With the skills agenda becoming more prominent than ever in policy discussion, the history of curriculum in the Further Education (FE) college can help inform thinking about the way provision is conceptualized and designed today.
Professor Prue Huddleston and Professor Lorna Unwin’s contribution to Edge’s ‘Learning from the Past’ series delves into the historical evolution of curriculum in FE colleges in England since the 19th century.
Illustrated through novel archival insights, the report explores the complex interplay of actors and forces shaping the FE curriculum. Throughout their history, colleges have had a critical role in responding to diverse learner and employer requirements locally and nationally. They have shown resilience and adaptability, responding to shifts in national government policies and economic conditions. And they have responded earnestly to global concerns including nuclear war and more recently greening and decolonising the curriculum.
But colleges have also had to navigate tensions between their autonomy to dynamically exercise their expertise, student and employer choice, and the role of external accountability, especially as the state became increasingly concerned with stimulating supply of skills for the labour market. The report tracks how these tensions have expressed themselves through the curriculum, influencing the balance between general and specialised studies, enrichment, and affordability.