Is innovation really the Yellow Brick Road? by Jayne Stigger

  FE used to occupy a unique position in the educational world; precariously balanced on the funding knife edge, we teetered around in our educational policy high heels reacting to external pressures; funding, curriculum, data requirements, industry needs, government changes of direction, political whimsies.  Do we now spend so much time trying to be ‘different’ we’ve forgotten how to be ‘normal’?

Do we still meet our brief?

Staff in all providers who have survived multiple restructures, have seen the entire range of qualifications come and go, have experienced changes of direction so fast that Mo Farrah would be hard pressed to keep up and comedy moments that would induce drooling jealousy in Buster Keaton , know when to keep their heads down and just teach. Departments are peppered with young bucks, brimming  with promise and social media skills, who fly through departments leaving a trail of USB sticks and iPads in their wake, their eye fixed firmly on the door to the SMT corridor.

Has innovation become a career move, not a new method of teaching?

Innovate, leap, pronk, run ahead of the pack like a Gazelle, get funky with skills, develop links with industry, sign up apprentices, deliver courses in other countries, partnerships and more; run us like a business? F.E. has become a series of sprints in a marathon. It’s a wonder we can breathe, let alone have time to stop, reflect and catch our breath.

With the increase in school leaving age bringing new pressures on learners, the push for more apprentices, is it time to review the whole system; Sixth Forms, FE, schools and HE? We all have our fingers in each other’s pies, scooping out the plum when circumstances allow. So many plums, so much glory to be had but are we doing each other, our learners, our fellow educational establishments a disservice?

Staff in all providers, all areas, have to be all things to all learners. We are so specialised and yet so diverse. Time perhaps to bring a halt to ‘innovation’ and ‘change’ and look for a moment, where we are going?

With so many staff in all providers, trying to do the same thing with different groups of learners, should we look at how we, as an industry are structured?

Is FE best for vocational, are sixth forms best for academic? Should HE concentrate on higher education and schools stop trying to be an academy, a free school, a studio school, a school for this that and the other? Has ‘innovation’, the lure of the free market led us down the dual carriageway of combining segregation and diversity?

The multitudinous skills we have developed are beyond useful; there is no dispute from me. There is much to be learned from the old hacks and the young bucks.

However, if every type of provider is providing every form of education to every type of learner, are we diluting the educational excellence in our Country by all fighting for the same pot?

Has the time for specialisms rather than a general free-for-all, at any cost, finally appeared on the horizon?

Posted by Jayne Stigger