Implications for FE of the government response to the FELTAG report by Andy Clowe @A_Clowe

So what is the FELTAG report?In recent months you are likely to have heard about a report from a group called FELTAG and that the government recently provided their response to its recommendations. You may also have heard that this could have a significant impact on the way curriculum is delivered across the sector, especially in relation to the use of technology. That all sounds very interesting, but what does this actually mean? Hopefully this article can provide some context and a broader understanding of what the government has said and how that could impact on the sector. FELTAG stands for Further Education Learning Technology Action Group and was established by the government to “identify obstacles preventing further education providers taking full advantage of technology” (www.gov.uk). The group provided a report to the government with a range of recommendations “designed to remove these obstacles, and encourage the further education system towards the digital future expected by learners and employers” (www.gov.uk). In June the government provided their responses to those recommendations. Key government responses It is well worth taking the time to read the government response in full, but here I have attempted to extract and summarise those responses that are likely to have the greatest implications for the sector. It should help dispel some of the ‘scare stories’ that often follow a report of this nature and put some of the ‘marketing’ from various companies selling their wares into context.

  • In terms of Ofsted there will be no additional judgement within the Common Inspection Framework around the use of e-learning; instead there will be a greater focus on the use of technology within 3 existing areas (outcomes for learners; the effectiveness of teaching learning and assessment; the quality of leadership and management).

  • Funding and regulation will change to support online delivery, the key elements of which will be
    • Introduction of an online funding rate from 15/16, probably at a preferential rate.
    • From 14/15 organisations can begin recording the percentage of course online delivery within the ILR.
    • From 15/16 approved qualifications will be subject to a new business rule focussed on an online funding threshold
    • There is likely to be a focus on developing and promoting online delivery models for courses accessed by adults (this could include ESOL) and the unemployed. It is highly likely there will be a substantially more open and competitive market for the delivery of these courses.
    • GLH (guided learning hour) definitions will be revised to encourage online learning.
    • As a starting point, by 15/16, 10% of publically funded programmes to have a wholly online component, and this is planned to grow significantly over time.Please note this does not state that 10% of all courses must be wholly online or that all courses must have 10% online content. It is not even clear what “wholly online component” actually means at the moment.
    • LEP’s (Local Enterprise Partnerships) will have a focus on digital technology provision and support.
  • There will be a significant drive to develop the use of online and technology assisted assessment.
    • Regulatory barriers that inhibit the use of e-assessment will be removed or significantly reduced.
    • In some sectors there will be an expectation that up to 50% of all assessments are done through the use of technology.
    • Apprenticeship and Work Based Learning programmes will especially be expected to move towards this assessment model. With employers given greater engagement in the assessment process.

  • Organisations will be expected to support the Skills Development of staff.
    • Senior managers and governors will be expected to develop a deeper understanding of learning technology and the benefits it affords.
    • Organisations must allocate time to train and develop staff.
    • All staff must develop greater confidence and skills in using learning technology.
    • Qualifications and awards in the use of learning technologies will be developed for teachers.
    • Organisations will be expected to utilise learners as ‘Digital Champions’ or ‘Leaders’


Likely implications for organisations in the FE sector Having an understanding of some of the key elements of government thinking and the likely actions it will take is useful, but what might this actually mean for organisations?

  • There is no doubt that the government wants the sector to move towards a ‘blended’ delivery model where the use of e-learning and self-directed study plays and ever increasingly significant role. Although based on previous experience it would be pragmatic to take specified dates and targets for change with a slight pinch of salt, especially as there is a lack of clarity about issues such as:
    • How GLH definitions will change.
    • What terms such as ‘online component’ actually mean
    • The length of time it may take to draw up an implement any new business rule for an online funding threshold.
    • Identification of qualifications that will lend themselves to having an online component.
    • How a funding rate for online delivery will actually work

To look at these issues and a range of others there will be a number of ‘trailblazer’ deliverers, but whether that will be sufficient to facilitate the implementation of change at the speed indicated is debateable, but still distinctly possible.

  • Whether or not qualification structures, regulations or funding streams change in the timeframes indicated, organisations should still aim for as many funded qualifications as possible (and as soon as possible) to significantly enhance their use of e-learning and move towards a blended delivery model (where appropriate). Whilst the government recommendations don’t necessitate this (to such a degree), the potential benefits and the future proofing nature of such an approach would make it a prudent course of action.

  • From 15/16 be prepared for a growing number of qualifications to contain an ‘online’ delivery component. Although it is not clear whether they will be mandatory or optional components, it is sensible to anticipate they will be mandatory. 

  • Organisations must consider how online delivery is defined, tracked, recorded and reported for funding purposes.

  • Serious thought will need to be given to the learning resources that will be required to facilitate a ‘blended’ delivery model. Should organisations:
    • Embark on a process of high quality resource development using content authoring software? 
    • Pay for content to be delivered by 3rd party organisations?
    • Wait for awarding bodies to create the necessary resources?
    • Move towards a mobile enabled delivery model?
    • Hope they can find all they need for free on the internet?
    • Collaborate with others in the sector to develop resources?
    • Rethink the use of the VLE?
    • Rethink how they use social media?
    • Move towards a ‘flipped’ delivery model?

These are just some of the questions that will require consideration. What is clear is that putting web links, PowerPoint’s and Word documents on a VLE page is not going to be sufficient.

  • There is likely to be increased pressure on and incentives for organisations to deliver a greater volume of digital technology based qualifications.

  • Effective staff training and development is going to be essential, organisations will be expected to ensure they have a clear skills development strategy and that they provide sufficient resources and time for this to take place. It may be wise to ensure all teachers gain an accredited award or qualification in the use of learning technologies.

  • The use of assistive technologies is going to play an increasingly important role and organisations will need to ensure they fully understand the nature and benefits of these technologies, as well as plan for how best to exploit their full potential.

  • Be prepared to invest in the IT infrastructure and capacity to support the greater use of ‘blended learning’, the importance of this cannot be underestimated.

  • The use of technology for assessment purposes is going to be required to a greater and greater degree, so think about how this can start happening now. This is especially important in apprenticeship and WBL provision.
  • Organisations must look to use technology to engage employers in the assessment process. 

  • It is likely that the first significant shift towards greatly expanded ‘online’ delivery will in the areas of ESOL, Adult provision and courses for the unemployed. If organisations do not prepare for this they may find themselves unable to compete for the funding in a more open market.

  • Effective use of e-learning will be of ever increasing importance in Ofsted inspections.