further education

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A sector which encompasses all post‐compulsory education and training, with the exception of higher education. Although a semantic distinction is made between further and adult education, FE in its broadest terms encompasses this, too. The terminology for the sector has been subject to a number of recent developments, particularly in government policy documents, which refer to it variously as the skills sector, the lifelong learning sector, the learning and skills sector (although this does not apply in Scotland), and the post‐compulsory education sector. It is associated with vocational education and skills training, which, following the Foster Report (2005), has been confirmed as the primary focus of further education colleges. Traditionally, however, it has been widely regarded as the ‘sector of the second chance', providing an opportunity for learners who have not succeeded within the school system to re‐engage with their education, including preparing for public examinations such as the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level at colleges of further education. Referred to as the ‘Cinderella sector’ by Kenneth Baker when Secretary of State for Education in the 1980s, it has often been regarded as a relatively low‐status provision in comparison with sixth forms on the one hand and higher education on the other, largely because of its association with vocational skills training. Three decades later, in the Foster Report, it is referred to as a ‘middle child’, a metaphor which suggests that as a sector it still remains to some extent undervalued.

Subjects: Education.

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