Nick Linford and the F.E. Week Team’s spoof ‘FE Anthem and Flag’ was a perfect April fool’s Day prank. More illuminating was watching the tweets as so many people jumped onto the bandwagon, keen to be associated with the new idea and this got me thinking. “If so many people are prepared to get behind an idea, to be associated with F.E., why ‘Cinderella’?”
Ofsted’s Sir Michael Wilshaw made reference to FE’s Cinderella complex — how, despite the essential work it does, it can sometimes seem neglected compared to other parts of the education system.
In 1971, ''The Cinderella Complex: Women's Hidden Fear of Independence,'' by Colette Dowling was published. She talks of the militancy of the times and the heady rush of financial freedom, only to wake up several years later and wondered if what she now had, independence; was what she had really wanted?
From the 1944 Education Act onwards, FE Colleges were funded by local authorities through education budgets. This all changed in 1993 through ‘incorporation’ when colleges became independent organisations. We have independence; we’ve had it for 20 years, we gain funding, form partnerships, explore new territories, create wealth (financial and skills wise), develop links and .prepare people for their futures.
Rather than bickering between ourselves and sitting by the ash bucket lamenting the changes we have undergone and the unknown changes to come, shouldn’t we celebrate what a fantastic opportunity F.E. has had and look forward to an even greater future? Colette Dowling may have regretted taking the initiative when it was presented but that was because her choices were wrong, ours aren’t; we have patiently built a solid foundation to grow from.
F.E. is comprehensive, diverse and ever changing. Having learned hard but valuable lessons over the past 20 years we should be more willing to celebrate ourselves and our achievements. So, although it was in jest, I applaud Nick’s effort. It reminded me that F.E. really is on the edge of adulthood. We’ve served our Apprenticeship.
It’s time to stop being ‘Cinderella’, stop waiting for the Knight to rescue us, because we can be our own Knight.
Next year, F.E. will be 21. The significance of the 21st birthday originates from the rituals of Knighthood. At 7 a boy began to learn as a Page, what was required to become a knight. At 14 he graduated to Squire learning his craft until at 21 he would finally become a Knight.
F.E. has survived for twenty years. We’ve stood behind the bike sheds, moaning, groaning and kicking the pebbles with the other Pages and now it’s time to stop and be a Knight. Business does not stand like an abandoned gas works with an air of despondency saying ‘I could be great if you’d just treat me fairly’. Fair is the opportunity you make for yourself, you earn it.
As Roger Bannister said; ‘Every day in Africa a gazelle wakes up; it knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows that it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle. When the sun comes up, you better be running.’
Lions, Gazelles … who cares? We’re young, healthy and about to enter adulthood; time to pick up the lance, mount the horse and go to battle, united.
Happy Birthday F.E., here’s to the next 20 years.