The present and future of education is being rigorously debated this week at the Association of College’s three day Annual Conference and Exhibition, and many big names are present to deliver their influential take on the sector.
Keynote speeches are being delivered by such luminaries as Business Secretary Vince Cable and Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt – with even a contribution from actor and comedian Alan Davies – and topics examined over three days include financial restraints, the reform of qualifications and the curriculum, and the skills needs of the modern economy.
But of equal importance are the issues being raised by Further Education providers – the country’s colleges, sixth form colleges, training providers and others – of which three areas stand out.
They are their ability to meet Government demands to deliver half of all content from publicly-funded courses online by 2017/18, the potency of vocational qualifications, and the embedding of maths and English into apprenticeship frameworks. Although just a sample of the issues facing FE institutions, they represent important areas reflective of education’s current, progressive direction.
Learning Curve Group, England’s largest education subcontract partner - which has an exhibition stand and delegates here in Birmingham and which will celebrate 10 years in business during the conference with a corporate dinner for colleagues from the FE sector with whom we have shared the past ten years’ success.
As market leaders in online learning, we produce high-quality courses for Flexible Learning and have developed the hi-tech assessment and teaching platforms e-Assessor and Learning@College - making great strides in ensuring education is more accessible to all.
In the past year our tutors have assessed around 25,000 learners through e-Assessor and the same number through Learning@College, a figure expected to hit 50,000 next year.
These technologies represent important new ways of learning and are helping us contribute to the demand to increase in online learning.
Likewise, rapid developments are taking place within the vocational skills arena, which until recently was a minor partner to the drive for academic qualifications but where the Government is now making strong advances, prompted by employer demands, to close a skills gap in a number of sectors.
Here, LCG’s experience runs deep and we feel assured of this strategy. It is one we currently support through programmes which provide around 90,000 people a year in work with better skills and qualifications, and also through our Skill Centres, where qualifications in construction, car mechanics and other trade skills are gained.
Meanwhile, we have also confirmed the importance of English and maths to our learners by embedding English into some of our qualifications and extending it to others, and developing maths as a stand-alone qualification.
Proper discussion of these important issues, and many others, is ensuring the conference is proving of high value in outlining education’s likely future course.
Brenda McLeish is group managing director of Learning Curve. Find out more at www.learningcurvegroup.co.uk