The future of FE: A letter to the next AoC president

From climate change to Colleges Week and lockdown - Steve Frampton looks back at two years as AoC president

Steve Frampton

From climate change and Colleges Week to lockdown and online learning - Steve Frampton looks back on two years as AoC president

Today, Steve Frampton marks his final day as president of the Association of Colleges after two years in the post. In an open letter to new president Sally Dicketts, chief executive of Activate Learning, he reflects on the highs and lows of the past two years in further education.


News: Sally Dicketts to become next AoC president

Background: Steve Frampton re-elected as AoC president

Remote learning: Collaboration is the key to success


Dear Sally,

Congratulations on becoming the next AoC president. For me, it has been some of the most rewarding and inspiring years of my life and I hope it provides the same experience for you. I want to take my last day to set out the highlights of my time in office, look back on some of our successes and wish you the best of luck in the role.

As I wrote in a blog this week on the power of young people, I have been so impressed with the young people involved in creating change on their campuses and student governors representing them. Our annual conference in November 2019 saw 50 student governors attend our training event hosted with Unloc. I have no doubt that it will go from strength to strength and the numbers of young people actively engaging in the sector’s decision making will grow.

Work on amplifying the student voice has been one of the highlights for me and our inclusion of student governors on AoC’s own governor’s council is a real success. I look forward to watching the work with students spread even more widely across the organisation as we go into campaigning for Colleges Week 2020.

A valued sector

The Love Our Colleges campaign is something we can all be truly proud of – the enthusiasm that has marked Colleges Week last year was incredible. There was a range of activities across the country, as well as from colleges in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. My favourite part of the role is seeing staff, students, leaders, MPs and partners all talking with pride and passion about why they #LoveOurColleges.

Climate change and the urgent need for action to tackle it are something I’m extremely passionate about, launching the FE/HE climate commission roadmap that was co-constructed with students was a great moment this year. Early signs are that it is really valued by the sector and leading to great local plans for climate action activity.

The series of recent funding announcements for colleges is a great high to leave on, but I want to recognise AoC’s significant work and successful lobbying to make that possible. The organisation’s dedication and passion to further education and skills have shone through and the relationships with stakeholders, MPs and ministers have been instrumental in securing these wins. Capital funding, a disadvantage fund of £96m and the first base rate change for 10 years are huge successes and will help thousands of students reach their potential in the coming years. I would like to thank the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, for his letter of thanks and the guarantee of funding for colleges.

Our work is never done, and I look forward to the effective and meaningful partnerships with organisations like ASCL, ETF, Jisc, Ofsted, UUK, NUS and numerous others engag even more staff and students. It’s essential we carry on collaborating and involving them and our boards to shape the future. I want to say a massive thank you to them, all principals on our policy groups and our board members.

I depart during what are very strange times indeed, but colleges have done an amazing job to adapt to all of the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Not least as we think about what the next academic year holds. Thank you to the principals who contributed to our reopening groups. It is clear that a blend of online and face-to-face learning will be critical. We must not leave any teacher or lecturer behind and ensure our amazing college staff have the confidence and kit to be effective online. I was so pleased to see the launch of the eBook on edtech between AoC and Ufi; it continues to have a massive impact and look forward to seeing the future work on supporting teachers and online learning.

As I leave my role as president, I am excited to be able to give more time to my role as a climate commissioner, as chair of AoC Services on the AoC Board, and continue work with Jisc and other organisations.

It’s been the most interesting two years of my professional career; I have never stopped learning. I really do #LoveOurColleges and all the wonderful leaders, governors, staff and students in them. I wish Sally the best of luck in the role and I am just at the other end of the phone if anyone needs me.

Take care and best wishes,

Steve Frampton

Steve Frampton was president of the Association of Colleges from 2018 to 2020

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