David Russell, CEO, Education and Training Foundation (ETF)

ETF's David Russell discusses how the 2019 General Election could impact FE practitioners

FE News catch up with Education and Training Foundation's CEO, David Russell at the SET (Society for Education and Training Foundation) 2019 conference. We chat with David about how the election could potentially impact the sector and practitioners.

These are uncertain times and depending on the outcome of the election and which Political party wins, or whether a potential coalition Government of multiple parties comes into power after the 12th December election, David explores what could this mean for the sector.

David chats through what he anticipates would remain as the delivery models after the dust has settled after the election.

More continuity than change, but also lots of possibility for positive change!

What the election could mean for practitioners: Thinking about ways forward for 2020 and how to deliver excellence.

It's a tricky question, isn't it? It looks like one of the most unpredictable elections we've ever had, so, it's quite speculative thinking what it might mean for FE policy. But let's have a go, cause it's always fun!

T Levels

Some things won't change. I think one of the big things that the ETF is focused on is T Levels and preparing the FE workforce to teach T Levels successfully. Now you can never be sure, but my money would be on T Levels continuing very strongly post-election, whatever happens.

The reason I say that is I think they have cross-party support. There will always be critiques and criticism about details of design, or details of implementation. But broadly, I think everyone's bought into the idea that a new high-status tech qualification is a good thing, as long as it's implemented sensitively, and carefully, and doesn't do any collateral damage along the way.

I think T Levels will probably stay whatever happens, and I think that momentum will continue.

Senior Leadership

Another thing I think I'll stay the same is there's a lot of focus just now on senior leadership, and the quality of senior leadership in the sector being sustained. So, there's anxiety about the succession planning.

Is there enough talent coming through to replace the leaders we have at the moment?

The job of running an institution in FE is just getting tougher and tougher, so I think that will remain a theme. The ETF will continue to do hopefully more and more work on leadership development.

English and maths resit policy

Other things more up for grabs: So English and maths, you know, the English and maths resit policy is very contested and quite controversial. Some people strongly support it, some people really don't like it at all, don't think it's the right policy.

I think that could change. I think if there were to be a change of government, it probably would change. But even if there isn't a change of government, it's possible that a new set of ministers might take a different view on it. So that's one to watch.


My own view on that is that one of the most damaging things that politicians can do is keep moving the goalposts, keep changing things. Quite often I would say you have to have quite a high bar to reach before you want to change something.

If you've put a lot of time and effort into changing something on the ground that affects tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of learners, you've got to be really sure that you have not just reason to change it, but you have something better to change it to.

This is the big thing. It's easy to criticise a policy, but you have to be clear that you have something better that you can move to without causing too much cost and dismay along the way.

So, a bit less policy change would be a good thing, from my perspective.

Lifelong Learning

Apart from that, there's lots of thinking about lifelong learning now coming out of the Labour Party, which is quite exciting.

I think lifelong learning is such a powerful concept. It ebbs and flows in terms of its political popularity, but I hope that it will come back very strongly, whatever happens in the election.

Often that's the way, one party might take up an idea, but then it becomes more mainstream again and everybody talks about it. So, I'm quite excited about the idea that lifelong learning might become more of a priority.

Lifelong learning, not just about retraining for when the economy changes, if we don't have the same supply of skilled and semi-skilled labour post-Brexit, but also lifelong learning in the sense of education, as well as retraining. I'm quite excited about that as well.

So, I think more continuity than change, but also lots of possibility for positive change!

David Russell, CEO, Education and Training Foundation (ETF)

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