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Joint project with AoC, NUS and fbfe on Beliefs and Values in Fe

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  1. Background

This project arose from a meeting at BIS in July 2013 where the FE response to the Woolwich events and the aftermath was discussed. The importance of FE students being able to address the issues of faith, belief or values which underlie such events, through dialogue and discussion was emphasised, along with the lack of opportunities for them to do so in the current FE context.

A collaborative project was designed at the invitation of ETF, between AoC, NUS and the fbfe (National Council for Faith & Belief in FE)/AFAN training team, which has supported colleges on these issues since 2006. The project aims to support colleges in raising awareness of student needs, assessing needs, and developing staff confidence in handling these issues. It is designed to be completed by March 31st 2014.

  1. Action Programme

A joint action programme, in collaboration with AoC and the NUS Faith/Belief team, is proposed for colleges and learning providers in two phases. This project to facilitate dialogue among students on the key issues of values, meaning and purpose in life and work which underlie headline events such as Woolwich. will deliver Phase 1.

The project is designed to shift the emphasis of SMSC provision away from (expensive) direct work by the AFAN team, and towards supporting managers and staff in developing the confidence and competence to tackle issues of belief and values with students as part of college provision, on the basis of learner demand. Phase 1 in will assess needs and the required skillset among staff, identify key issues for students,

To assist with delivery, the AFAN website has available comprehensive resources ( ), covering a range of topics, such as belief, freedom, violence, social action, sexuality, including videoclips, visual and other materials which are attractive and interesting to students. Materials are designed for use in vocational and other training/education programmes, and in student activities, lunchtime meetings etc.


  1. Project Objectives

Objectives for the three project phases are set out below. Phases 1 and 2 are designed to run concurrently and could be completed within a three month period. These phases are designed to prepare for the Phase 3 delivery programme by raising awareness and assessing key needs among staff and students, so that roll-out of a demonstration programme, using the national coverage of the existing AFAN/fbfe team, could be launched as required.


PHASE 1a - Management

  • To raise awareness among management and staff of the need to engage with students on issues of values and belief and the opportunities to do so
  • To identify for each provider a responsible manager and student contact for SMSC activities 


  • To engage student bodies in an ongoing dialogue process on issues of values and belief
  • To identify controversial issues for the current generation of students

PHASE 1b – Staff and Students

  • To assess the major needs in handling issues of belief and values as identified by staff and students
  • To identify the delivery methods appropriate to the current context
  • To identify the skill-sets required for handling controversial issues

  1. Timetable -

i)                    Awareness-raising

-          27/1/14  NUS mail-out via FE JISCmail (mailing list), and FE network regional coordinators.

-          27/1/14  AoC mail-out via Principals’ Briefing, 14-19 Briefing – and to Student Services Regional Networks

-          27/1/14  NUS mail-out of reminder to JISC mail and regional coordinators for responses and requests to host focus groups, with the offer of a sample workshop at the same time if required

-          03/02/14 AoC follow-up note in mailings as before.

ii)                   Needs Assessment - Staff

-          February (Dates TBC) – meeting at AoC to collate responses from colleges and select participating colleges. (NB AFAN to hold preliminary interviews, to test interview schedules etc, at selected colleges where CPD or workshops are being held.)

-          March (Dates TBC) – interviews with staff at colleges selected from responses to AoC briefings including examples from North and southern regions.


-          7/2/14 11am. Meeting at NUS to decide on host colleges for the focus groups, based on responses from FE institutions to set times and location for focus groups and prepare mail-out. Planned dates: London region focus group- 7/3/14, North Region – 13/3/14, Third group (location TBC) – 12/3/14

-          Focus groups will be co-facilitated by NUS and AFAN, and an offer of a demonstration AFAN workshop will be made to colleges involved where requested.

  1. Rationale

The project addresses the three key factors preventing colleges making an adequate response to these needs:

(i)                  No curriculum time is available for students to engage with issues of faith, belief and values (unlike schools – where RE provision is available to all).  Extremism is nurtured when young people feel their views and questions are not addressed, forcing them into pursuing their interests individually or in small closed groups with no adult monitoring.

(ii)                Government priorities and funding focus on employment and skills-related training. Many colleges find it difficult to continue to provide the additional tutorial time, or extra-curricular/ enrichment activities, for SMSC-related (Spiritual, Moral, Social, Cultural Development) sessions where issues of belief and values have been addressed. 

(iii)               FE staff and managers, trained mainly to deliver vocational programmes, have indicated in surveys that they lack confidence in handling these topics without specific training. 

  1. Delivery

Methods used will be designed to facilitate rapid delivery within the time available with a minimum take-up of management and staff time. The key method for the needs assessment will not be a research survey, but management and staff needs will be assessed via informal interviews carried out wherever possible in association with the existing programme of AFAN activities (CPD and student sessions).

The colleges selected will include colleges new to the programme as well as those which have already been involved. Interviews will be semi-structured on the basis of the objectives set out above. Telephone follow-up will be used where required.

Student views will be sought using a similar methodology, drawing on student groups and using standard focus group methods to elicit key issues and concerns in these areas.



  1. Outputs

Outputs from phases 1 and 2 will include:

A report and programme specification with the following components:

  • Findings of needs analysis – management and staff
  • Identification of Skill sets required – management and staff
  • Practicable Delivery methods available to colleges
  • Current topics relating values, beliefs etc – students
  • Preferred methods of engaging with such issues - students
  • A database of SMSC contacts – staff and students


  1. PHASE 2 – Delivery of Demonstration Programme (TBC)

NB This phase will be designed to deliver the anticipated outputs (see 6 above) subject to the availability of further project funding in the next financial year 2013-14.


  • To deliver demonstration student workshops and support for in-college events where required.
  • To deliver CPD sessions for staff to develop the necessary skill-set to facilitate dialogue on key issues
  • To provide a troubleshooting service to colleges new to the AFAN/fbfe approach.

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