Meet The MD: David Gallagher Of NCFE
September 23, 2019

“It doesn’t matter what you want to be, it’s who you want to be that’s important.” David Gallagher of NCFE shares his advice on the importance of being the best version of yourself, but always being yourself. 

What is it the company does?

Meet the MD: David Gallagher of NCFE
David Galagher

NCFE is a national awarding organisation with a strong heritage going back over 170 years. Passionate about designing, developing and certificating diverse, nationally recognised qualifications and awards, NCFE is at the forefront of technical education and has contributed to the success of millions of learners at all levels.

A registered educational charity, NCFE is proud to be recognised for exceptional customer service and sector-leading expertise. NCFE offers an extensive portfolio of NCFE and CACHE branded qualifications covering a wide range of products and services for leaners of all ages across many subject areas and specialisms.

NCFE is also a registered Apprenticeship End-Point Assessment (EPA) Organisation, specialising in health, care, childcare and education programmes. The NCFE family of businesses also includes Skills Forward, which offers online diagnostics to support the successful delivery of Functional Skills, and Peer Tutor, a new platform offering high quality, on-demand, tech-enabled peer-to-peer tutoring support at low cost.

NCFE is committed to changing the lives of learners and supporting people to progress and achieve. The organisation’s purpose is to ‘advance and promote learning’ – with a particular focus on social mobility; supporting those who need it most to improve their career and life chances through learning.

Describe your role in no more than 100 words

I lead NCFE including NCFE Awarding, Apprenticeship Services, Skills Forward and Peer Tutor. My role involves me shaping the strategy and cultivating the culture of the organisation, developing the leadership and management team to be the very best they can be. I also play a leading role in the growth and continuous development of our business, balancing our social purpose and commercial objectives to ensure that we continue to make a significant impact on the lives of learners of all ages.

Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?

I joined NCFE in 2018 as managing director of NCFE Apprenticeship Services, leading a new team to deliver End-Point Assessment (EPA) solutions across a range of subject areas. I have since moved into my new role as chief executive at NCFE.

I have enjoyed a successful career in education, apprenticeships and skills for over 15 years. This has included working in the public sector for the Learning and Skills Council (now ESFA), several private sector training providers and also through establishing several successful new business startups within the sector.

In a previous role, I held a board position as group commercial director at Babington, a professional training organisation based in the Midlands. I also led the reshaping of the organisation and its proposition in response to the Apprenticeship Reform Agenda and emerging market opportunities. I successfully oversaw significant growth of the business, primarily though securing a variety of major corporate accounts. I also held board level responsibly for the creation of Babington’s innovative ‘NextGen’ blended delivery apprenticeship programmes which has received hugely positive feedback from customers and key stakeholders.

What do you believe makes a great leader?

I think it’s so important to be the best version of yourself as much as you can at work and to lead by example. I believe in my actions being aligned to my words and being bold and courageous, whilst also being considered. I also think that great leaders focus on helping those around them to be the best they can be.

What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?

I’m naturally a ‘get things done’ person and prioritising tasks when there is so much to get stuck into is a big challenge. It’s exciting, though, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. The pace of our sector really keeps me on my toes!

How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?

Spending time with my family and finding that balance between work and home is what alleviates stress for me. Taking time on an evening to cook and spend time with my wife and my two boys helps me keep a good perspective and value what is most important in life.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An archaeologist – basically because I wanted to be Indiana Jones! Then an architect and a golf course designer; I think I’ve always liked creating things.

Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?

Apathy is the enemy of energy and is something I really can’t stand. I strive to ensure that people are connected to what we’re trying to achieve and inspired to take action. We really believe in the power that learning has to change people’s lives and we’re a key part of powering education and training. So apathy is essentially our enemy because it means that power is sucked out of something that is so important.

Where do you see the company in five years’ time?

I believe that learning will change radically over the next five to 10 years, so I would like to think that NCFE has played a major part in developing new ideas and approaches that will create more opportunities for learning, particularly for those who need it most. I also see us being able to leverage more investment in learning through clearly demonstrating the significant positive impact that we’ve had on the lives of millions of learners in terms of their life and career chances.

What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?

I would say to be yourself. Be the best version of yourself, but always be you. I occasionally see leaders ‘playing the role’ and it shows. Plus, it must be exhausting.

As a leader, you have such an important role in setting the tone, the mood and ultimately the culture within your organisation. So I think it’s hugely important to be optimistic, consistent, balanced and fair.

Finally, I believe that feedback can be the single most important thing that can improve your performance as a leader. So, ask for feedback and ask people to be honest. Take the feedback with openness and humility, even when it stings.

What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?

I wish that someone had have told me that it doesn’t matter what you want to be, it’s who you want to be that’s important. We spend so much time asking children what they want to be when they grow up and that’s the wrong approach. Focusing on the kind of person they want to be should come first.

Qualifications – What Qualifications? Deregulation of Qualifications in England
November 21, 2018

The following article is by Ann Gravells, Author and Education Consultant.

If you are a practitioner in the further education, training and skills’ sector, it can be confusing knowing which qualification you should hold.Ann Gravells, Author and Education Consultant

I say ‘should’ hold, but you might not need one since the deregulation of qualifications in England in 2013 (there are different requirements for the other nations).

It’s now the responsibility of the individual employer, college or university to make the decision as to what qualifications their staff should hold. However, there might be requirements to hold certain teaching and/or subject qualifications as part of the programme being taught and assessed.

Practitioners are ‘dual professionals’ i.e. they are a subject expert as well as a teacher, trainer, assessor or quality assurer.

Teachers and trainers

The most popular qualifications for teachers and trainers are the:

  • Level 3 Award in Education and Training (AET)
  • Level 4 Certificate in Education and Training (CET)
  • Level 5 Diploma in Education (and Specialised Diploma) (DET).

Read more

ViewPoint: Why We Should Scrap GCSEs – Alice Barnard, Chief Executive of Edge
May 1, 2018

Former skills minster and current chair of the Education Select Committee, Rob Halfon MP, has called for GCSEs to be scrapped. The exams regulator Ofqual reports that the number of people who understand GCSEs well has fallen since last year from 70 percent last to just 62 percent.

Alarmingly, over a third of employers are not aware that 9 is now the top GCSE grade, 23 percent think 1 is the best grade and another 13 percent haven’t a clue! Even more alarming is that six percent of teachers think 1 is the highest GCSE grade!

Given that employers consistently say that exam grades are not at the top of their list of recruitment criteria, surely it’s time we should rethink how we measure the skills, knowledge and aptitudes of young people?

GCSEs are very good for measuring if students are good at passing exams, but not necessarily an indication of employability skills or even academic prowess. A GCSE in maths does not necessarily make you numerate.

Teachers often talk resentfully about ‘teaching to the test’ and the curriculum time taken up with drilling students in exam questions, which could be spent on acquiring a richer and deeper subject knowledge and understanding.

That manner of inquiry also helps to develop the research skills, resilience and creativity which employers value, but also better equips young people to succeed in further and higher education. Read more

The Costs of Failing Exams
April 18, 2018

Research by the Centre for Vocational Education find that pupils who do not achieve a pass in GCSE English have a high chance of leaving education.

Yet achieving a grade C increased the probability of starting a higher-level academic or vocational level qualification within three years by “6 and 9 percentage points”.

Dr Ruiz-Valenzuela, co-author of the paper, said that the study suggests “young people are not getting the support they need if they fail to make the grade…the marginal student who is unlucky pays a high price”.

Read the report here

Ofqual Looking for External Experts

Are you looking for a new challenge? 

Ofqual is looking for people to join them as external experts to help their work on qualifications and assessments for GCSEs, A levels, a wide range of vocational and technical qualifications and new apprenticeship end-point assessments.

External experts are invaluable to the work they do to ensure the qualifications they regulate are fit for purpose – making sure they assess the right things, in a consistent way, and can be trusted.

The following is their GOV.UK advert.

Who can be an external expert?

We are looking for people from a wide range of different backgrounds.

You might:

  • be a teacher, practitioner, assessor, examiner or an academic
  • have extensive skills and experience in a particular industry

Please read our Person specification and eligibility criteria – external experts (PDF562KB7 pagesfor full details of the role. Read more

The surprising thing Google Learned About its Employees — & What it Means for Today’s Students
March 15, 2018

The conventional wisdom about 21st century skills holds that students need to master the STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math — and learn to code as well because that’s where the jobs are. It turns out that is a gross simplification of what students need to know and be able to do, and some proof for that comes from a surprising source: Google.

This post explains what Google learned about its employees, and what that means for students across the country.  It was written by Cathy N. Davidson, founding director of the Futures Initiative and a professor in the doctoral program in English at the Graduate Center, CUNY, and author of the new book, “The New Education: How to Revolutionize the University to Prepare Students for a World in Flux.” She also serves on the Mozilla Foundation board of directors,  and was appointed by President Barack Obama to the NationalCouncil on the Humanities.

Read more

Executive MBAs – A Worthwhile Investment or Mid-Life Crisis?!
November 20, 2017

The Globe’s business-school news roundup – a case study by Jennifer Lewington

When Tharani Napper enrolled in a 15-month executive MBA, which requires studying for a degree while working, her colleagues and business clients told her she was, in her words, “crazy.”

After all, the 36-year-old married mother of two young daughters is enjoying a successful career as a pharmaceutical industry consultant. But the St. Catharines, Ont., resident decided she wanted to grow professionally without leaving her employer, Pivina Consulting Inc., where she is director of market access.


She says her boss, Pivina managing director Colin Vicente, quizzed her on what she would get out of the program given she has an undergraduate degree in biochemistry and a minor in business from McMaster University in Hamilton.

“I said I want to take my business acumen to a different level and I want to give better consulting services to our clients,” she recalls. “I feel like I have hit the top right now.” 

Read more

Graduated With a 2.2 or Below? Here’s What To Do
August 22, 2017

The follow article may be of help if you are involved in supporting graduates make career / life choices.

From networking to maximising your day job, experts give their advice on finding a job when your degree didn’t meet your expectations

Ripping open up the envelope to see you’ve received a 2.2 or below may not be how you envisaged starting life as a graduate, but don’t be disheartened: a lower degree classification doesn’t mean you’ve hindered your chances of securing your dream career, whatever that might be.

But for those unsure of what next step to take, it’s worth dedicating time to exploring what kind of career you’d like. Think about what interests you and what your passions are. “If you need help, find out if your university careers service can still support you,” says Laura Hooke, a careers consultant working at Loughborough University London. “They may be able to talk to you by phone, Skype or email if you are no longer in the area. See if you can access any useful resources on their website to help you consider the type of work that you want to do.” Visiting the career planner on the Prospects website might also prove fruitful, she says.

Maggie Stilwell, managing partner for talent at Ernst & Young, echoes Hooke’s point about thinking seriously about what kind of the graduate role you’d like. “It’s so important that you think about what you are interested in and what you think you want to do,” she says. “It can be too easy to get a role without valuing yourself and what is going to make you happy and satisfied longer term. When you know that, you can then work out how you get your foot on the ladder – it may not necessarily be something overtly badged as a graduate job or a graduate scheme.”

Read more

A-level Maths is More Useful for Top University Places than Private School
August 14, 2017

Taking maths at A-level is more helpful for landing a place at a Russell Group university than studying at a grammar or private school, research from University College London’s Institute of Education suggests.

A new report on the relationship between a student’s A-level subject choices and the university they attend found that sitting maths was associated with attending a university with a score on average seven points higher in the The Times Good University Guide.

In comparison, attending a grammar or private school instead of a comprehensive was linked to an uptick of around four or five points, according to the research by Catherine Dilnot, senior lecturer at Oxford Brookes University and UCL Institute of Education.

The benefits of having a maths A-level vary depending on the degree course a student chooses to study, but overall, Dilnot said the relationship is “significantly positive”.

There is even a maths premium for degree subjects that are not directly related to maths or which require a different skillset, such as languages and humanities.

While the research shows the significance of choosing maths at A-level, it does not examine how much weight each of the other “facilitating” subjects has.


To Read The Full Report Click Here


CIPD Policy Report – Where next for Apprenticeships?
August 29, 2016

The number of apprenticeships started in England each year has almost tripled over the past decade. The Conservative Government sees apprenticeships as a tool to increase national productivity and improve the wage and employment prospects of individuals. It has launched an ambitious reform agenda to deliver 3 million apprenticeships by 2020 – up from 2.4 million in the last parliament – and at the same time raise the standards of training and assessment.

Recent events – including Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, the Prime Minister’s resignation, a ministerial reshuffle and the moving of post-16 skills policy from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to the Department for Education – could lead to a shift in the direction of apprenticeship policy. However, the ‘post-16 skills plan’ published in July 2016 reaffirmed the commitment to these reforms and pledged further changes to raise college-based vocational education and better integrate the system as a whole (BIS and DfE 2016). The collection provides timely analysis to inform the direction of the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitments on apprenticeships under Theresa May’s leadership.

Written by a range of key influential individuals within the sector, The CIPD have published a report examining

  1. The aims and objectives of apprenticeship
  2. The philosopher’s stone? The case for national apprenticeship qualifications
  3. Employers and meeting the Government’s apprenticeship target: what could possibly go wrong?
  4. Unions and employers in the driving seat
  5. Sector-led approaches to raising apprenticeships: an employer’s perspective
  6. Why colleges and universities should be offering more and better apprenticeships
  7. University-led apprenticeships: a new model for apprentice education
  8. Lessons from abroad: the need for employee involvement, regulation and education for broad occupational profiles

To access the full report Click Here