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AoC London/RSC London Principals Seminar "Future Education" Event Report

16th October 2008
at The British Library

"an excellent event"
"extremely thought provoking"
"this event should have been made compulsory for all london principals"

Will Pickford and Sue Rimmer introducing the event

A half day seminar for London FE and 6th Form Principals

The main focus for this event was to provide an opportunity for college leaders to think about the step changes that we need to go through in developing innovative curricula and the appropriate pedagogy in order to be able to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The day was introduced by Will Pickford, Head of JISC RSC London and Sue Rimmer, Chair of AoC London region.

Introduction: The future of FE in context

David Collins, AoC President

David Collins, AOC President

David looked at some timelines in the technology cycle and compared it with changes in the education system. Whilst one has changed very quickly, the other has, on the whole, failed to keep up.

The FE system is used to responding to changes and is already well placed to be able to adapt to a fast changing external demand-led environment.

What is still lacking however is the ability for us to find a way of overcoming orgainisational cutural barriers.

View presentation.

Future Education delegates

Keynote presentation: Future Education

Professor Stephen Heppell delivers keynote presentation

Professor Stephen Heppell

Stephen's inspirational presentation painted a very interesting picture of the future and a very different and challenging education landscape.

Globalisation and technology present very real challenges for education, just as they have for other industries.

Whatever they will look like, we can be sure that FE Colleges will be very different places in 2020 and, to meet the challenge, we must start to become far more innovative.

Stephen has some key messages for the sector:

  1. Learning is at a crossroads.
  2. Panic - these changes are happening now so we can't afford to get left behind.
  3. People need space to be innovative. It is up to us as leaders to make sure they get it.

Workshop sessions:

Four workshop sessions, facilitated by the LSN (Learning and Skills Network) and JISC InfoNet allowed participants to explore some of the emerging themes of the day in greater detail.

1. Curriculum Design

Clare Killen, LSN

Facilitated by Clare Killen, LSN

The challenges of the 21st century call for innovative approaches to curriculum design.

We want:

  • a skills curriculum rather than a content curriculum 
  • diverse assessment methods to include project-based work
  • creative and agile learners with open minds not closed boxes
  • to unlearn some of our behaviors, patterns and current practice

Future learning should:

  • not be age bound
  • have an attainment focus and be credit based
  • have economic relevance and impact
  • be engaging and truly learner driven
  • prune the dead wood from the curriculum
  • ensure initial teacher training keeps pace with pedagogic developments

2. Technological Change

Anne Dennis, LSN

Facilitated by Anne Dennis, LSN

Technology has changed the way we learn, and the way in which we teach.

We want:

  • to exceed the expectations of our learners in their use of technology
  • to provide learners with the tools that they need
  • to be able to keep pace with technological change
  • to be innovative

Future learning should:

  • listen to and trust the learners
  • allow the learner to use the technology they are comfortable with
  • be prepared for accelerating technological change

3. Employer Engagement

Tim Etherton, LSN

Facilitated by Tim Etherton, LSN

The workshop focused on responding to the rule changes in Employer Engagement and the possible future model in light of the World Class Skills agenda and recent changes in Train to Gain.

London Needs:

  • to reach Micro SMEs, sensitive to limitations on time and resource
  • an increase in adult Initial Advice and Guidance addressing the likely rise in demand for adult learning: highly skilled re-training for the service sector, engaging the silver surfers
  • support here from regional  partnerships: Chambers/Business links/DWP/Skills Employment/Board/Federation of Small Businesses

Future learning should:

  • Deliver to SMEs and micro-SMEs: online, but recognising limited employer resources
  • try flexible approaches like secondments, loaning equipment to learners;
  • learn lessons from the last recession: the growth of self employment, micro businesses; change in demand for service industries, and remember colleges survived, it's not all bad news!

4. Learning Spaces

Facilitated by Jacquie Kelly, JISC InfoNet

FE new build and redevelopment projects are providing ideal opportunities for innovation but how far does what we are building now reflect the type of learning environment that will be needed in the future?

We want:

  • to articulate a vision for new learning spaces and communicate this to all stakeholders
  • time for experimentation and space to try out innovative spaces
  • to increase awareness among learners and teachers of different learning environments and how to behave in them
  • to work with learners' preferences (e.g. multi-tasking, social networking, multimedia).

Future learning should:

  • have buildings that work as collaborative spaces
  • be in attractive, flexible and agile spaces
  • provide community space


John Stone, director of the LSN, chairs the feedback session

John Stone, CEO, LSN

John summarised the workshop sessions, adding his observation that currently there's a funding model that works for classes that spend lots of time together.

At the moment, experimentation is at the periphery of the learning system and there needs to be a shift change to find a business model that help supports Colleges do this.

Final thoughts:

A huge thanks to all the presenters, facilitators and delegates for their contributions to what was a very interesting event. Certainly there was much food for thought that came out of the day. Change is happening, faster and faster, and FE Colleges are well positioned to be able to adapt.


William Pickford
Head of JISC RSC London

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