For the past 25 years, the Association of Colleges (@AoC_info) has been organising the annual Beacon Awards. A recognition and showcase of innovative practice in further education (FE), the Awards have become a regular and vital measure of success in the UK’s FE sector. As a long-term AoC partner, Edge has been proudly sponsoring the Edge Beacon Award for Excellence in Real World Learning since 2005.

Having been involved with the Awards since 2007, they have undoubtedly become the highlight of my year. It’s such a privilege to visit the shortlisted colleges, to see innovation in action, and to meet the staff, students, employers and stakeholders who bring these initiatives to life. It’s also a salient reminder of the importance of the continuing work that Edge does in advocating for real world learning in education.

But beyond the recognition that an award brings, what are the longer-term impacts?

Driven by evidence – as we always are – this is a natural question for Edge. It’s also why, in conjunction with the AoC, we’ve just published a review of past winners of the Edge-sponsored AoC Beacon Award. This is not simply a research piece. It’s an evidence-base of tangible rewards that should encourage colleges who have never applied before to consider taking part this year.

The most prominent finding in our research was that winning an Award raises college profiles, both across the FE sector and in local communities. Past winners all welcomed their win as an opportunity to celebrate and showcase the hard work of staff and students. As one course tutor put it, winning the award has “taken vocational education to higher-status.”

We also found an increased sense of pride in staff and students. Interviewees (primarily course leads and tutors) said they were proud that their initiative had won. Their students were also happy to be on a course that was so highly regarded. In some cases, this strength of feeling even extended to students applying to the courses. Seeing these initiatives in action, I can vouch that this sense of pride is well deserved!

Besides prestige, there were also more tangible benefits. For instance, the research found that winning an Award improves staff motivation. Staff at winning colleges felt responsible for maintaining the high standards of their work. They even wished to evolve their real world learning initiatives with new and creative teaching strategies. As one course lead explained, after winning, “we needed to continue proving why what we were doing was innovative; that meant [putting] more work into the initiative.” 

The most substantial finding, however, was that winning an Edge Beacon Award attracts fresh industry and employer links. Research participants all cited increased stakeholder engagement. This is clear testament to the fact that winning goes beyond mere recognition of achievement – an award can actively lead to the expansion of real world learning initiatives, providing improved opportunities and outcomes for staff and learners alike. A case in point: at one college, the enthusiasm from large employers was so significant they had to create an entirely new role – a practical instructor to support the link between academic and real world learning.

Naturally, as winners, the colleges we interviewed had generally positive experiences. It was therefore important not to overlook any lessons learned. In this respect, two primary threads emerged. Firstly, an award highlighted the importance of continuing to develop the winning initiative. Increased scrutiny and a desire to keep initiatives running at a high standard demonstrate that innovation does not stand still. It is an ongoing cycle requiring continuous dedication.

Secondly, winning an award led to an increased need for staff professional development. Time management was a core challenge; after winning, staff members needed training to maintain their industry knowledge and to learn about new equipment, etc. While industry professional development opportunities improved as a result of winning, additional resources and support are necessary to maintain and develop initiatives over time. 

However, for me, the main takeaway from the research is that an Edge Beacon Award is not merely a recognition of achievement. It is a powerful means of publicising excellence in FE. For the vast majority of past winners, initiatives have continued to develop and evolve, producing new opportunities for students, staff and the college community at large.

Having seen the winning initiatives firsthand, the research has only strengthened my conviction in the value of the Beacon Awards and Edge’s sponsorship. But I know there are diamonds in the rough out there – innovative colleges across the UK who have never considered applying for an award. I sincerely hope this research will encourage them to think about drafting an application this year. As our report shows, the rewards are ripe for the picking… but you’ve got to be in it to win it!

Jane Samuels is Director of Projects and Operations at the Edge Foundation and a sponsor assessor at the AoCs’ Beacon Awards.

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Advertisers

Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

London Tech Week 2021

LIVE: DCMS Secretary of State Nadine Dorries makes her keynote speech at the Global Leaders Innovation Summit to kick start this year's London Tech...

AELP Webinar Team added a new event 2 hours

What inspectors will be looking for when they inspect your...

Overview Prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, it would be fair to say that Ofsted rarely focused in detail on any part of a provider’s...

  • Tuesday, 12 October 2021 10:00 AM
  • Online
FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 2 hours 46 minutes ago

RT @C3SignsUK: Student shows mettle in designing #sculpture for #steel giant's 125th anniversary https://t.co/1GaAfkLXTg via @FENews
View Original Tweet

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.

Podcasts

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.

Events

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