediate skills (2006) and the Foster review of the FE college landscape (2005), but – despite widespread acknowledgement that this sector is crucial to the country’s economic success – nothing much has happened except for the decline in funding.

The challenge that the FE sector has is to navigate through this process and ensure that FE voices are heard in Westminster.

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

I hope its status as an education institution and its contribution to the local and national economy is recognised and acknowledged. The FE sector will have its profile upgraded and will fully perform its role in education, social and economic environments in our local communities.

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

I would ensure that teacher training is properly funded, and money would be allocated to teachers’ CPD. If we want a world-class education, we need world-class teachers.

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