Sparring partners fighting together for FE’s future

10th November 2017 at 00:00
A joint letter from 10 institutions has shown the sector is capable of working together and speaking in one voice

The area reviews focused on the importance of colleges rising above institutional self-interest. It was time, the message went, for institutions to look at the bigger picture and the needs of learners, rather than simply what was best for themselves.

This issue is not limited to colleges. The accusations of partisan self-interest could be lodged at the FE sector’s representative bodies in recent years. Not speaking with one voice has made it easier to be ignored by ministers.

But recent developments have given FErret a glimmer of hope that the fine organisations representing the sector, its students and workforce might be starting to work together.

On Friday, the leaders of 10 such organisations put their name to a joint letter calling for additional investment in FE. While the University and College Union was far too modest to claim responsibility for creating this united front, it’s fair to say it played a significant role.

And bearing in mind who was involved, that was no mean feat. Among those on board were UCU sparring partners old (the Association of Colleges) and new (the NEU teaching union). Add to these the NUS students’ union, Unison, the Association of School and College Leaders, Holex, the Learning and Work Institute and the Third Sector National Learning Alliance, and that’s an impressive alliance. Oh, and don’t forget Voice, which signed up too. Come on, who’s that whispering “Who?” at the back? Behave.

And on Monday, the Sixth Form Colleges’ Association was doing the rounds ( showing the impact of funding cuts. It had even recruited the AoC and ASCL to offer some supportive comments, in the wake of the joint-working on their Support Our Sixth-formers campaign. Even though the AoC and SFCA may be in many cases competing for college members, they’re working together on areas of common interest.

If anyone’s interested in attracting another signature to a joint letter in future, FErret would be very happy to oblige.

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