The UKFEChat community is a grass roots movement initiated by a few social media pioneers several years ago. Around the time of its creation, I was using Twitter for connecting with like minded educationalists, but believed I was a lone representative of the FE sector. That was until I stumbled across Sarah (@mrssarahsimons), Jayne (@fossa99), William (@tech_stories), Hilary (@hilarynunns), Carolyn (@clyn40) and Nikki (@gillersn) who were discussing FE related things on a cold, dark Thursday evening. I tentatively joined in the ‘chat’ and left feeling like I’d just stumbled across a gold mine. I have continued to mingle with my new friends most Thursday evenings and as time has gone on, more and more FE teachers and managers have joined in the discussions, with the number taking part over the years easily being in the hundreds.
From humble discussions came meetings, meetings turned to books and 3 books and a big old conference later the group continues to grow; impacting the practice of all levels within FE and influencing the high and mighty, not least Ofsted. In fact, Ofsted have invited the group on two occasions to debate and clarify the Common Inspection Framework and their role at HQ.
Without the support of City and Guilds, the TES, the Education and Training Foundation and of course the tireless efforts of Sarah Simons (Matron), we wouldn’t be where we are today as a group. They have been the catalysts for our growth as a community and as we continue to expand, we not only draw in people outside of social media, but we draw them to Twitter – the biggest staffroom in the world.
I have several colleagues that work in different institutions across the Midlands that have become involved since my early recommendations. These have gone on to play a part in spreading the message further across their own institutions – something that social media can’t do!
- Geoff Hughes (@huggies28) – A Teacher Education Manager at a large FE college. Geoff has become a regular contributor to the group and promotes the ideas with all of his students and staff.
- Stuart Allen (@stuartallen14) – a Senior Manager at another FE college. Has established his departmental teaching and learning strategy based on some of ideas that have come from the group.
- Janette Thompson (@EnglishFECoach) – A Teaching and Learning Coach and former colleague embraced the many ideas with regards to teaching and learning and now uses them with her coachees to support their development.
- Rob Moore (@ConstructionFE) – A Construction Manager at a large FE college in the Midlands. Relatively new to the group, he has taken many of the ideas and implemented them with his own team.
These are just a few individuals that have been influenced by UKFEChat. They give and take ideas which not only benefit the UKFEChat community, but also the wider communities in which they work.
Without UKFEChat, we wouldn’t have the contributions of these people, nor would they be able to take the ideas of the group back to their institutions. I have worked in three large FE colleges whilst being a member of the group and have certainly started to see things trickle down to others that aren’t on social media. If it’s not an idea from one of the books, it’ll be an idea from a colleague in a different college in which UKFEChat was merely the conduit of the information.
The opportunity to mix with individuals in similar situations from across the country allows us to open our minds to new ways of thinking, ways that we wouldn’t consider if we were stuck inside our little goldfish bowls. Yes, social media provides the door, but UKFEChat is the key to that door and what’s behind that door is a lot of treasure that can be taken back to our institutions to improve the sector.
The once small, Thursday evening Twitter group has and continues to take the FE sector by storm – stay tuned.