Call for Convenors for #ReimagineFE19

After three successful conferences, we are continuing to reimagine further education.

At #ReimagineFE, we are subverting what ‘centre stage’ means. Our focus is not on the people at the front, but the people in the seats: educators, leaders, and researchers. This year, our speakers will be not ‘keynotes’ but provocateurs, and when they stop speaking, the real work begins— this is where we need your contributions.

The theme for 2019 is #FESpeaks. We want to position #ReimagineFE at the heart of an ongoing programme across the rich diversity of the further education sector. This summer’s conference is part of a challenging, raw and much-needed conversation which unites our voices and brings us together in projects, discussions and networks.

The focus of the day remains the same: providing a space where FE practitioners can revitalise their thinking and work towards developing new visions for the sector. Working groups have always been the most important element of #ReimagineFE.


We are looking for educators, leaders, and researchers from all walks of FE life to volunteer as working group convenors at the #ReimagineFE conference on 2nd July at Birmingham City University. Whatever your current role, whatever FE context you work in, if you’re the sort of person who has ideas and energy about the future of FE, we want you to get involved.

We don’t expect convenors to have all the answers; what is required is curiosity and the ability to ask some key questions around a particular theme of interest to you and others in the sector. Colleagues in adult and community learning, prison education and third sector learning are particularly encouraged to get in touch.

Download our Call for Convenors for more information about the role and how to express your interest in it. Contact Suzanne Savage if you have any questions. Deadline is 20 January 2019.


Join the #ReimagineFE19 Steering Committee

We are casting our minds forward to the next conference with a Call for Expressions of Interest to join the #ReimagineFE Steering Committee. After 3 successful conferences, the time has come to turn over organisation of the next conference to the wider FE community. BCU are pleased to continue hosting and Suzanne Savage and Matt O’Leary will retain an executive role in coordinating the conference, but the vision and development rightly belong to those of you who are working in the further education sector.

With this in mind, we are calling for Expressions of Interest to join a new Steering Committee comprised of approximately 5-7 people. Click here to download information about responsibilities of the steering committee and instructions for expressing interest in joiningThe deadline is midnight on 7 October, 2018.

Extracts from Frank Coffield’s “Just suppose teaching and learning became the first priority…”

Less than 2 weeks to go! Final touches are being added to the conference brochure along with all the little details to help make your day at Reimagining Further Education enjoyable and productive.

In preparation for Frank Coffield’s opening address reflecting on the decade since he wrote Just suppose teaching and learning became the first priority, we have prepared a short extract as a taster. And for those who want more, here is the full text of Just suppose….

Remember to get special dietary requests to us by 19 June.

There are still a few bursaries left to support FE lecturers and leaders to attend, so please help us promote the conference by spreading the word to your wider professional networks. Twitter folk can use the hashtag #ReimagineFE18. Tickets can still be purchased here.

What are you most looking forward to at the conference?

Conference Schedule available; bursaries awarded

It’s less than three weeks until the Reimagining FE conference! There’s still time to get your tickets and to invite a colleague.

We’ve been busy designing the conference book and ordering lots of yummy things for arrival and lunch. The draft conference schedule is now available for you to download. Signage, name badges, wifi codes and other logistics are all being sorted so that you can have a great conference experience and focus on the real task of reimagining a further education sector where teaching and learning are at the heart.

We are delighted to have been able to fund bursaries to a wide range of further education colleagues to enable their participation on 27 June. If you missed the deadline but need a bursary, get in touch and we may still be able to support you.

Don’t forget to use the hashtag #ReimagineFE18 and help spread the word. Tweet and tell us what you are most looking forward to at Reimagining Further Education!

Teaching, Learning and Assessment is our core business, oh yes it is!

Jo Fletcher-Saxon and Brian Copper are Assistant Principals at Ashton Sixth Form College. They have sent along this taster for their upcoming keynote address at Reimagining Further Education on 27 June 2018 at Birmingham City University:


At Ashton Sixth Form College, everything that we do relates to how well teaching is designed, delivered and received. We actively promote Teaching, Learning and Assessment as our ‘core business’ and we have designed a series of approaches to help ensure every member of staff understands their connection to this, regardless of their role.

Of course, curriculum departments are front line in delivering Teaching and Learning, but we have also constructed support area self-assessment reports to enable those non-teaching teams to also consider the contribution they make to teaching and learning.

We (Brian and Jo) are currently redeveloping an aspect of the college’s professional development approach around research-informed and research-engaged practice, which includes a FE Research Meet conference, and this feels like an exciting move for the college. We are seeking to “bring teachers back in from the cold” (Coffield, 2008) and we will share more about this exciting project with you at the conference.

It’s thrilling to be invited to contribute to #ReimagineFE 2018.  We have been asked to share a “warts and all” view of how we, in our roles, strive to keep teaching and learning up front and centre.  And so we will! We will share with you our operational roles, our vision and our struggles and the pressures we work with and work through.  From boardroom politics to being at the “chalk face”, we’ll tell you how it is.

Decisions, decisions

Here is a flavour of some of the tensions we work with and decisions we are involved in making:

To academise or not?  Many of the time consuming conversations within the senior team and with governors  about this relate to college finances rather than teaching and learning.  It may make limited difference to the students’ day-to-day experiences at the college, but it will save a large amount of VAT which can be used to invest in teaching and learning– as well as put us in a network of educational institutions that can work collaboratively on teaching and learning improvement.

A new VLE?  It’s a significant cost set within the context of reductions in funding, so do we invest?  What impact does digital pedagogy truly have?  We have teaching staff who get outstanding results and make only limited use of the digital teaching and learning resources available.  We have staff who are leaders in the use of digital pedagogy and who also get results that beat national averages.  So do we invest even further whilst removing small courses and reducing the breadth of our curriculum to balance the books?  Sustain or remove Modern Foreign Language A levels or Dance courses?

Keeping teaching and learning up front and centre, continuously developing the institution’s “learning culture”, maximising the professionalism of staff, seeking to thrive in the context of so many external pressures, are our reason for being.

Jo Fletcher-Saxon and Brian Copper are two of the four Assistant Principals at Ashton Sixth Form College.  The college is in Greater Manchester and has around 2200 sixth form students on A level and Vocational programmes and enrols around 500 adult and HE students each year, including trainee teachers.    

As well as line managing a number of curriculum departments, Brian has responsibility for leading on teaching, learning and assessment strategy and works with the college’s Teaching and Learning team consisting of Teaching and Learning Mentors, the Learning Technologies Manager and the XL (High grades) Manager. Brian chairs the Teaching and Learning Steering Group on which Jo sits along with a number of staff and students.  Jo line manages a large vocational area for a proportion of the sixth form students but her main remit is Adult and Higher Education including education degree programmes and initial teacher training for primary, secondary and FE teachers.  Jo leads on teaching, learning and assessment strategy for the college’s adult and HE provision and works with Brian to ensure parity in approach and systems where possible. 

The T and L team lead on cross college professional development and support. In the last two academic years the team have been heavily involved in both quality improvement and quality assurance.


A taster from Frank Coffield

We are delighted that Professor Emeritus Frank Coffield will be a keynote speaker to open this year’s Reimagining Further Education conference on 27 June at BCU. He’s sent in the following taster to whet your whistle:

“My talk will consist of four halves.  In the first half I will look back at the origins of “Just suppose…“and explain how it came about.  In the second, I will say what I still agree with in that publication and what I now strongly disagree with.  In the third half, I will look back over the FE sector for the last 10 years since “Just suppose…” was published and try to assess where we are now and what advances may still be possible in such a hostile environment.  In the fourth and final half, I will update the conference with attempts to change Ofsted’s new Framework of Inspection.”

Tickets are going fast so don’t wait; get yours here. You can find more information about the conference and working groups at the conference website. Follow conference news on Twitter at #ReimagineFE18 and subscribe to further conference news by clicking on the Follow button on the right hand side of this page.


Governing Working Group added

Reimagining Further Education is pleased to announce the addition of a new Working Group to our 2018 conference: Governing. This group is specifically aimed at governors in FE Colleges, Sixth Form Colleges and other FE sector organisations. It will be led by Jill Westerman CBE, Principal of Norther College and recipient of this year’s TES Lifetime Achievement Award, and Colin Forrest, Governor at both Shipley and Northern Colleges and Visiting Research Fellow at Leeds Trinity University.

The legitimacy of governance in college providers is framed by the AoC’s Code of Good Governance for English Colleges. One of the ten principles within the code refers to the responsibility of governors to ‘foster exceptional teaching and learning’. It is possible, and indeed likely, that the many sector-wide challenges faced by governors and trustees have distanced them from the central purposes of their further education organisations, including this specific responsibility.

Governing bodies have a statutory responsibility for determining the mission, educational character, values and ethos of a college. The conference provides a timely opportunity to re-examine the positioning of teaching and learning within this responsibility and how this priority sits along the other 9 elements of the Code.
Strengthening an understanding of high quality teaching and learning at board level is crucial to changing governor behaviour.

Please take the time to invite your governors and trustees to join Reimagining Further Education for this unique opportunity to strengthen their understanding of high quality teaching and learning and their board level responsibilities in this key area.

Tickets for Reimagining Further Education, to be held on 27 June 2018 at Birmingham City University, can be purchased here:

Tickets Now on Sale!

Birmingham City University are pleased to announce that tickets are now on sale for the third Reimagining Further Education Conference on 27 June, 2018, with early bird discounts available. Please visit our booking site to take advantage of this low price.

When you book tickets you will be asked to select a single working group to attend for both the morning and afternoon sessions. Visit our Working Groups page on this website to help you decide which group is best for you. Tickets also include inspiring keynote speakers Frank Coffield, Ali Hadawi and Jo Fletcher-Saxon & Brian Copper. Lunch and refreshments throughout the day are included in the ticket price as well.

Help us promote this unique conference by using the hashtag #ReimagineFE18. If you edit any newsletters or have other ideas for publicity, we would love to hear about them as well.

We look forward to welcoming you to an exciting and inspirational conference which will contribute to the reprioritisation of teaching and learning in further education.

Working Groups Selected

After reviewing some exciting Expressions of Interest, we have chosen the working group themes for the 2018 Reimagining Further Education Conference. Tickets will be made available on or about 1 February, but in the meanwhile you can whet your whistle by going to our Working Groups page and sampling what’s on offer. Here’s a brief summary of the working groups below:

  • Leadership: Aimed at principals and CEOs of FE Colleges, Sixth Form Colleges, and Third Sector organisations.
    Conveners: TBC
  • Apprenticeships: Aimed at anyone involved with apprenticeship delivery and quality, as well as researchers.
    Conveners: Anne Haig Smith and Mara Simmons, both from Activate Learning
  • Research and Scholarly activity: Aimed at all individuals interested in research in the FE sector.
    Conveners: David Powell, University of Huddersfield and Sam Jones, Bedford College
  • Learning and CPD for Educators: Aimed at everyone interested in teacher professional learning.
    Conveners: Lynne Taylerson, Real Time Education, and Diana Tremayne, Leeds Beckett University
  • Equality and Diversity. Aimed at everyone in the FE and research community with a passion for E&D.
    Conveners: Vicky Meaby, Darlington Learning and Skills, and Claire Collins, cc Consultancy
  • Work-based Learning. Aimed at employer engagement and business development colleagues as well as researchers from FE/HE/ lifelong learning provision.
    Conveners: Paula Jones, NEU-ATL and Christopher Winch, Kings College London
  • Middle Managers. Aimed at middle managers throughout the FE.
    Conveners: Gary Husband, University of Stirling, and Catherine Lloyd, Bedford College

Deadline extended for Expressions of Interest

Due to popular demand, we have extended the deadline to Friday, 19 January 2018 for submitting Expressions of Interest to be a chair/discussant to lead a working goup in this year’s conference. We encourage you to read our guidance here and welcome your queries. While we’ve suggested some possible themes, we have already received very good submissions on additional themes, so please put on your creative hats and think about which areas of further education you would like to explore.

A note on the submissions: please do not get too hung up on the indicative count of 750 words. This is only to give you a rough idea of the level of detail we are looking for. In essence we want to know where you are coming from and where you think you could go with a working group.

Another tip is to remember this is a working group, not a teaching session. While we envision the chairs and/or discussants will have some input at the beginning of the morning session to set the scene, the bulk of time should be dedicated to the group finding solutions to the prioritisation of teaching and learning in the particular area of interest.

Lastly, remember that the working groups’ remit is to look forward and develop approaches which enable FE professionals to put teaching and learning first, rather than just rehashing all the factors that often prevent us from doing so.

Don’t be shy! If you are passionate about an area of Further Education but you’ve never done something like this, get in touch. We will support you throughout the process.