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In this week’s Tes Further: Why distance learning needs to adapt to survive

Also: Institutes of Technology – just another Fake Policy? (click on the pictures to be taken to the stories)

Rethinking distance learning

In today’s Tes Further, Steve Nash, director of marketing and E-commerce at the Open Study College, writes that distance learning has got to fight to improve a reputation which has been “blackened” by rogue providers not delivering on promises. Nash’s college has recently undertaken a major “360-degree” review of what it was doing well, and the areas where it could improve – and he recommends that others do the same.

“The only way distance learning colleges can overcome these challenges is to meet them head on,” Nash writes, “which means making some drastic changes to how you prepare and deliver course content, support your students and manage your reputation to help drive a positive future for your college.”


This week, FErret mulls over the mythical Institutes of Technology. It’s been two years since the organisations were announced, and it’s fair to say that no one really knows what they will actually look like. According to The Skills Plan they are “likely to build on infrastructure that already exists but will have its own independent identity” – right-o. Though more details are expected  to be released “later this year”, FErret can’t help but wonder if the legendary institutes are a ‘Fake Policy’, designed by the government to distract us from its assaults on the sector…

Learning in tandem

Learning is a partnership; a tandem ride between teacher and learner, writes English teacher and Tes columnist Tom Starkey. Starkey says that in his profession he is “not one for doing all the pedalling when the bugger behind me has their feet up”, and shared responsibility for learning is something he will try desperately to promote in his classrooms. Although it’s hard, Starkey writes, to see some students realise that their actions (or lack of them) will have an effect on their achievements, “what I really want is to stand proudly beside my learners, not behind them, propping them up”.


Mark Malcomson, principle and CEO of City Lit, writes that adult education providers “have a huge role to play” in opening up opportunities for career rejuvenation in later life. “The opportunity to upskill should be available not just to older workers, but also to workers at all stages of their careers,” Malcomson says. And with the UK’s changing demographic profile, the rapid pace of technological change, and a trend towards flexible working patterns, adult education is not just a “nice to have” sector – “but an economic necessity driven by whole professions and careers disappearing”.

Traineeships investigation

This year, the number of young people embarking on a traineeship fell for the first time – by 5 per cent between August and January compared with the same period last year. Tes reporter Will Martin tries to find out why.

He discovers that the problems are manifold – from providers experiencing difficulties securing funding, to restrictive rules on benefits for trainees. This means that many potential students are being deterred from the programme, and many providers are refusing to deliver it at all.

A work in progress

FE editor Stephen Exley says that it’s no wonder the modest number of trainee enrollments is already dropping. From a lack of secure funding for providers and the prospect of losing benefits for potential learners, Exley writes that unless the next government gives traineeships the attention needed, “plenty more young people could end up watching breakfast TV instead of setting off to work”.

All this and much, much more in this week’s Tes Further

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