Creating a culture of positive wellbeing in the Further Education sector

Professor Stephen Corbett of the University of Portsmouth reflects on work he has led on behalf of the Education and Training Foundation helping leaders to think about wellbeing in change in the FE sector.

In recent years there has been an injection of funding into the Further Education (FE) sector.

Unfortunately, it is not necessarily sufficient to address the decades of challenges created by under-funding the sector has faced. Nor is it necessarily the solution to the issues of wellbeing faced by the FE workforce.

We each know the challenges faced in the FE sector. Over several decades there has been a perfect storm of perpetual reductions in real terms funding and frequent policy change; both of which are coupled with expectation on all providers and their teams to enhance the standards of student experience and outcomes.

In this context you would be forgiven for challenging anyone who queries why enabling a positive sense of wellbeing in the Further Education workforce is considered a significant challenge. Addressing this challenge will take time, but it also requires action.

Action is required by all stakeholders; policy makers, institutional leaders and each of us working in the sector. Policy makers need to be mindful of the real challenges experienced by those working in further education so as to support sectoral culture change with regard to wellbeing. Those working in institutions, whether it be management or operational roles, need to consider ways that well-being can be supported proactively so to change institutional culture.

Interestingly, reforming culture can be done without financial cost and therefore is not something that is necessarily constrained by the fiscal landscape of the sector. The training delivered by University of Portsmouth in collaboration with the Education and Training Foundation sought to help leaders begin to facilitate these changes. The training was derived from research and based upon the recent book Workforce Well-Being: Policy, Change and Leadership which is endorsed by Dr Vikki Smith, Executive Director of Education & Standards at the Education and Training Foundation.

Feedback from delegates undertaking this training highlighted the value of “Lots of relevant information; sharing; ideas backed up by research.”. The impact of this research and training may take time to feed through, but it is reassuring that leaders and managers are keen to access the materials in order to support their teams.

Author: Professor Stephen Corbett is a leading researcher and educator in the professional development of those working in education. His current research investigates how leaders can facilitate a culture of positive well-being in the education workforce institutionally, nationally and globally.