2017: A year in FE

2017 A year in FE

We reflect on 2017 and some of the top headlines in FE over the last twelve months.


The year started with two FE principals featuring in the New Year Honours list: Mark Malcolmson at the City Lit being awarded a CBE and Mike Robbins from Bridgwater and Taunton College an OBE.

One of the big themes of 2017 of the year policy-wise was apprenticeships, with the launch of the Institute for Apprenticeships. According to Robert Halfon, minister for Apprenticeships and skills, the aim is to build, “an apprenticeships nation, which will give millions of people a ladder of opportunity to secure the job they want and deliver the skills our economy needs.” David Hughes responds to this strategy by calling for “fair funding for colleges”.

Theresa May continued to emphasise the government’s reform of technical education, promising £170 million to fund new Institutes of Technology as part of her “Modern Industrial Strategy” speech. By November it had become clear that this funding is available for collaborative partnerships between HE and FE providers to establish these “IoTs”.

Digital skills were also high on the agenda in 2017, with the publication of the government’s UK digital strategy. The annual BETT show, brought together educators, edtech start-ups and leading industry figures to celebrate all things technical in line with BETT’s commitment to fulfil educators' and learners' potential.

The spring budget also pledged increased spending with the introduction of T-levels, including a 50% increase in teaching hours, plus compulsory work placements.

This appeared to endorse the Sainsbury review, although it was criticised by some for being too focussed on 16-19 education, overlooking the potential for adult learners.

Amanda Spielman, as the new head of Ofsted, called for “a much more positive and purposeful relationship between Ofsted and the FE sector”.

The AoC launched its election manifesto, with two themes: sustaining economic growth and a fair and effective system, each with three recommendations.

Alison Birkenshaw was elected president of the AoC.


The general election allowed labour to put forward its own manifesto for FE, which featured pledges to boost careers advice, align funding for 16-18-year-olds across the sector and restore the Education Maintenance Allowance.

ETF launches Advanced Teacher Status to reward and recognise those practitioners with mastery in teaching, exemplary subject knowledge and a commitment to collaborative practice.

The Smith Review of post 16 maths was finally published with a wide range of recommendations, including one that the DfE should review both the current resit policy and qualification offer for learners aged 16-19.


Team UK returned from the World Skills in Abu Dhabi with a medal haul of 20, placing the UK 10th in the world, out of 59 countries.

The headlines from the autumn budget were the commitment of:

This is echoed by the subsequent publication of the government’s industrial strategy, which commits to spending "an additional £406 million in maths, digital and technical education, helping to address the shortage of science, technology, engineering and maths skills".

The careers strategy followed hard on its heels in December, with its key priorities which included:

  • Giving all young people first-hand experience of the workplace;
  • Providing an excellent programme of advice and guidance in schools and colleges
  • Personalising support for adults and young people alike

All in all a busy year for everyone involved in FE, with much to celebrate and much to consider as we move into 2018.

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