10 Reasons Why the FTA Leads the Way in Quality Education
Jenny Holloway CEO of Fashion-Enter Ltd, parent company to the Fashion Technology Academy, explains what the educational department means to the company…
‘When we decided to open a much-needed academy for the teaching of technical skills in garment construction I knew I had to know what I was letting myself in for! I then spent three years retraining as a teacher, an assessor and then an IQA. I am now working on being an EV for the Skills Education Group. How can you do anything right in any profession if you don’t know the detail!
‘This was a journey! I had no idea how hard the training was; the commitment to quality teaching is so deep it goes beyond topic learning and you can see why teaching is rightly regarded as a core profession.
‘Educational psychology reveals how quality learning involves the study of memory, conceptual processes, and individual differences (via cognitive psychology) in conceptualizing new strategies for learning processes in humans.
‘One of the core areas that amazed me was the different methodologies of teaching which basically review how motivated the learner is, cognition and how learning occurs, how external and internal barriers to learning affect the learner, how teaching takes place – the transfer of knowledge and how vital the correct assessment is of the learning to ensure the learner knows the right knowledge has the right behaviour and competency.
‘So after running the UK’s first Fashion Technology Academy that is located within a factory environment what have I learnt about the art of teaching – why are we so niche and why do we attain the results we have?
1) The lack of confidence to learn
‘I have always loved to learn and never stopped to think that learning and training and recalling information and data is difficult. I never even thought about it but we have learners that have had large curve balls come their way and it knocks them for six. They come in depressed, low and lacking in any confidence so the first job we have here at the FTA is to encourage them to believe in themselves and believe that learning is a way out of their current jobless situation. We call this their mindset. They come in negative and we have to turn this around.
2) External barriers to learning
‘So many of our learners have had horrendous times – I mean totally devastating times such as Flora who was a child soldier for South Sudan.
‘In such situations we have to give a learner time and commitment and whilst this is closely related to above it’s not the same because this includes physical issues such as distance to travel, dependants who may not even agree with the learner trying to better themselves. Many of our learners have issues with reading and particularly writing too, so we have had to develop functional skills as a complementary support too.
3) Preconceived ideas
‘We are not a school and we are not a traditional college either. I don’t really know what we are or how to describe us but we are certainly niche with a high tutor/technician ratio to learners so we can provide close support 1-2-1 and mentoring. We also don’t just keep our teaching to the syllabus either. We include mental health and well being free seminars, a psychologist Debbie, comes in to support and an open door policy that is relaxed so the learners know that they have true confidential support. We are almost a Community Learning FTA. We know who our community is and we are proud of each and everyone of them.
‘I love this part of training. It’s spot-on for work related learning and the next part of learners lives. Every learner needs to have:
- Independent Enquiry
- Creative Thinking
- Reflective Learning
- Effective Participation
It is about developing the learner as a whole, so not only will they be qualified in industry skills but they will be able to enter the workplace as confident and capable individuals.
5) Practice makes perfect
‘We are developing skills that lead to jobs in the garment manufacturing industry so that could be stitching but also pattern making too which is a higher order level of thinking which means that learners really have to use more evaluation skills and have to be stretched and challenged too. We want to embed these skills into their long-term memory. We take the four stages of human development and aim for the unconscious competence – ‘they perform their skills without even thinking about it because it’s totally embedded and fully learnt with the right levels of competency’. We use GLH as a guide but it means nothing – it really does depend on the ability of learners to absorb and learn. We spend the right time for each person so knowledge “clicks”.
5) Assessment and Feedback
‘This is a tricky one! When you have a reluctant learner who may have SEN or underlying mental health issues negativity is not a word to be used anywhere at any time. Constructive feedback and positive reinforcement of a good job achieved so far is how we work with our learners and that’s to instil confidence. It works. I do not know of any time when the stick approach to the donkey has worked within the FTA – it’s all about carrots and juicy carrots too. Assessment also takes place every single day. It’s not just regarded as a tick box to ensure that the awarding body is now happy. It’s inbuilt to everything that we do within our SOW and lesson plans.
6) Adults, not children
‘We naturally give our learners respect and give them the opportunity for creativity and fun. We encourage our l earners to accept that it takes time to make a shirt with bagged on cuffs compared with a castle cuff but isn’t that so much more rewarding? We also embed popular themes and current news into the curriculum too by using CPPD and enrichment sessions that allow the learner to grow and develop. To learn the art of debate and critical thinking and to embrace diversity and work as one. We often talk about synergy because that’s how our factory works – as one big movement to ensure that 2 + 2 = 5!
Life & Business coach Eric Gilston regularly holds motivational workshops with our learners, here is an example of the feedback received from one of his sessions:
“Eric was absolutely great. I believe anyone attending the workshop will benefit from him.” – Callum
“I think this is a very good and thoughtful seminar for students and workers at Fashion-Enter. Seminars like this can really change people’s lives for the better! I also think Eric is wonderful!” – Brittney
“I have learnt how to be positive and achieve my goals. Eric has made a great impact on how I feel in terms of work / life.” – Saffron
“I love it when Eric comes in, he makes me feel so motivated and really boosts my confidence. Please bring Eric in again!” – Selvie
“I learnt about writing my daily affirmations to achieve my goals realistically. Good job, well done.” – Elizabeth
7) Goal setting and teachers expectations
Each learner is unique and each has their own ways of learning and so our tutors have to be flexible, nimble and have the ability to bend to how the learner learns best. Of course we have timely completions to consider but we will often cluster around a slow learner so there will be more one-to-one learning or the motivation to provide free additional fabric so they can create their own dress to wear. The more the learner trusts us the better. We always work on SMART but for each learner there has to be differentiated learning so the steps can be as small or as large as they need to be. Let’s not over face and let’s not undermine. It’s a fine balance but with gifted tutors and the lack of finger pointing blame within the FTA culture it can all be achieved.
8) Industry standards
‘We have to make to industry standards using the latest audits and compliance information including Optitex 3D systems that only a handful of main retailers have. We want our learners to excel in the outside world and by giving them the skills to use the latest automation so they are one step ahead of traditional FE and HE colleges. Optitex has £230,l000 of investment – our students can use this for free within the courses.
9) Respect deserves respect
‘As for support we do expect good standards of punctuality and attendance and we also expect that the teachers are respected too. We will not allow people to attend if there is any poor behaviour or unacceptable conduct. Everyone knows that they have one strike and then they are out. This is what it’s like in the real world so why would our FTA be any different? We are making our learners industry ready.
10) It’s also about the teachers
‘I personally think we forget how hard tutors work and how much they give. Our tutors are from industry and are then retrained as opposed to initially being teachers. For us that’s better as we need up-to-date industry knowledge but we then really do look after our teachers with strong CPPD, WTM (weekly team meetings with coffee and the cakes at the ready). I do not come to work to be miserable and I want to have fun and have a good time – I spend more time here that at home! So to me standardisation meetings, CPPD, enrichment and having an open, honest culture is absolutely key to success.
‘I am extremely proud of the FTA and the quality of teaching that we provide but don’t just take my word for it, tap here to read the latest 2019 Ofsted report on the FTA.’