Breakout sessions

AoC Annual Conference & Exhibition

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Everything you need to know about college funding

Association of Colleges and Education and Skills Funding Agency

This year, the ever-popular AoC conference funding session will include updates from ESFA’s Peter Mucklow and Keith Smith plus AoC’s Julian Gravatt. The session will cover current and future funding issues in 16 to 18 education, apprenticeships and adult education with plenty of chances to ask questions.


Balancing business efficiency with support of the individual: Do both without compromise


Dynistics Active Dashboards enable you track college performance data right down to student level, receiving immediate indicators, such as a drop in attendance or performance, so that effective intervention can be implemented with enough time to influence change. Provide support where necessary, prevent early withdrawal, increase successful completion and protect against loss of funding. Over 70 UK colleges are already harnessing the potential of their data with Dynistics, join us and find out how.


Implementing radical transformational change to meet what learners really want

Portsmouth College

We asked 500 students to ” design your ideal college experience”. They said:

1) Timetable – Later start, no trapped time
2) Latest technology – excellent digital literacy skills using Ipads, for learning
3) Improved Entrepreneurial / Employability skills from meaningful annual work experience or social action placements.

So we innovated and implemented!  We can share our 4 years of learning on a 10 am start, 2 period day, learning with Ipads for ALL learners, Enterprise/Entrepreneurship programmes, and significantly improved enrolments, success rates, well being, and attendance.


Effective practices for teaching maths to post-16 learners


In this session we will explore how we can improve the teaching and delivery of maths for learners who have previously struggled in this area and have reached the age of 16 without a Maths GCSE at grade C/Level 4 or above.  We will review effective pedagogy plus innovative approaches and international good practice as well as how to enhance learner motivation and engagement.


Teaching Excellence Framework and college higher education

Association of Colleges and Department for Education

Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) is one of the most important aspects of the recent higher education (HE) policy reforms. TEF aims to recognise and reward excellence in teaching and learning, and help inform prospective students’ choices for higher education. Participation in TEF is voluntary and approximately fifty percent of the eligible English FECs took part in TEF year 2. This session will help inform senior college leaders about the design and implementation of TEF year 3, and the TEF subject level pilots.


Good practice in supporting students through transition to technical education

Association of Colleges and Department for Education

The Post-16 Skills Plan stated that T levels will start at levels two and three, but some young people will need further support to enable them to move on to a T level, apprenticeship or traineeship. This group of young people will join college from a variety of educational settings. Join this session with DfE and colleges ‎to hear about plans to date and research into this crucial stage of the college curriculum.


Successfully implementing the Prevent Duty

Bradford College

This session will share a practical approach in how to meet the key requirements of the Prevent duty so that the overall impact is the value this adds for students rather than just a tick in the ‘Ofsted’ or ‘legislation’ box. Strategies discussed will include making reasonable adjustments to existing policies, procedures and curriculum content as well as innovative approaches to promote cohesion and safety.


The journey to outstanding

Association of Colleges and Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education

Grimsby College and AoC (David Corke) will explain the college’s journey to outstanding over the short, medium and long term.


AoC Beacon Award winners – Continuous improvement in teaching and learning

AoC Charitable Trust

Delegates will engage in small group discussions with four of the 2016-17 AoC Beacon Award winners. They will hear a brief synopsis of the winning initiative, followed by how this has positively impacted students and the college as a whole. There will be opportunities to ask questions of the colleges. This session will see the following: practical teaching and practical learning; effective use of technology; SEND and sport in the curriculum.


Supporting ETF to co-create the leadership programme at Oxford Saïd Business School, chaired by Sir Frank McLoughlin

The Education and Training Foundation

By the end of December 100 Chief Executives/Principals will have completed the first module of the Strategic Leadership Programme.

This workshop gives you three opportunities:

  1. To hear a presentation from senior colleagues at Oxford Said Business School which will give an overview of the programme and an establishment of an Alumni community.
  2. To hear from a group of Principals/Chief Executives on their experience of the first module.
  3. To make an early input into the co-creation of the Preparing for Chief Executives/Principal programme. We hope to have appointed a delivery partner in early November.


Is your college adequately protecting your learners, staff and business assets from the evolving risks posed by cyber security?


Colleges have a duty of care to ensure that learners and staff are kept safe. Cyber security presents a real threat to unbalance the status-quo of business-as-usual, potentially causing major disruption with devastating consequences. Hear how your college is already benefitting from the cyber security protection provided by Jisc through the power of the Janet network, plus the vital steps you need to take to ensure you are defending your own organisation from a range of vulnerabilities.


National Colleges: A new breed?

National College for High Speed Rail

Five national colleges have been approved by government to respond to skills shortages within specific sectors. This session will outline the purpose and remit of the colleges, and crucially make a call for collaboration from other providers. It is an opportunity to identify how your institution, and your learners, can benefit from working with these new specialist providers in meeting the needs of these identified sectors.


Merger – Implementing the plan for transformational change

AoC Create

This interactive session will showcase a proven methodology to integrate operations post merger. Using a recent case study we will demonstrate how you can identify and target specific areas for improvement, upskill your staff and empower them to be an integral part of your improvement planning. The workshop will provide an opportunity for discussion and shared insights focusing on the main operational challenges and cultural integration issues.


Meeting the needs of part-time learners: Online and on campus

Mindful Education

This session focuses on the needs of part-time learners who increasingly want, need and expect to study flexibly when they come to college. Alongside identifying the key trends driving changes in expectation, there will be case studies of how Mindful Education and FE Colleges are partnering to meet the needs of learners, grow revenue and enable career development for those with busy work or life commitments.


Invest in teachers to prepare students for today’s working environment and the digital economy

Westminster Kingsway College (part of CCCG) and Northumberland College

In challenging times it is important our learners are equipped for life and working life. Find out how WKC (part of CCCG) embedded a coaching culture to drive TLA forward and create an appetite for learning. Hear how we also launched a TEL programme in order to upskill teachers and embed technology in the classroom in preparation for the digital economy.  Northumberland College will outline how using an online digital literacy self-assessment tool for teachers and supported online CPD modules is driving innovative use of technology in their college.


Apprenticeship matters – Transition, funding, delivery

Association of Colleges, Education and Skills Funding Agency, Department for Education and Institute for Apprenticeships

Update from ESFA/DfE/IfA on Apprenticeship policy and implementation, dealing with the key issues emerging, followed by Q&A opportunity and then (external to session) a surgery for specific support.


(I can’t get no) satisfaction: Improving staff satisfaction and morale in choppy waters

Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education

In a world of financial challenges, restructures and educational change hear how a large GFE turned the tide of negativity and significantly improved staff satisfaction rates helping it achieve a grade 1 Ofsted in 2017.


Higher Level (4 and 5) Technical Education and the Institutes of Technology

Association of Colleges and Department for Education

Following from the recommendations of the Sainsbury Panel and the publication of the Skills Plan, the Government aims to extend the technical education reforms to the highest level. There is a clear recognition that the uptake of level 4/5 qualifications has been low and a strong level 4/5 system offers a range of societal and economic benefits.

The proposed IoTs will present opportunities for FECs to work collaboratively to deliver higher level STEM education. This session will present an update from the government officials on higher level technical education and IoTs.


Crisis Management – Integrating a co-ordinated plan

Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Ltd

In response to risks and threats emerging in recent years having an integrated and co-ordinated Crisis Management Plan is on the agenda for Colleges.

This session will analyse and  assess the status and level of these emerging threats and contextualise them for Colleges and includes workshops with various risk scenarios and advices on how to achieve a robust and resilient plan.


AoC Beacon Award winners – Leadership and quality improvement

AoC Charitable Trust

Delegates will engage in small group discussions with four of the 2016-17 AoC Beacon Award winners. They will hear a brief synopsis of the winning initiative, followed by how this has positively impacted students and the college as a whole. There will be opportunities to ask questions of the colleges. This session will see the following: staff development; leadership and governance; development of transferable skills and widening participation in learning.


Mergers and transformations: Engaging with the Transaction Unit and banks


Tim Betts was seconded to the Department for Education and helped establish, and worked within, the Transaction Unit. While on secondment, and since returning to BDO, he has been involved in a large number of FE mergers and transformations. This workshop will share experiences to date, identifying best practice and why each case differs.


International delivery – It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it

Lincoln College Group

The session provides an opportunity to hear about Lincoln College Group’s approach to increasing international activity. We will explore how to create a compelling international strategy, setting realistic targets, examine barriers and pitfalls, and consider opportunities for the future. This session is aimed at helping to dispel myths and explore barriers for colleges that are considering international activity for the first time or those wishing to expand current provision.


Making work placements work

Association of Colleges and Department for Education

This session will provide delegates with an opportunity to hear from DfE officials regarding extended work placements as an integral part of T levels. There will also be an opportunity to hear from the organisation running the 2017/187 Work Placement Pilots, The Challenge, and one of the colleges involved about their experience implementing work placements to date – opportunities and challenges.


Student wellbeing and mental health

Association of Colleges, East Coast College, Hugh Baird College and Peterborough Regional College

This workshop addresses members’ ongoing concern about the increase of students experiencing mental health difficulties. The workshop will serve both to introduce the new AoC mental health resource pack and also to provide good practice case studies including: The creation of a cross college wellbeing strategy to support all students; good practice in providing support for students with low level mental health difficulties; specialist provision developed within a college for those with more acute mental health needs; and Peterborough Regional College’s creative, sustainable & innovative way to support positive mental wellbeing through, a national and college bespoke poetry/art/photography competition with the caption, “I feel better when I am .. . ”.


Towards outstanding teaching, learning and assessment in technical education

Association of Colleges, The Education and Training Foundation, Lakes College West Cumbria and South Devon College

AoC is leading an Education and Training Foundation funded programme in partnership with emfec exploring innovative approaches to the outstanding teaching, learning and assessment of technical knowledge and skills. This workshop includes two case studies: the first demonstrating how the National College for Nuclear is developing experiential learning as a key component in its STEM teaching practice, and the other by South Devon College on delivering an enhanced skills package in hair and beauty.


Fresh talent, fresh approach. Financial leadership for colleges for the 2020s (open to college attendees only)

AoC Create

Colleges face serious financial challenges including stiff competition for students, rising costs and limits on what they can borrow. It is hard to ensure colleges have financial leadership at a time they need it most. A panel involving AoC, principals and the Transaction Unit’s Matt Atkinson will discuss the issues colleges face; the approach that selection panels could take and the things that might attract people from other sectors to take up the challenge.


Inside the mind of your customer: How levy-paying employers are designing their programmes and how colleges can help


What are levy payers thinking about when they design their apprenticeship programmes? How can your college cut through the noise and make your value as a partner clear? Drawing on her experience of designing Pearson’s internal apprenticeships programme, Anne Ashworth will guide you through the HR / learning and development lead’s thought process; she’ll be joined by one of Pearson’s delivery partners for a training providers’ perspective.


Governance: Getting to ‘good’

New College Stamford

In 2015 governance was identified as a weakness in New College Stamford’s grade 3 Ofsted inspection. By reinspection in 2017 it had been transformed and was recognised as a key strength in the report. Actions taken included the renewal of the Board, the use of co-opted roles to bring in highly skilled specialists, and a seismic shift in the quality of reporting to governors. Perhaps uniquely, the role of student governors was expanded and redefined.


Curriculum in further education and skills (FES): Study programmes – CANCELLED



Supporting colleges to improve – The changing role of the FE Commissioner

Association of Colleges and Department for Education

In her July 6, 2017 speech to the British Chamber of Commerce’s Business and Education Summit, Secretary of State Justine Greening announced a number of initiatives related to quality improvement for the FE sector. These initiatives include the Strategic College Improvement Fund and the National Leaders of FE programme.

FE Commissioner, Richard Atkins CBE and David Corke, AoC will provide an overview of these initiatives and the expanded role of the FE commissioner and will be joined by a Deputy FE Commissioner and an Adviser for the Q and A.


AoC Beacon Award winners – Responsiveness, partnership and impact

AoC Charitable Trust

Delegates will engage in small group discussions with four of the 2016-17 AoC Beacon Award winners. They will hear a brief synopsis of the winning initiative, followed by how this has positively impacted students and the college as a whole. There will be opportunities to ask questions of the colleges. This session will see the following: engagement with employers; careers education and guidance; promotion and delivery of successful apprenticeships and college/school partnerships.


Translating and embedding your strategic vision to drive sustainability

AoC Create

Good ideas are never the problem, focusing resources on the areas that are most likely to deliver success is much harder.  The session will help to clarify and crystallise the tools and techniques required to clearly translate and embed your commercial strategic vision for your college.  We will also explore how to translate your commercial vision to both internal and external stakeholders, as well as considering the culture needed to see success in commercial ventures.


Planning for technical education reforms: A local approach

Department for Education and The Gatsby Charitable Foundation

Colleges in several localities are working with Combined Authorities/LEPs to implement technical education reforms. This session will hear about developing approaches to: • Using LMI to identify pathways in the 15 routes that align with local priorities • Establishing route teacher CPD networks • Building on work with employers. This will also be an opportunity to hear current DfE thinking and inform the department’s plans for implementing the technical education reforms.


Students with EHC plans – Solutions for better collaboration between colleges and local authorities

Association of Colleges and Department for Education

Providing quality provision and support for students with EHC plans who require High Needs Funding demands close collaboration between colleges and Local Authorities. However, this year in particular, many colleges are reporting difficulties in establishing an effective working relationship. Members of DfE SEND team and the High Needs section of ESFA will attend this session and hope to listen to colleges’ concerns and work together to try and find solutions which will ameliorate the current situation.


Delivering a transformation to reformed apprenticeships


Increasingly colleges will need to provide an essential transition from Frameworks to Trailblazer Apprenticeships and in the future new T-Levels in a way that will allow the learners and apprentices to match the needs of the employers. The session will identify what is needed and help colleges to start to explore how they can deliver this transition. Leeds College of Building and NOCN, a leading awarding and apprentice assessment organisation, will present this session.


Launching – The learner voice framework (LVF)


The LVF is a sector shaped and agreed framework to look at the effectiveness and quality of learner voice practice within learning organisations. Set within five simple principles – partnership, empowered learners, inclusive, valued and embedded, and being invested, strategic and sustainable – the framework supports a conversation to assess current practice and identify areas for organisational development and improvement. This workshop is the sector launch of this exciting initiative!


“So you think you know how to be an Accounting Officer?”

Principals’ Professional Council

At Incorporation, being designated the Accounting Officer seemed the symbol of new found freedom but also trepidation at being called before the PAC. But what does the role actually entail? What is the relationship with Governors in an optimal system of Governance? How can we re-magnetise our moral compass?


The art of merger

Nottingham College

Nottingham College was one of the first and largest recent mergers in the FE sector. The merger is based on employment led principles designed to get students into work and economic independence. Positioned to revolutionise the sector, Nottingham College is willing to share lessons learnt on the art of negotiating and planning for merger and in repositioning the philosophy of a college.


Intrinsic quality – The strategic embedding of maths and English for maximum success

Weston College

This workshop will provide Senior Managers and Leaders with an opportunity to consider how the whole maths and English agenda can be embedded on a journey to Outstanding. It will involve an initial analysis of the Weston College Group journey, and how curriculum areas can adapt approaches to fully meet the Government agenda. Managers will leave the session with a recognition that there is no singular methodology, rather a jigsawing of opportunities. Two perceptions will be put forward within the session i.e. that of the Quality Practitioner and of the Coordinator responsible for maths, English and Employability. The session will take into account the sheer diversity of curriculum in today’s FE agenda. It will therefore cover both FT&PT learners, Apprenticeships, and how to meet the needs of the employers.


A perfect storm: College mergers in difficult to control environments

Edinburgh College

Five years ago seismic political decisions in Scotland saw the creation of regional colleges and radical changes in policy for the sector. Edinburgh College found that the usual management approaches to change were not working: the chill wind of financial insecurity hit the college side on. Learn from Edinburgh’s experience about how identifying the right problems can fast track a college to recovery.


Topic one: English and maths: Is Government missing the trick? –

Since the English and maths condition of funding was made ‎mandatory in August 2014, colleges have seen huge growth in GCSE delivery. Despite a lot of hard work by college staff and students, this has not been matched by achievement. Year on year, 75% of 16 to 18-year-olds do not pass their GCSE resits. This is demoralising for young people and colleges. Colleges are supportive of the emphasis on improving English and maths skills, but GCSE is clearly not the appropriate qualification for the majority of young people, especially those who are on technical programmes.

Chair: Catherine Sezen, Senior Policy Manager, Association of Colleges
Geoff Barton, General Secretary, Association of School and College Leaders
Dr Alison Birkinshaw OBE, President, Association of Colleges and Principal, York College


Topic two: Is the current common inspection framework fit for the Skills Plan era?

Progression is what the current common inspection framework is all about. Many nominees argue that there are too many performance measures and they do not help evidence attainment or progression in technical, STEM-dominated or lower level-dominated provision. Putting aside the fact that inspectors are human and no inspection framework can ever be perfect, is the current inspection framework (and related accountability measures) fit for purpose when it comes to technical education? What inherent biases exist in the framework? What changes to the framework should Ofsted be considering for the future?

Chair: David Corke, Director of Education Policy, Association of Colleges
Paul Joyce, Deputy Director, FE & Skills, Ofsted
David Russell, Chief Executive, The Education and Training Foundation
Lowell Williams, Principal, Dudley College


Topic three: Brexit negotiations and what they mean for colleges

It is less than 18 months until the UK is due to leave the European Union. Despite five rounds of Brexit negotiations, the UK and EU are some way off a deal. Issues for colleges include the position of around several thousand members of staff, future education funding rules and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. Brexit may also require new approaches to the economy, employment and education.

Chair: Julian Gravatt, Deputy Chief Executive (Policy, Curriculum and Funding), Association of Colleges
Emma Meredith, International Director, Association of Colleges


Topic four: Apprenticeships: Is the new system working for all?

As the apprenticeship policy and funding reforms begin to become an operational reality, this session will consider some of the positive and negative impacts that are being seen, and how colleges are adapting to accommodate the realities of the new approach. Key areas of change, from college infrastructure and strategy, to problems in protracted and expensive contracting, the shift to 20% off the job teaching and the introduction of independent end point assessment, will all be on the table. The panel will also consider whether the recent significant drop in numbers is a transitional or systemic issue for FE.

Chair: Teresa Frith, Senior Policy Manager, Association of Colleges
Colin Booth OBE, Chief Executive and Principal, Leeds City College
Karen Redhead, Principal and Chief Executive, Derwentside College
Keith Smith, Director, Funding and Programmes, Education and Skills Funding Agency


Topic five: Prestige or prejudice: Should T levels be level 3 only?

The recently released guidance from the Department for Education on T levels identifies this qualification being offered at level 3.  Where does this leave the professions which currently have entry points at level 2 and the students who want to access employment at this level?  Should we, as a sector, be supporting T levels at level 3 only to improve the reputation and brand recognition of technical qualifications, or should we be lobbying to recognise equal recognition at level 2?

Chair: Kirsti Lord, Deputy Chief Executive (Member Services), Association of Colleges
Graham Razey, Principal, Canterbury College and East Kent College
Dr Lis Smith, Principal and Chief Executive, Preston’s College
Karen Spencer, Principal and Chief Executive, Harlow College


Topic six: Does the new A level curriculum hinder social mobility?

According to the 2017 report from the Social Mobility Commission, “The attainment gap between poorer children and their wealthier counterparts at 16 is as large as it was 20 years ago…there is currently no prospect of the gap between poor and wealthier children being eliminated at GCSE level or at ‘A’ level. This is totally unacceptable”. Will the current curriculum changes to pre and post 16 qualifications improve the life chances for all children or do you feel that they will further exacerbate the trends identified in the report?

Chair: Kim Clifford, Associate Director for Academic and Sixth Form Colleges, Association of Colleges
Steve Frampton MBE, Principal, Portsmouth College


Topic seven: How much of an issue is reputation?

Colleges have been hit harder by funding cuts than any other part of the education system and beset by countless policy changes over the last 20 years. Too many policy-makers don’t understand colleges and college leaders often feel their interests are over-looked.  The college voice feels weak compared with schools and universities and media coverage of colleges and college students is hard to come by. Can we address this through improving the reputation of colleges? If we can, what should we do about that?

Chair: David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges
Stephen Exley, FE Editor, TES
Sir Frank McLoughlin CBE, Associate Director of Leadership, The Education and Training Foundation


Topic eight: Collaboration or collision? Infrastructure and the skills gap

The Government’s National Infrastructure Plan outlines how over £100 billion will be invested in infrastructure by 2020-21.  Yet there continues to be a growing skills shortage in critical science, technology and engineering roles. Bodies including the Department of Transport and Heathrow Airport have set up groups to look at these issues. How can colleges be best placed to take advantage of the infrastructure changes and tackle the skills gap?

Chair: Piran Dhillon-Starkings, Head of Public Affairs, Association of Colleges
Poorvi Patel, Head of Employment and Skills, Heathrow Airport Ltd
Garry Phillips, Chief Executive, West London’s College

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