Archived spotlight topics

This page details previously spotlighted topics of interest which were initially written up to support the Further Education sector in recovering from the immediate impacts of Covid.

We published the below series of spotlight topics to help teachers and trainers navigate the changes in living and learning, brought on by the pandemic.

While you may still find the topics to be useful, you can also browse elsewhere on our site for more up-to-date resources on related areas such as EdTech and digital or Safeguarding and Prevent, and you may wish to explore other professional development opportunities.

Spotlight on education for sustainable development (ESD)

As part of the UK Government’s ‘building back better’, greater emphasis has been placed on policies supporting long term sustainability, climate action and green jobs.   

Sustainability presents a huge opportunity for the FE and Training sector:  

  • developing the future workforce for organisations and roles that directly or indirectly support the achievement of sustainability goals, for example, through renewable energy systems or nature restoration.  
  • preparing our 5m+ learners for green jobs, developing their green life skills and helping them positively change the world they see around them  
  • supporting communities whose economies are based in ‘sunset industries’ – those that in the long term will become obsolete to ensure that a transition to sustainable economies is just and fair.  

It’s widely accepted that critical to the uptake of sustainability skills development across the education sector, is the competency and capability of leaders, educators and professional support staff. Despite this, various studies show that although the sector’s workforce recognises this, the vast majority (63% – 75% depending on the study) don’t feel they’ve had adequate training to deliver sustainability education or support sustainability outcomes.  

That’s why the ETF is developing tools and resources to support whole-organisation approaches to ESD, whilst also collaborating with sector partners to create a more enabling environment for ESD uptake.   

You could start with our curriculum mapping tool which will give you an insight into where ESD content can already be found in your curriculum. It will allow you to plan, measure and report progress over time and identify where ESD can be included in the curriculum. Our tips and ideas on how to embed sustainability into 32 different subjects will further allow you to explore subject specific suggestions. Many FE and Training sector providers are also adding explicit sustainability qualifications to their portfolio – to complement other courses to ensure learners have access to quality ESD. You can find out what qualifications are available for them and search this data to find the right courses for them and their learners in our Teaching Sustainability Tool.  

Read our case studies to learn about effective ESD practice from your colleagues in the sector and delve deeper into the existing ESD landscape and the FE and Training sector’s experiences of ESD with our research and insights resources.  

For more information, and to sign up to receive ongoing updates about ESD in the FE and Training sector, visit our ESD pages


References and further reading:

ETF. 2021. Experiences of Education for Sustainable Development in the FE and Training Sector. Available from:   

EAUC, National Union of Students, University and College Union, Association of Colleges and the College Development Network. 2019. Sustainability in Education 2018-19. Available from:   

Teach the Future. 2021. Teaching the Future. Available from:   

Behaviour and motivation – getting the year off to a good start

As the new academic year begins, learners are meeting teachers and trainers in new and different environments. This is not only exciting for learners but also a great opportunity for educators to set the foundations for a productive year ahead.

Whether learners are transitioning from school to further education (FE) or returning to FE after the summer break, it’s important that they understand expectations. This will enable them to feel safe, which allows them to fully engage with their learning.

This spotlight topic provides some practical resources to help you create an environment that promotes positive behaviours and raises motivation.

One important element of creating this environment is consistency. This should apply everywhere: to the language you use, to rules and consequences, to positive reinforcement, to your learning space and more. This theme is explored in more detail in the ‘Calm, consistent, adult behaviour’ article.

When establishing and maintaining classroom control, it can be helpful to remind yourself of the basics. Whether you are a new teacher or an experienced FE practitioner, read our top tips on classroom behaviour management and watch Geoff Petty explain how talking about behaviour can lead to more positive outcomes for learners.

Motivation plays a key part in maintaining a positive attitude and engaging with learning. Two further webinars explore the evidence behind what drives motivation and tips and strategies to motivate yourself, your colleagues and your learners.




(SET member access only) 


Safeguarding and Prevent – your summer checklist

For those who work in education, summer is always on the horizon with the promise of a much-deserved rest. In reality, however, many staff use this period to take stock and plan for the next year.  

If your planning includes reviewing your organisation’s safeguarding and Prevent measures, the Department for Education’s (DfE) ‘Prevent duty self-assessment tool’ is a good place to start.  

The tool is designed to help providers understand:  

  • how well embedded their policies and practices are 
  • what is working 
  • what requires further development.  

The self-assessment is broken up into three steps – evaluation, action planning, and summary. This should be conducted on an annual basis to ensure internal processes and external partnerships are effective and up to date.  

The new draft of ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ (KSCIE) is now available on the DfE website. Significant changes are being introduced from September 2022 with the aim of improving safeguarding, including: time constraints for pupil transfer, online checks for new staff, mandatory safeguarding training for governors and more. Your policies and procedures may need updating to ensure compliance. 

The ETF has a number of resources available to support you as you navigate this crucial area: 

  • Information about bespoke in-house training in the Prevent duty, British values, safeguarding and equality and diversity can be obtained by emailing  
  • Side by Side is a free resource about radicalisation, safeguarding and British values designed to raise awareness of the dangers of radicalisation and extremism to learners.  
  • You can join the ETF’s online safeguarding and Prevent courses looking at safer recruitment, digital safeguarding, governance and more.  

Finally, sign up for the ETF’s new quarterly newsletter on ‘Safeguarding and Prevent’ to get the latest news, training and resources on this topic.





Hybrid learning – top tips from the sector

The Covid pandemic has seen two years of disrupted learning and the Further Education and Training sector had to quickly adapt to new ways of working and learning, coping with constant change. Although the Covid restrictions have been lifted we are still facing change and disruption, having to deal with the impact of the past couple of years. However, this is also a good moment to look back and reflect on the lessons learnt during the pandemic and think what can be carried on in our practice.  

The ETF worked closely with a number of colleges during the pandemic to explore remote and hybrid learning, including  how to optimise learning activities for both sets of learners: attending remotely or who are physically in the classroom or workshop.  

Why not start with some top tips from North Hertfordshire College on best practices when using hybrid learning? In their project, they explored the practical considerations when teaching hybrid or remotely, from equipment to cohort size, as well as various methods to do so. 

In the conversations we have with practitioners, we hear that most feel more confident using digital technologies in their teaching and this is something they will be using post Covid. Explore key learning from Loughborough College who looked at expanding their staff’s digital skills and pedagogies and Weymouth College who conducted a study on improving practitioners’ digital skills to ensure classes are inclusive, with a focus on Special Educational Needs and/or Disabilities (SEND) and vocational learning. Step2Skills focused on engaging learners and maintaining good mental health when delivering remotely and in hybrid settings, looking in particular at ‘flipped learning’ and the use of Google Classrooms.

Case studies 

North Hertfordshire College 

Loughborough College 

Weymouth College  


Are your learners ready for the exam season?

Feedback from the sector continues to show that the impact of Covid has led to a heightened level of anxiety around exams and assessments.

Many students don’t have any experience of sitting formal exams in an educational setting and might feel under additional pressure from the loss of learning cause by the frequent disruptions brought on by the pandemic.

Share this Ofqual blog and guide with your learners for some practical tips on managing stress and anxiety around exams.  

Helping learners to absorb and recall information is a vital part of preparing them for exams. This article sets out a number of techniques to aid sticky learning.  

Confidence and motivation also play a huge part in learners’ ability to be ready to sit a formal exam. Look at these tips on how to support your students with becoming confident and motivated independent learners, and SET members can read this article full of practical ideas on how to build confidence through positive verbal feedback.

Further resources:




Guidance: DfE – Arrangements for exams and non-exam assessments for students taking qualifications in summer 2022

Guidance: DfE – Letter to heads about Advance Information on GCSE, AS and A level exams

Are you ready for the exam season?

The cancellation of many exams in 2020 and 2021, has had a complex impact on educational institutions and learners. Organisations need to prepare themselves to set up the exams this year and also need to support their learners who are understandably anxious, anxiety which is likely to be heightened by the loss of learning.  

In the first of a two-part series, this spotlight provides some practical guidance to help prepare yourself, your learners and your organization for the next exam season. In a couple of weeks’ time, we will look more closely at supporting learners deal with exam anxiety.  

Start with these top tips for managing exam anxiety and supporting learners through exams from the Education and Training Foundation National Head for Maths, Julie Baxter.  

Learn from some practitioner research undertaken by your colleagues. Petroc College found that to improve outcomes, they not only had to address gaps in learner knowledge, but also a lack of motivation and organization, Tameside looked at supporting students by fostering a positive mindset, and Sheffield College  developed a scheme of work using ‘mindset for learning’ activities to support building confidence, resilience and improve achievements for the resit of GCSE English and Functional Skills.  

For practical advice on exam arrangements look at this DfE guidance and this recent letter to heads. 

Further resources:

Publication: EdTech: Creating inclusive content: Principles

Research: Resit Resilience – The Sheffield College

Research: Can the Improvement of Systems and Practice Lead to Improved Outcomes for Learners? – Petroc College

Guidance: DfE – Arrangements for exams and non-exam assessments for students taking qualifications in summer 2022

Guidance: DfE – Letter to heads about Advance Information on GCSE, AS and A level exams

Motivating others

In recent weeks we have highlighted some strategies for motivating yourself and motivating learners. In the last of this mini-series on motivation, we examine how mentoring and coaching can help to motivate colleagues.

The benefits of mentoring and coaching for are widely reported and include: increased wellbeing, increased job satisfaction and increased confidence.

During the pandemic, ensuring teachers and trainers have access to tailored and skilled mentoring and coaching support has become even more important.

For the past 18 months ETF have been offering a range of free training programmes for mentors and coaches who are working with teachers and trainers to develop their teaching, learning and assessment strategies. The mentors and coaches participating in these programmes have invested time in supporting their colleagues to deliver high-quality online, blended and hybrid learning experiences. Their skills in mentoring and coaching have helped to encourage and inspire their colleagues to use new digital tools in effective and meaningful ways with learners.

The mentees and coachees who have been supported told us they feel more confident, more skilled and more motivated in their teaching practice.

If you are short of time, sign up for these upcoming hour long webinars. Choose the right group for you (leader, mentor or mentee), and join a conversation offering practical advice on how to make the most of mentoring.

Motivating your learners

We hope the last spotlight on motivating yourself was helpful.

In our survey you said that you are struggling with:

“Lack of enthusiasm from learners and poor attendance”

“Motivating learner progression”

“Learner attendance and retention”.

Here are some resources to help you motivate your learners and keep them engaged with their learning.

This handbook designed in conjunction with the ETF Centres for Excellence in Maths explores the topic of what motivation is, and how we can better nurture it in our classes. Further to this, Eddie Playfair, Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC) focuses on low motivation in maths learners specifically in this blog on Motivation and Engagement.

Teaching expert and best-selling author Geoff Petty discusses both the importance of motivating learners, and some strategies to do so in this webinar.

We caught up with Dr. Paul Tully, Professionalism Manager at the ETF, to collate 5 suggestions on how your planning, delivery and time with learners can increase their levels of confidence and engagement in learning at a time of year when levels of nervousness can be high and motivation, low.

Keeping your learners engaged when teaching remotely comes with its own challenges. In response to the Covid pandemic, the Department for Education have put together guidance on keeping pupils motivated and engaged when working remotely.

Further resources:

Motivating yourself

At a time of year when days are short and motivation can be hard to find, we have collated a collection of resources to help you, and your learners, find some much needed motivation to start off 2022. You might only have time to explore these 4 Tips for finding self-motivation, or you might want to think about your career progression and achieving your professional potential.

If you are looking for some inspiration on how to deliver even better teaching and learning, Geoff Petty outlines ‘Five steps to improved teaching’ in this blog: sometimes, having some new ideas can provide a spark of creativity.

With many of us making promises for the New Year, this blog from SET explores the reality of fantasising about achieving goals, and why it is we, despite our intentions, fail to achieve such goals.

Come back in a couple of weeks to continue with this theme and read about motivating your learners.

Further resources:

Promoting positive behaviour

Our efforts as educators must go beyond literacy and maths and the range of vocational courses our learners attend. We need to include creating the right environment which will allow learners to build the social, emotional, and behavioural skills they will need to fully access and participate in learning and make the most of their potential and future opportunities. 

Amid the pandemic, we know that our learners have experienced so much. The true extent of the collective ‘trauma’ has become revealed with many learners ‘outing’ this trauma through their behaviour from low level disturbance in the classroom to immature and disruptive behaviour causing potential safeguarding concerns.

We can’t unlock students’ potential unless we also address the needs they bring with them to the learning environment each day.  

This spotlight topic provides some practical resources for you to use to support creating an environment that is emotionally nurturing, something which is fundamental to learner success. 

Resources include a blog and short publications covering a restorative approachbehaviour intervention and de-escalation strategies, as well as top tips on creating a positive culture and managing behaviour and creating a safe space when teaching online.

Further resources:

Mental health and wellbeing

The FE workforce continues to adapt to ensure that our learners can access their studies in these continually uncertain times. But there is no doubt that the amount of change and uncertainty brought about by Covid-19 is taking a toll on both staff and learners. 

In our webinar Mental health and Wellbeing in FE: the new landscape1, our Centre for Excellence in SEND at Weston College highlights that in a survey by Young Minds 2020, 80% of young people said that Covid-19 had made their mental health worse. And even more worryingly, 25% of young people who tried to access mental health services failed to receive any support. Further, the AoC report on mental health and colleges2 reported that 94% of colleges reported having students who had attempted suicide.

Similarly, Covid-19 has impacted on staff wellbeing. In a forthcoming report on the wellbeing of the FE workforce during Covid-19 by University of Portsmouth due to be released in January 2022, they report a marked increase from pre pandemic responses to the statement, ‘I am thinking about myself in a positive way.’ 

So, what can we do to help? Ensuring that the mental health and emotional wellbeing of both staff and learners is supported from the moment they enter our sector and throughout their time with us is a priority. There are some excellent examples across the sector including Weston College’s whole organisational approach to supporting mental health3

1 Mental health and Wellbeing in FEE, webinar
2 Mental health: 94% of colleges report suicide attempts, 28 Jan 2021
3 Emotional recovery language in FE – what’s yours?, SET

Further resources:

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