Roger Brown, emeritus professor of higher education policy at Liverpool Hope University, and chair of Barton Peveril Sixth Form College in Hampshire, explains why his college has no plans to become an academy (article free for subscribers). Academisation has failed to persuade a lot of colleges, he writes, despite many in the sector seeing it as "the only show in town". The reasons against? Colleges prize their autonomy, flexibility and clarity of mission, he explains – and there are negative implications about what academisation will mean for governance.
Meanwhile Mark Chutter, head of English at Brighton, Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College, explains what the new 9-1 GCSE grading system means for FE teachers (article free for subscribers), from how it will affect staff and students to how qualifications should be rethought after the loss of coursework.
In conversation with the FE commissioner
This week, FE editor Stephen Exley conducts TES’ first interview with the new FE commissioner Richard Atkins, former principal of Exeter College. Atkins says that "significant" continuing pressures on funding will result in many colleges having to specialise to survive, and also predicts that area reviews wiill not be "the end of the story" for mergers, with limited funding likely leading to more upheaval after the process ends in spring next year.
Atkins also says there is a "case to answer" about small school sixth forms and that, in some cases, the low quality of education and limited range of qualifications on offer is "a real problem".
FE-ront and centre
In this week's editorial, Stephen Exley writes that, whether by fluke or design, the FE sector has found itself at the centre of the political agenda – and under ministers who seem to understand and appreciate what it does. He notes that, at the recent Association of Colleges (AoC) annual conference in Birmingham, this sense of positivity was captured by apprenticeships and skills minister Robert Halfon, who said: "Far from talking down our colleges, we should be celebrating our FE sector, celebrating our principals, governors, teachers and students."
No time for sleep
Meanwhile TES reporter Julia Belgutay reveals the intense training regime of Betsy Crosbie, who is preparing to compete in EuroSkills next week in Gothenburg, Sweden, as a member of Team UK. The event will showcase the abilities of about 450 people aged 25 and under from 28 European countries as they compete for glory in their individual skill categories. For Crosbie, a 20-year-old competitor in the mechanical engineering (computer-aided design) contest, building stamina is an integral part of her training, because – in the words of her trainer – "at competition, sleep becomes a non-entity".
'Consistency is the key to progress'
TES columnist Tom Starkey writes that consistency is one of the main aspects of effective teaching (article free for subscribers). Whether it's in routines, behaviour management or marking, being consistent instils a sense of trust. It is also important on a wider scale, but despite this FE is in a constant state of flux. "If consistency is the key to progress, then the macrocosm of the sector needs to reflect the microcosm of the classroom," Starkey writes. The question is, how do we go about this?
FErret on the FE commissioner
This week, FErret talks about FE commissioners new and old (article free for subscribers). With Richard Atkins recently taking office, FErret takes a look at his first public appearances in his new role at the AoC annual conference, in which he told delegates that his predecessor Sir David Collins had left him with two essential tools for the job – "the Network Rail map of England and a guide to the best Premier Inns".
Read all this and much, much more in this week’s TES Further