The second annual Sunday Times Education Festival was held at the much lauded Wellington College on the Surrey / Berkshire border at the weekend.

As we drove past the Maseratis, Porsches and Bentleys we realised that we had to drive on, a bit further to the delegates’ car park.

From an exhibitor’s point of view the conference wasn’t worth the money, but had I been a delegate, the reasonable £50 fee would have been well worth parting with. However, as a college stalwart, I was left wanting… there was little FE to be found

On the last day of the event, City & Guilds championed vocational education, they had sponsored a vocational training discussion; West Notts College principal, Asha Khemka and our own Jan Murray, education journalist were on the panel. In addition, there were two guys from CISCO, and the glamorous chair, Ty Goddard from the British Council for School Environments.

FE was not the middle, or Cinderella sector… it was the invisible sector.”

Speakers introduced themselves, and each had something valid and compelling to say, however with less than 20 delegates in the audience, who would hear?

FE is the most transformational education sector, but where was it? Over the course of the festival, debates and dialogue concerned only schools and universities. FE was not the middle, or Cinderella sector… it was the invisible sector.

The debate I visited was merely a ‘nod’ to vocational learning; it was frustrating for the panelists and those of us in the audience who had been starved of FE the whole weekend.

I tweeted throughout the discussion, and challenged the organisers to include FE properly in the event next year. We have now been asked to go back to them with ideas – so please let us know if you have any.

When the Sunday Times Education Festival comes around again please take notice, and for FE’s sake get involved; EMPRA and FE Week will be there, be good to see you there too!


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  1. Jonathan

    I work in a large multi campus college, one which not only sees to the needs of local employers but does so in a way that provides technical and professional education to thousands of satisfied graduands each year. In addition to the NVQ3s, BTEC ND/NC and A level provision the institution also delivers HND/C, grants foundation degrees and provides for franchise delivery of full degrees.

    Within the catchment area of my college there are two public schools, one offering new entrants a ‘Hogwwart’s Experience’ and the other, much written about, has a reputation for ball games.

    Every year these excellent institutions celebrate their pupils achievements at GCSE and A level (and rightly so).

    However, where are the post A level achievements? where are the Foundation Degrees? and how about that franchised degree offer?

    Our principle avers that we are a college of vocational education, I beg to differ.