Young people do great things at Kent’s further education colleges – but do we always hear about them? Probably not.
Which is why the county’s seven colleges are getting together to support the Kent Teacher of the Year Awards – and are encouraging students and colleagues to nominate legendary lecturers and tip-top teachers before the deadline of noon this Wednesday, March 7.
“We want to raise the profile of further education and help people to recognise the opportunities available to young people and adults,” explained Mark Hill, one of the directors of Kent Further Education, the colleges’ umbrella organisation.
“People don’t realise what we offer. Some of the colleges’ professional facilities – professional standard theatres, for example – are unrivalled. Or they offer things that no school does, like Hadlow College [which specialises in environmental and nature-related subjects like agriculture, forestry and conservation].
“We feel our staff should be valued much more than they are, as what they do is quite incredible. And there are not many opportunities to praise your staff and encourage them to feel highly valued – most colleges have internal awards, but no one really hears about that outside the college – so the Kent Teacher of the Year Awards are really worthwhile.”
Further education colleges have several important functions. They offer technical, vocational and academic education to 16 to 18-year-olds, apprenticeships, higher education courses and adult education for people who are retraining or just studying for their own enjoyment.
Other options include English lessons for speakers of other languages and GCSEs for those without basic qualifications. East Kent College’s Technical School opens its doors at 14, offering an academic and vocational curriculum.
All of this means catering for a huge variety of students – and the ability to inspire and encourage students who, in some cases, will have struggled at school and lack confidence in their own ability. And since the students don’t have to be there, the teacher has to make them want to be.
“It’s a slightly more grown-up environment, but it requires students to have a lot more self-discipline and in that sense it is harder,” Mr Hill said.
“A very good further education tutor has to be truly effective, inspiring and engaging. The psychology of the relationship between the teachers and their students is quite different from school – they could be doing the same curriculum but have a different relationship with their teachers.”
Anyone who does paid or unpaid work in a school or further education college in Kent, Bromley or Bexley can be nominated for a Kent Teacher of the Year Award – including teachers, volunteers, governors, and non-teaching staff like secretaries and lunchtime supervisors.
Members of the public and schools can submit a nomination, either for individuals or whole teams, before the deadline of Wednesday, March 7. The winners will be invited to an awards ceremony at the Mercure Great Danes Hotel in Maidstone in May.
The awards are organised by the KM Charity Team and supported by Kent County Council, the University of Kent, Kent Sport, Canterbury Christ Church University, the University of Greenwich, Three R’s Teacher Recruitment, MY Trust, Social Enterprise Kent, Beanstalk, CXK, Salus, LoopCR, Kreston Reeves, Kent Further Education, and Diggerland.
For more information or to make a nomination visit www.kentteacheroftheyear.co.uk.