£7bn 363 colleges 4.2m learners 263,257 staff

Ferrotype has moved to neilwallace.org

Ferrotype has moved, and is now on http://neilwallace.org


February 18, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Never knowingly underperformed

In the 1800s, my family worked in the New Lanark cotton mills which were owned and managed by enlightened men who combined a sharp eye for productivity and the bottom line with concern for the social well-being of their workers, and society as a whole. This may help explain why I feel at ease with effective and entrepreneurial social enterprises – such as further education.

There seems to be a strand of political thinking which is exploring how a sense of entrepreneurship and ownership can be brought into the public services – particularly with the NHS: “employee partnerships” running NHS organisations “nurses and doctors” involved in governing; turning hospitals into “employee owned trusts”
There is an attractive John Lewis style model here for a public service facing years of relative austerity, and the politicians would be looking to a culture of co-ownership which would boost productivity – doing more for less.

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January 12, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

What Colleges need to do about the Power Gap

People feel powerless when they have little control over the direction of their own lives, or the power to shape the society in which they live – and we see this in how people talk about bankers or MPs expenses. We feel powerless when we compare our own position to bankers who appear to have the power to award themselves high pay, to burden us all with the huge cost of rescuing them when they fail, and to reward themselves while we bear the consequences of financial deficits – and we have no control or voice to shape events.

But the issue is not really about the power of the rich and lucky – it is really about boosting the powerfulness, the resourcefulness, of most people. All three parties now seem to “get it” and talk of “giving power away”, of empowering people, of devolving decision making to a local people.

And if education is to play its part in increasing power, then we need to have a good mental map of where the powerful and the powerless are, and what we need to do to increase the power of young people and adults.

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January 11, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

TES saves schools £1bn a year – what is it doing for FE?

Politicians have talked a lot about protecting “frontline services”, and in December, the government published “a radical programme to put the frontline first”

Putting the Frontline First: smarter government December 2009

Frontline First : http://www.hmg.gov.uk/frontlinefirst.aspx and in sidebar file Box

This plan delivers better public services for lower cost.
It outlines how the Government will improve public service outcomes while achieving the fiscal consolidation that is vital to helping the economy grow. The plan  …. save money through sharper delivery.

A paragraph on page 21 caught my eye

Opening up public data and information paves the way for innovations like the Times Educational Supplement (TES) shared lesson planner forum, which saves time and resources, potentially releasing up to £1 billion of teaching time by 2011

TES Lesson planner  http://www.tes.co.uk/resourcehub.aspx?navcode=70

This is quite a saving, and worth practicing my Level 1 key Skills Numeracy on.

  1. Assume that the TES will save us £ by the end of 2011
  2. And that the £1bn is a total saving ie £500,000,000 in each of 2010 and 2011
  3. And that a teaching hour costs £100
  4. The number of teaching hours saved would be 500,000,000/100 = 5,000,000
  5. There were 441,200 full time equivalent teachers in all state funded schools in England & Wales in Jan 2008, so say 500,000 for the UK as a whole
  6. Therefore teaching hours saved per fte teacher = 10
  7. Therefore increase in number of hours taught by teachers would be 10
  8. I am not sure how school teacher contracts are structured, or how the “saved” hours translate into money. But maybe it works like this, that the TES Lesson Planning Forum provides ready-made lesson plans quickly and easily, so one of the Teacher Development Days is not needed, and the allocated hours used for cover teaching, so saving £1bn on supply teachers during the year?

Instead of struggling into school through the snow today, no doubt head teachers are using their time productively by reading the TES most attentively, and fleshing out the bones of para 21 of Putting the Frontline First.

Fine for the schools sector – but what has the TES ever done for us?

January 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Panic – Opportunities in the Age of Austerity

We may have overspent by £175 billion or so this year, so that austerity looks like the order of the day until that deficit is reduced, but “Don’t Panic” is the policy-savvy theme of “Opportunities in the Age of Austerity”. Each contributor looked at one area of public spending to identify opportunities for reducing the deficit that would not damage progressive aims, rather than coming up with a ‘top ten’ list of spending cuts.

Paul Lawrence heads up the national KPMG FE Unit, and contributed “Further Education – making smart cuts and improving efficiency”. Every couple of years, I come across something which acts as a road map for the future, and I think in this I have found the outline of where we are heading.

His view is that “smart cuts” will result from

  • attitude and behavioural changes
  • efficiency gains
  • reorganisations and partnerships

and that they will catalyse better practice.

On reorganisations and partnerships, he starts from the premise [or is it a consensus?] that there are too many small colleges. In the context of savings, small colleges can’t, and he proposes that merger should be seen as a pro-active and positive business arrangement rather than a rescue package. And “modern mergers” encompass a range of formal collaborative partnerships and sub-branding – one existing model would be HE in FE, where University HE provision runs as a separate brand under the FE college umbrella.

If attitudes change so that mediocre and under-performance are not acceptable because they cannot be subsidised, colleges should be allowed to fail [ ie “recover quickly or not at all”].
On this, FE is some way behind the schools sector, where it seems to be a commonplace that schools close, often to be re-opened as a new institution.

“There is scope to make the most efficiency gains from the most inefficient providers” is another of his messages which piles on the pressure.

In all, considerable head of steam building up for fewer colleges, and for life getting very tough for any college which is considered to be struggling, in terms of Ofsted quality, financial outturn, funding performance and learner numbers. Only the best will be favoured, and can survive confidently.

Now = 350 colleges, just coming to the end of a good period of capital and revenue funding.

Soon = probable that about 100 sixth form colleges will return to the schools / local authority / academy sector, so 250 colleges to remain.
My figures would be 250 @ £20m = £5 bn funding, and they would be expected to save 10-20% through efficiencies = £0.5 – 1 bn. Not a big amount when compared to a £175bn deficit, but every little helps.
Then squeeze more out, through tighter targeting of competitive funding, then re-organising 1 in 4 colleges down to 200 or so, to save on back office functions and spread efficient practice.

Clunk Click for the trip ahead! It looks like it’s going to be an exhilarating but bumpy ride.

The Institute for Public Policy Research “Opportunities in the Age of Austerity”
Chapter 8 pages 35 – 37: Paul Lawrence “Further education – making smart cuts and improving efficiency”

Available to download from http://www.ippr.org.uk/publicationsandreports/ or from my Share Box here on the sidebar

January 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment

SMART goals for smart course teams

Of course goals should be SMART, but they should work because they mean something to people in course teams, not because they fit together logically in a grid, like a Sudoku puzzle.

The problem is that SMART is always in the future – and goals should live in the present, alongside the people who are working them.

We are now in 2010, with an age of austerity almost upon us. With efficiency savings and funding reductions of 15% or so coming, we need to free up the creativity of course teams to tackle their issues. We shouldn’t be shoehorning them into long term logical planning – they need to keep going with what they are do well.  And that isn’t a licence for doing nothing – if they haven’t done anything much in reality about student retention, or achievement, or improving their own teaching or whatever, then somebody else’s SMART goal – inside or outside the college – will be to say “Sorry it’s too late to do anything about it now”. They would be a burden on their colleagues that can no longer be afforded.

We need teams to live in the present tense with SMART goals.
Not what they will do by July 2010, but what they are doing now. No procrastination , no starting after half term, but goals which are about now – today, this week, by Friday.
The present tense comes up with solutions – we will do this, and that, and change this – and keeps on coming up with solutions.

But a SMART future is somewhere far away , and comes up with a never ending cycle of imagined problems and imagined solutions. Fine for filling grids with things that might happen, but little else. Future SMART goals = Frustration because the goals vanish like clouds the nearer we get to them. They are the middle class ideal of deferred happiness, we are not worthy until we get to our respectable and approved destination.

In the present, real SMART goals give attainable achievement and constant feedback, and stimulate creativity and innovation. This a working class approach – feeling what is going to be good now, and going for it. Getting more of what you want now – one student putting in assignments on time, another not kicking off for a week, using one of Geoff Petty’s teaching ideas or YouTube in the lab – all build a SMART goal. Smart should be Sudden flashes of inspiration; Motivation, Any innovation; Risk; Trying things that work elsewhere.

So no great 12 month SMART Grand Plan for course teams – but being clear on the feedback on what we are doing now, and for the next month; and when we decide what the next steps are.

And if you want to keep the paperwork going – make the SMART goals a retrospective summary. That’s normally what happens anyway.

January 5, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m now sorted for 2010

Still idling around in my holiday bubble, I thought I had better get ready for the coming year with some improving resolutions.

If I could start with a suitable ready-made list, I could then knock some items off straight away – so here goes with ten Healthy Attitudes to Living [courtesy Willson & Branch Cognitive Behavioural Therapy]

1 Accept that you can – and will – make mistakes Yup – already part of the way I work, so I can claim a first resolution achieved
2 Try something new I call in evidence this blog m’lud, started yesterday  so second resolution already achieved
3 Stamp on shame This blog could expose me to very shaming scrutiny and comment by 10 billion people but I am going ahead, stamping on shame. #3 down
4 Laugh at yourself I just don’t take myself too seriously,  #4 down
5 Don’t take offence Not something I am at all prone to do, and though I probably need to stoke my fires of indignation more often, I am not about to adopt a resolution of getting offended once a week, #5 achieved.
6 Make good use of criticism This is the one! – a useful and deep-reaching basis for a resolution.
7 Settle into [business] social situations There is something here, about relaxing, dropping the safety props, going with the flow, and using my intuition rather than routines. But it doesn’t feel like a real resolution for me this year.
8 Encourage your creativity I don’t worry if my whizzbang ideas are shot down in flames – plenty more daft ideas on the way! – so another resolution achieved
9 Act adventurously Going freelance achieved this for me – no need whatsoever for a resolution here
10 Enjoy yourself, its late than you think I hadn’t been good at giving time to doing fun things in the past – but I am much better at this now – not one I need on my list.

Score on the 2010 resolution door?

9 out of 10 resolutions achieved, leaving a single important resolution to work on. Good work already!

All I have to do now to “Make good use of criticism in 2010” is

Get the wording right.
Think in small steps, and four week chunks
Work on visualising it happening [staying this side of Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Bright-Sided Positive Thinking” of course]

Right, once that is done,  that’s me and 2010 sorted, and time to get started on the world in general.

January 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Sea Eagles … or Further Education

In the run up to Christmas, I decided to start a blog which would range over what is important to me about the further education system in England.

Why? is the most useless question that can be asked in just about any situation, so there is no need to even attempt to tackle the question. The nearest I will get to an answer is that “I will find out as I go along.”. I certainly have the feeling that I have wasted time in not starting one earlier, which is as good a reason as any.

Where to begin isn’t quite so problematical, since further education is a wide open system for comment –  but today has been a Bank Holiday, a bright sunny day with a light crisp covering of snow, and we went for a stroll along the sea front at Southwold.

On the road to Southwold, on the A12 at Henham, where the Latitude Festival is held in July, large signs have just appeared urging travellers to “Say NO to Sea Eagles Here”

Another thing to say NO to, adding to a long list of local nay-sayings: “No” to the Wind Turbines just up the road on Bernard Matthews’ site at Halesworth [and at Beccles]; “No” to the Tesco at Halesworth; “No” to the gravel pit at Haddiscoe …

Maybe these Sea Eagles would be a nightmare – snacking on avocets; disturbing the furtive amorous fumblings of bitterns, and playing havoc with questing voles as they pass feather-footed through the plashy fen – or maybe they would be a boon to the tourist industry as they will no doubt take to perching in the garden of the Bell at Walberswick, to take advantage of carelessly discarded scampi tails.

I really have got no strong views either way on the Sea Eagle [here or elsewhere] but I am delighted to have such a cheery, life-enhancing dilemma bubbling away around me at the start of a New Year.

In the real world I predict, and fear, that the dread verdict “Say No to FE here” will emerge from meeting after meeting in 2010 as we struggle to adapt to a lean funding regime.
Remember when there was a capital programme for college buildings?

January 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment