New Year Message from David Gallagher, CEO at NCFE: Shaping Smarter Learning in 2023
Last year was unprecedented in many ways. Top of the list being the deep and continuing impact of the cost-of-living crisis. Whether it’s our homes, workplaces, businesses or educational institutions, there’s been no escaping the hardships everyone has faced.
Yet unprecedented seems to have become the new precedented. It’s been inspiring to see how resilient people are when faced with often overwhelming difficulties. From colleagues to customers, educators to learners, people have found ways to still achieve their goals, and support themselves and others to progress in work and life.
With a new year ahead of us, some of those challenges will undoubtedly continue. At NCFE, it's our mission to ensure no learner is left behind – but we know that those already disadvantaged often suffer most in times of hardship. We must continue to support schools, colleges, and providers to find ways to help those who are most at risk or disadvantaged, which we will do through our partnerships with programmes such as Good for Me Good for FE and the Centres of Excellence with World Skills UK.
We believe that when it comes to driving change in education and beyond, movements needs collaborators, and that’s why we will continue to work with a large network of partners to make a positive social impact. Our ongoing quarterly forum of College Leaders will be a crucial vehicle for this, as will our continued research and thought pieces in partnership with the Association of Colleges, via our Research Further and Think Further collaborations.
This year also brings a significant milestone for NCFE as it marks its 175th anniversary. We have reimagined our organisation many times over our rich history, and as we embark on the next phase of our evolution, we will continue to be centred on making a difference for those who matter most – our beneficiaries.
We will of course be celebrating this huge achievement later in 2023, and I want to thank every individual and organisation that has been a part of making NCFE the oldest awarding organisation in the UK.
While it’s right that we look to the past, it’s also important that we lay the foundations for the next 175 years as well. With that in mind, there are several key areas where we will be looking to make an impact in the months ahead.
NCFE has a long history in delivering excellent qualifications and assessments. Each year, hundreds of thousands of learners succeed and progress into their chosen next steps with the help of our qualifications.
T Levels are new qualifications and last year we were delighted to see the first cohort of completing students (in Education and Childcare) achieve and move on to higher education and employment.
The qualifications have also brought with them some unexpected challenges that we are determined to overcome. We have always been and will continue to be committed to delivering high quality products, driving change in education, listening to, and learning from, feedback, and creating positive outcomes.
NCFE remains committed to T Levels and their role as a flagship qualification, with the potential to revolutionise technical education and change the lives of young people across this country. Ensuring T Levels are successful and effective qualifications, remains a top area of focus in 2023, working alongside other awarding organisations, IfATE, and the Department for Education (DfE), to ensure some of those initial challenges are resolved.
Aspiration Awards return
At the end of January, nominations for our sixth Aspiration Awards will open. We’ll once again be honouring the success of learners, apprentices, educators, support staff and educational organisations across the UK.
The awards grow each year and we’re expecting another record-breaking number of entries, especially with the addition of new categories. Nominations open on 30 January, and you can have a look at some of last year’s amazing winners.
NCFE learner and Aspiration Award winner Juwairia Junaid wins Learner of the Year at the FAB 2022 Awards
National Apprenticeship Week
We’re looking forward to another exciting National Apprenticeship Week in February, including the first-ever day focused on T Levels, where we’ll be joining the celebrations across the country to raise the profile of apprentices. After being named End-point Assessment Organisation of the Year at the FAB Awards 2022, we’re excited to build on that success this year.
Watch out for some fantastic apprentice stories and inspirational debate around how we can ensure apprenticeships remain a viable and successful pathway for learners of all ages, as well as employers and our providers. We’ll also be teaming up with FE News during the week for a one-off live show that’s being driven by current apprentices.
National Centre for Family Learning
Having only opened to members late last year, the National Centre for Family Learning, a free association for professionals working with families in any learning context created by Campaign for Learning, already has more than 228 professionals and practitioners signed up who work with over 66,000 families each year. I’m incredibly pleased that NCFE is supporting this historic movement and I would encourage others to get involved and do the same.
A connected and vibrant family learning sector benefits everyone. Whether that’s from a funding or policy perspective, or just simply by enabling fellow practitioners and professionals to exchange ideas, learn, and be inspired by one another.
Welcoming new friends
You’ll have seen news of NCFE’s acquisition of fellow Awarding Organisation Active IQ towards the end of last year. In 2023, we’re looking forward to working with our new colleagues, continuing to deliver exceptional customer service and high-quality, transformational learning experiences largely across the active leisure sector in which they specialise.
Through our strong combined portfolio, I believe we can better service a broader range of learners and fulfil current and future skills needs.
Driving change in education
This year, our impactful Centre of Excellence with World Skills UK will enter its third year, ensuring we continue to embed excellence into teaching technical education. Our Assessment Innovation Fund will also open again for its fifth funding window, with some of the original pilots ending in the coming months and findings to be released.
We will see further outcomes and impacts from the Research Further scholars and more high-quality pieces from Think Further raising important debate – both initiatives in partnership with the Association of Colleges. We also look forward to continuing to work with the Greater Manchester Learning Provider Network, particularly during National Apprenticeship Week, as we look to shine a light on neurodiversity within apprenticeships and increase opportunities for autistic learners.
Finally, we hope that Good for Me Good for FE will continue to reach new heights, having already surpassed its initial target of generating over £1m of social value. These are all examples of how amazing things happen when we work together.
This year will be no different, and we’re as committed as ever to our partnerships that are driving impactful improvements in education.
As you can see, there are plenty of things to look forward to and, I’m sure, more challenges we’re yet to face. As we embark on a new year, I want to take this moment to thank everyone who makes NCFE the organisation it is today. Here’s to another interesting and rewarding 12 months ahead.
Chief Executive, NCFE