New Bubbles March 2014 by Scott Reilly

Opening – Lynne Sedgemore – Chair of the 157 group

Conference opened by Chair Lynne Sedgemore, Chair of the 157 Group, who offered six takes on leadership:

  • Leaders are teabags: You never know how strong they are until they are in hot water.

  • Should be effective and reflective

  • Good followers make good leaders

  • Not necessarily having all the answers but being able to ask the right questions

  • Management – doing things right

  • Leadership – doing the right thing

Funding – it is as bad as it has ever been. How do we become more strategic? What are the right business models? What do you have to do? Elasticity, how does FE get that sexiness? Is entrepreneurship the answer? Gazelle would say yes!  Despite all these ups and downs, I love FE as much as I ever have after 35 years.

Matthew Coffey – Director for Learning and Skills – Ofsted

Discussed his own experience as having an excellent vocational education. Believes leadership is pivotal for successful FE providers although he recognises that things are particularly difficult at present. There are different demands vying for attention.

What you need to do – effectively lead!

13 of the grade one providers such as CITB, Seashell Trust, Walsall College etc. have shown how it’s done:

  • Leadership was central

  • A real sense of purpose was evident

  • Everyone knew which direction they were going

Performance measures are more and more about people. In the sector, progress is now critical to improve TLA but to also reduce long-term unemployment and find suitable career pathways. Providers must get the curriculum right (right student, right course anyone):

Matthew described how he has seen excellent examples of post 19 programmes. Used Swindon College as an example to high an ‘unrelenting drive’ towards improving TLA. Performance management is critical, as is the necessary support. The curriculum should be designed to support the community; it should be the highest quality it can be. What are the aims of your institution?

Where do Ofsted go? Matthew recognised the announcement by SMW of the same day in relation to Ofsted (in schools): longer inspections for poor providers; better sharing of good practice. Discussed launch of the consultation on the Sixth form grade. (read more here:

Matthew ended by asking delegates to explore why and how people are getting outstanding.

Toni Fazaeli – Chief Executive – The Institute for Learning

Discussed her 38 years in work and teaching and drew teacher perceptions of professionalism. Described the purpose of IFL: for the sector to have great teachers; teachers with Qtls; to have parity with other teachers; and to improve status of teachers in PCET.

Toni compared professionals in the sector with others professionals such as surgeons and accountants in relation to how they have developed their profession in the last 100 years. She suggested teaching had not changed as much by comparison but indicated that it has gone some way to catching up and changing in the last 15 years. The role is so wide-ranging; there is no fixed way of doing things. It is exciting, innovative but challenging.

Toni asked delegates to consider the sector in view of a PESTLE analysis to understand the complexities and challenge.

Discussed Dual professionalism: Expert in Subject / Expert in Pedagogy

Compared to 50 years ago, are we keeping up to date?  Highlighted the Big Data (  corridor in London. We need to find the curriculum to meet these new opportunities.

Another effect on the sector is the emergence of international research into the effectiveness of TLA, highlighted the University of York’s evidence base. (


Recognised the work of Hattie and Marzano

Highlighted the IFL’s partnership with University of Oxford – Fellowship and how this enables practitioners to develop a research methodology. “ Teachers should focus on their own research of TL&A, draw upon the research evidence.”

Toni questioned why there is a sense in teaching that there is no need for a teaching qualification. She highlighted that there is evidence of the correlation between poor observation grades and qualifications. Highlighted Thames College – should teaching be left to chance. about perceptions of the FE sector i.e. that you are not a real teacher if you teach in FE.

Toni ends by asking leaders to give teachers time to collaborate – CPD




Prof Helen Colley – University of Huddersfield

Started with a joke about a builder, FE Lecturer, Fe Manager, Poicy Maker… (I’ll explain in person)

Helen discussed her recent research into the value of what we do, (  drawing upon the work of Christophe Dejours (France, 2009, p37); themes included: public sector; new managerialism; and impact of policy. There were many problems in industry, Dejours spoke to the front line and reported this back to leaders to be faced with denial. Much policy was based upon economic reasoning with a complete loss of moral compass – the economization of industry. In relation to FE – What is the purpose? We need to raise the importance of value in the sector. Some people in our industry know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

Introduced the research work she was involved with in 2001 – 2005 ‘ Transforming Learning Cultures in Further Education: This was the largest ever research project in FE: £1m, fundamental was the approach that it was in FE and with FE practitioners. There was a rigorous evidence base where the focus was on processes as opposed to outcomes. The research was ignored – this rich research is still as relevant today as it was when produced. Also referenced Bailey – longitudinal study of pre-service trainees ( ) Fighting against loss of moral compass is a leadership challenge.

Highlighted the work of sociologist Juia Evetts on professionalism – having the capacity to say no to policy makers. How can we create values in FE?

I found these slides online which outlines Helen’s arguments: :/


Panel questions

To Matthew – With a 17.½% cut in funding, how does Ofsted view this world? (Principle of Doncaster College)

A. Official line is that Ofsted does not get involved in funding but what this will do is shine a light on career advice and guidance in schools. There needs to be a destination guidance measure. (Matthew Coffey) he wrote to the minister on this point.

Helen Colley highlighted a moral issue citing that 36% of NEET young people in this country have a L3 qualification. The moral issue is ‘who will get access to the service?’, and the sector needs to start shouting. Again reiterated the work of Christophe Dejours highlighting that he is a household name in France because of his stance against immoral, unethical policy. Good education costs money – Are we too polite in this country? Should we start shouting? Heckled slightly  – “more Q & A’s please, the panelists have made their presentations.”

Q.  Is a 45 minute graded observation an effective way to make a judgement about TL&A?

A. Matthew Coffey: Don’t you want recognition? We can’t make a judgement without seeing it. Other panel members contributed to the efficacy of OTL.

Q. Does vocational learning have a lower status than academic?

A. Toni Fazaeli: The Government were wrong to abolish mandatory teacher training. Helen Colley: HE researchers of FE are a dying breed.

Q. Is FE a production line?

A. Toni Fazaeli: The best governments worldwide leave the profession alone. Helen Colley drew comparison to her own experience of working in a production line and asked delegates if they had indeed worked on production lines; stating that it is boring. FE in her view was not a production line but a warehouse. Matthew Coffey described FE as part of an education journey.

Professor David Clutterbuck

Is FE too goal obsessed?

On his research into goals David revealed a true definition of a goal as a  ‘boundary’ or ‘limit’. SMART goals – What do they achieve? Not a lot. A bi-product is that they reduce attentiveness to opportunity.In businesses they fail, because they are too short term. They also invoke a lot of risk-taking, David likened these type of targets to climbing a mountain: it takes so much effort to get to near the summit but they can’t go any further because they are worn out, explained that Mount Everest is littered with dead bodies.

Another issue with short-term targets is that people cheat; they are extrinsic, not intrinsic, and focus on achievement as opposed to mastery goals. Only 25% of people are motivated by SMART goals. FE is not a linear system.

David dismissed the coaching culture that was prevalent in FE, mocking the GROW model as ‘Get Rich On Waffle’.

Goal setting is far more complicated than people perceive. What managers and leaders should be considering is: Why this Goal – Why now? Is it my goal? Stretch goals only work when two factors are present, namely momentum and resources available. Individuals and organisations should be asking what the purpose is. David finished by asking delegates what was the touchstone question for them and their organisation.


Lynne Sedgemore identified emerging themes of the morning so far as complexity, comedy and chaos.

Johnny Ball

Johnny highlighted some of his past work including his television work and more recently how he taught maths to 7000 people at a football stadium. He marvelled at Moocs and what is possible in this age.

Johnny split FE students into two categories: Successful lifelong learners who have achieved much or have good careers, they engage well with learning and want to learn new things; and those who desperately want to learn because if they don’t they won’t have a career or much of a  life. The second category are the ones the FE sector should be concentrating on, and argued it can be done. He highlighted the work of Gillian Coffey OBE

Johnny reinforced his point about the needs of FE students claiming many of the 17 & 18 year olds the sector is presented with are ‘damaged’ where some mental attitudes to maths are similar to a nine year old. FE is about turning people around where the first priority should be that of mentors to improve the confidence of these students. With adequate mentoring relationships, confidence will grow. Johnny discussed Leonardo Da Vinci and declared that he wrote backwards to annoy his teachers. He identified the secret to Da Vinci’s genius by claiming he “stole it,” and that nothing is original. There are no reasons for hang-ups, the students are damaged by the system. FE is the last chance saloon. Remember, we are only teaching students how to learn.


Panel Questions 2

Q. Should maths be taught embedded or discrete?

A. Johnny Ball explained that you can’t teach anything in a strict framework and used an atom bomb metaphor to make his point. Stephen Grix believes it should be integrated, “Ofsted pushing to do a GCSE is not right, it should be about functional skills,” and also argued for more on Moocs or Voocs (Vocational). Geoff Petty also agreed with embedding, cited Hattie by claiming that re-taking a year has a -0.7 effect size, FE should do it in a different way from school – embed.

Q. Is there a funding Crisis in FE?

A. Stephen Grix believes yes, identifying the reduction for 18 year olds, increased cost of teachers, revision of  NI employers contribution. Highlighted the increase in academies who are exempt from VAT – “Sixth Form are the losers.  It’ll be difficult from 2015 onwards but don’t be negative, it’s how you deal with it.” Helen Groves discussed the levers for change, which were inspection and funding.

Q. Are standards in FE falling?

A. Helen Groves: No! David Clutterbuck asked about the measure and highlighted that Adobe threw out performance appraisals. (Trevor Gordon) “Standards are not falling but teachers are stressed and overworked. Vocation education has been relient but there is a limit.”,  revealing a personal discussion with the minister where it was suggested that one of the problems is that FE does not have a lobby. The sector needs to be more cohesive. Lynne Sedgemore highlighted a 157 group experiment on lobbying. Julian Appleyard explained that more will move out of the mainstream, yes for VAT, but also to get into the tent. Lynne Sedgemore joked about how to this on the front page of the Daily Mail. Geoff Petty closed by stating that one of the problems is that there are few ministers experienced in FE.

Q. Is there a leadership crisis in FE?

A. Trevor Gordon says yes, claiming that for many CEO’s it’s all about ‘me’ and my OBE. David Clutterbuck argued that that exists in every sector, “people advance and they are not the right people”. David explained how people with narcissistic, sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies progress within organisations and destroy people by being self focussed. David describe real talent = having a cause where fake talent = self.

There was a general (somewhat grudging perhaps) respect for Ofsted which has ‘helped’ the sector.  Helen Colley felt the situation (for Principles) was akin to football managers who have a short time to get success. Helen indicated that for Principles, it was very much seen as managing a business. She believed it has been driven that way and the sector she be brave enough to resist this venture encouraged by lever such as policy. Power corrupts!


Slides are available in the pack in relation to the three afternoon sessions but key points.

Julian Appleyard

Julian discussed the progress made at his Sixth Form academy since getting the job in 2008 but will not cover the ‘how’ because there is no roadmap for building a successful college – just need everyone to buy into a dream. Ofted grade 1 with 80% HE progression, 90% first generation – that is the statistic he is most proud of. Not all plain sailing – there have been loads of problems. The main thing that has changed is the culture: High expectations permeate every area of the college. Come to our college and ask the cleaners about the culture.


Moral dimension – few processes “the ones we do have we do diligently.”

Refuse to accept low expectations.

Refusal to lose sleep over Ofsted – “focus on the levers that we can control.”

Funding crisis? Focus on ploughing through.

Be bold.

Discussed ‘Outside In’ approach vs ‘Inside Out’ approach “ We are an Inside Out college.”

Julian explained that during inset days they go around the estates of Rochdale speaking to young people. What drives them? What turns them on? What are their aspirations? Julian also discussed aspiration, specially from the households that when they tell parents they are dropping college they are then asked if they want chips with their tea. Someone needs to raise their aspirations. It is essential to get students into good habits – “He is not failing.” Need to get consistency in the culture. Grade every assignment A-E, not e.g. 19-25 etc.

The staff had to get the gig, cited Jim Collins “get the right people on the bus, get the wrong people off the bus, get people on the right seats,” link for more information:

Set the expectations from the off. Adopt a culture of accountability: not managers-leaders. Get the curriculum right. Have clarity of expectation. Put in the pastoral support, regular tutorial where students focus on weak areas. Communicate and celebrate.

Meet every week and focus on high expectations. Julian discussed a grade 3 observation of one of his staff members. The teacher was relatively new and was “plate spinning,” had set students homework but didn’t mark for 3 weeks. This was not acceptable. Students are assessed once a fortnight, e.g. past exam questions.

Test the target setting culture every day and work with staff regularly.


Get to know the community, the students, get a common language and have an achievement focus. Leadership – cynics need not apply. Have a positive focus and run the college for the students, not for the ease of the staff. Be prepared to dismantle any negative powerbase. Identify and empower the champions, the movers and shakers. Emasculate the cynics and explode the doom-monger myths.

Get students on the right course. Senior staff (middle leaders) interview the students. Allow change (first two week of the course).

Q.  What do you do in the first 10 weeks?

A. Fantastic lessons, inspire, engage: All students know the deal. Parents understand ALPS

Q. What if students don’t come along?

A. Not many don’t come along, it’s all about consistency; work with them, work with them, work with them. Manage that achievement, whether that be detention or a cup of coffee and a chat about what’s going on. Persuade, not dictate.

Be big on enrichment: enrichment fair twice a year. get employers involved to tell students as it is.

Julian ended by saying: GET THE RIGHT PEOPLE ON THE BUS!

Professor David Clutterbuck

Key question: How do the wrong people get to the top despite all the research available?

Does HR bling work? No!

HR talent identification based upon the size of your nose? No different than using some of the ‘bling’ analysis tools used by HR functions; they only use this to show they are doing something useful. What they are actually doing is preventing talent management. Organisations make it up, for example with competency frameworks. These have fatal flaws, built around compliment/compensators. David gave an example of a highly effective and successful prison governor who declared he had been diagnosed with Aspergers, spooked by this his employer re-evaluated job descriptions and eventually ousted him. They did not need to lose this highly effective and efficient employee, he was doing the job perfectly fine as he was.

David explained that identifying talent is complexed, 75% of promotions are mistakes. He dismissed the nine box grid: stating people only belong in boxes when they are dead. Talent pools stagnate – people designated as top talent expect promotion and get frustrated and demotivated if the promotion does not manifest quickly enough or their egos increase.  People identified as low talent become disenfranchised.

Research into 360 degree feedback has found it to be ineffectual: there is a built in bias towards ‘crap’ managers. He explained that no one was going to be honest with a sociopathic boss.

People work better when they have energy. Explained energy waves. How can we make people more energetic?

David returned to the subject of conversations: talk to colleagues, see what the fit is.

Referenced Daniel Kakneman; I presumed he meant Daniel Goleman but I think it is this one:

It is hard to measure these things, especially leadership. Encourage an internal dialogue: what’s my purpose? Employee’s dialogue: how much of the boss’s job you can take away (in a supportive and not a competitive way, I guess) David spoke about distributed leadership and how smaller informal teams that have energy and can demonstrate real talent. (Reading College champions, perhaps?) Leaders grow in responsibility; successful talent are already doing 60% of the job before they are promoted anyway. Organisations need to allow things to emerge naturally. They should have discussion with employees, challenge linear thinking; look at the different jobs and ask, how good is the fit. Have younger people or people lower down in the organisation to shadow the top team. Experiment with shadow leadership teams.

Q. What is the future of HR?

A. Not to control, enable lo have the necessary conversations with people in the organisation.


Helen Groves

Distinction between good and outstanding – it’s about fine tuning

Can’t ignore ofsted

Teaching is a process that should ensure the outcomes

Impact on learning and process – touchstone question:

So what, Does it impact on teaching learning and assessment and improving processes and outcomes?

Ask ourselves – What are our standards?

Providers should have a rigorous system of observation – you weigh your pig accurately

Discussed City College Coventry – wrongly assessed own quality of T&L

Colleges should have adjusted TL&A

Gcse not always a good indicator (in relation to IA)- tells you where they’ve been not where they are or going

What impact does the IA  have on T&L planning and delivery?

Helen gave an example of one inexperienced teacher who used a youtube video about cricket (in a historical context)- missed opportunities – didn’t marry IA with learning on offer.

Empower teachers – but it’s not all about them (teachers), it’s about students learning and progress.

Observers judgements (students experience) the impact should feed into the SAR.

It needs to be a truly embedded process – how does it fit to QA process?

Observation is important but T&L is more than a 50minute observation.

Direct link to intervention and the root of the problem.

Engender a culture of reflective practice- solution must come from the teacher.

Start to get a culture of continuous improvement.

Discussed upward quality cycle – culture of wanting to do better.

Middle managers can’t divorce quality of TLA and the supply of the solution (supply and demand chains)

Qualification important but focus on the process getting there.

Functional skills – a list of skills necessary for being successful beyond maths and English – Do staff consider development of functionality?

Need to articulate what outstanding looks like.

Conference Close


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