John Bingham: Education may be evolving every day but we still need the human touch

About 15 or 20 years ago, I remember a key person from the education sector talking confidently about how students in further education would, in the end, no longer go into colleges to be taught face-to-face but learn via technology using modems at home. All learning, he said, would be online. We now know this isn't the reality and is never likely to be because there is no substitute for human interface. Technology complements teaching – it doesn't replace it.

We have become far more sophisticated in our predictions of the future of further education. We no longer make rash generalisations and in regard to many areas, we can make thorough, meticulous forecasts about what lies in store for the sector. The direct result of this is that the future feels not scary but exciting. Many colleges have already taken great leaps into this future. More than that, they are shaping the future themselves.

The Association of College's (AoC) annual conference this year will address this topic, and I know that a range of people – from those at Government level to those at the frontline – will be embracing the issue wholeheartedly centre stage.

Among the biggest challenges for our sector in preparing for the future is becoming increasingly demand-led. Leitch outlined the need in his review and one of the things that the conference will explore is how we can do this. It's not good enough for employers – or indeed colleges – to prattle on about the issue and leave it at that. What are employers' demands? How can colleges best respond both now and in five years' time? It's not always as well defined as it should be. We need to be both visionary about it and also think more about the finer detail.

Our sector must never be accused of being introverted and, as such, the AoC has invited a variety of first class speakers from outside FE to speak at our conference. Bob Geldof has a unique perspective and with his dedicated focus on the world's future, his presence at this year's conference could not be more timely. I suspect that many others, including Jim Knight MP, will also inject dynamism into the conference and its focus.

The number of college principals speaking at this year's conference reveals both the breadth and strength of the passion that is felt towards preparing for the future within the sector itself. It also shows the abilities and intellectual base in FE, which is often ignored.

There is a huge number of exciting things going on that they will be talking about – from use of ICT to teaching enterprise to forging partnerships. We are getting better all the time at sharing good practice and I think the sheer quantity of conference seminars led by those at the frontline illustrates this well.

It seems to me that we are also focusing on diversity this year. Among the seminar topics are a look at what the FE sector is doing Down Under while another looks at how students and staff of all faiths can work together. These issues are key if we are to keep up our reputation as being a socially inclusive sector of education.

I want delegates to leave this year's conference with a reinforced view of the AoC and the importance we have in working for them on behalf of the sector. Above and beyond this, I want people to go away with refreshed sense of vibrancy about FE not only for today but for tomorrow. And perhaps most importantly, I want them to go away having enjoyed it.

John Bingham is Chair of the board of the Association of Colleges

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
books...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Romelu Lukaku scored twice to add to the hat-trick he registered in the first leg in Switzerland
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

WORLDbytes: Two-Day Intensive Camera training and Shoot: Saturday 7th & Sunday 8th March

expenses on shoots: WORLDbytes: Volunteering with a media based charity,for a ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 4 Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: A school in Tameside is currently l...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 - £70 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Tradewind are currently looking for ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Advisor - OTE £30,000

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower