UCU #cradletograve conference – what the FE delegates had to say

At today’s University and College Union conference on ‘Education from Cradle to Grave’, FE Week spoke to some of the FE delegates to find out how they felt about the event and which hot topics they were discussing.

Danyl Bartlett – South Essex College

There has been such a variety of opinions here. It’s nice to see people who have just come from all over the country with very different perspectives on the same issues and being able to share that in a to share that in an open space has been great.

I don’t think there needs to be a single message to today, I think it just needs to be about getting everyone together to hear how different branches of UCU are coping with some of the big changes that are happening in FE.

The FE model is changing. It’s becoming more client-led, as opposed to academically-led and I think that is damaging the students’ experience, but I also think it is damaging the morale of academics.

Anya Cook – Newcastle College

I really enjoyed what Jeremy Corbyn had to say on the purpose and function of FE. What I felt was missed was that he didn’t talk enough about the social impact that education can have.

He talked about access to FE for developing skills for developing higher level thinking skills and imagination, he didn’t address how FE is important to enable people to come out of their social situation. There wasn’t enough, for me, about the barriers.

Graham English – Canterbury College

I think there’s a very positive feeling about the importance of the FE sector here. It’s easy on the job, in the colleges, to be caught dealing with day-to-day problems rather than stepping back and taking a wide look at how important the sector is and what it can offer society.

I think there’s a lot of feelings and thoughts apparent here – that makes me realise that a lot can be achieved and that the sector is perhaps undervalued and misunderstood and not thought about often enough.

Hand hand-in-hand with that is a belief in the people and a belief in the communities that the college and FE provision serves, and that you can have a far better, fairer, more equal society that benefits all if you keep working with these professionals.

Trust the professionals to do their job and stop trying to do quick fixes that are aimed at offloading government responsibility, head kept in the sand, thinking that apprenticeships will solve all the problems, or new management will solve the problems. Listen to the research, listen to the front line and then invest accordingly, so that the sector really functions.

Ikram Ulhak– Bradford College

I came here just because of Mr Corbyn really. I really enjoyed his speech. He seems to have a proper vision for the education sector, as opposed to just saying things. I think he understands the real purpose of FE. It’s more than just apprenticeships, it’s more of a community so I was really happy to hear him acknowledge that.

This is my first conference – I am a lecturer – we don’t get to hear much about what the management do but we hear the issues in the classroom and we see that the students and their issues really do need to be taken more seriously, and the only people who really know are the teachers who are with them.

Even the immediate managers don’t always know. I think teachers and lecturers should have more say in how to deal with the situation. I have students at the moment that are having financial problems just getting to college. Just the travelling. I think the real issues nobody is talking about and at least in the union they do have some idea.

Keith Gould – City and Islington College

The atmosphere here today started off really well. Obviously Jeremy Corbyn was here right at the beginning and everyone was happy to have him here. Then in our breakout session there was some interesting debate about getting older people back into education who have been unemployed.

I’ve missed that they didn’t cover the internet revolution and how that is affecting things, because that is obviously an overriding topic.

But Jeremy Corbyn is totally with the vein of the sector for most people. At City and Islington we are one of the colleges that is merging with another large successful college [Westminster Kingsway College] so we are going to be a super college. I don’t know how it will affect me yet, but they have focused on how the identities of the two colleges will remain unique, there may not be a rebranding but we are merging – so who knows what will happen.

Lorraine Yuill – Kendal College

I really like that Jeremy Corbyn raised the issue of lifelong learners. He was saying that he really believed in lifelong learning and if we were all going to be working to pension age and later pensions that we might be retraining and need the opportunity to go in and out of education.

I think people here have been talking a lot and are asking about what it is like in each others’ universities and colleges. It’s my first conference and I’ve very much enjoyed it.

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