Tom Bewick, Chief Executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB)

#Coronavirus represents the biggest threat to our way of life since the dark days of 1940. Eighty years ago, Britain stood alone against a tyranny of humankind.

Today, the enemy is invisible. No bombs, mercifully, are dropping on our cities. But the world’s economies are being laid waste by the kind of restrictions that even wartime planners would find draconian.

To beat Covid-19, people are being told to stay at home. Pubs, clubs and restaurants are closing down. Our external borders are being sealed.

Schools and colleges have been ordered to close their doors, except for the children of key workers and the vulnerable.

The Sheer Grit of Human Ingenuity

What a contrast then to the Blitz: our children were spirited away to safety where their education largely continued. Public transport kept going. That stiff upper lip, which has characterised the British psyche for centuries, was combined with the brilliant leadership skills of what we now call the Great Generation.

It is worth remembering that it was this wartime generation that educated many of today’s political leaders. In my school days in the 1970s, we were taught by teachers that had seen action on D-Day and codebreakers who had worked at Bletchley Park. They inspired us to think that there was no problem too difficult that could not be defeated by the sheer grit of human ingenuity. We were taught to do our patriotic duty.

People often quote the great Winston Churchill when he said: “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”

But what historians will tell you about this period was actually how reliant Churchill was on the people around him. He brought into his inner circle political friends and foes alike. Learning from earlier military mistakes, he came to place more trust in his generals and he left a lot of the detailed planning to trusted ministers and talented civil servants who were empowered to get on and respond quickly to an urgent situation.

In short, the wartime government was “in command and out of control.”

Devolving decision-making to front-line personnel

Readers of Malcolm Gladwell’s "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference"  will recognise this phrase.

It refers to the actions of an American army general, Paul Van Riper. During a Pentagon war gaming exercise, Van Riper found fame in adopting highly unusual management techniques. Instead of developing a top-down-command and control structure to beat his adversary, he devolved decision-making to front-line personnel. They were encouraged to use whatever techniques that would assist in beating a superior enemy. The Pentagon big-wigs, meanwhile, were constantly calling in decisions. The sheer overload of information from the front lines meant they were overwhelmed with information. Because the information was out of context, it rendered effective decision-making useless. Van Riper and his unconventional forces triumphed over the received wisdom.

This is one of the biggest lessons ministers at the Department for Education should be learning right now. The traditional decision-making tree has to be temporarily uprooted.

Sector leaders need to be given the additional tools to step up and lead. But crucially, ministers have to trust and empower those sector leaders to do their jobs in unprecedented times. Calling in too many decisions is not going to help.

It is like dealing with a traffic jam by calling for more people to get in their cars and head to the same area. All it does is make the queues even longer and, worse, snarls-up the decision-chain even further. As a result morale in the sector plummets and people start to get angry.

The Sheer Scale of the Challenge That is Unfolding

To be fair, hard-working officials have gone into overdrive to produce coronavirus guidance and contingency plans. But these plans need to be published rapidly.

They won’t always be right. But far better to make some mistakes in the sort-term than make the perfect the enemy of the good.

Compared to the early days of this crisis it is admirable that ministers and senior officials do now appear to be waking up to the sheer scale of the challenge that is unfolding. To be in command is not the same as being in control.

I would really encourage Gavin Williamson and Gillian Keegan to take this message on board. But equally, now is not the time to spread around anger. It is time for all of us in the sector to stay calm and pull together.

Tom Bewick, Chief Executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB)

Tom Bewick Newsroom Strap

Subscribe to the #SkillsWorld podcast series or visit the #SkillsWorld Newsroom on FE News to keep up to date with Tom's latest quest into the Skills World.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Community Connected Learning #EdgyThinking Livestream 4

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

What do we see? - how the world looks to vision...

A new video, just launched by Thomas Pocklington Trust (@TPTgeneral), simulates how the world to children and young people with vision impairment....

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page