Jonathan Marshall

Jonathan Marshall

Hi, I'm Jonathan, I'm Head of Skills Strategy (Government Skills) in Government People Group. I've been an L&D professional for 18 years. I was Head of Learning for the FCO Diplomatic Academy 2014-19.

Location Brighton and London, UK


  • fantastically helpful, thank you!

  • It means agreeing that an action will be completed at a later date than originally planned - therefore moving it 'to the right' (into the future) along the dateline of the project plan

  • Thank you very much Shubhangi, both for the feedback and for the extra resources! Good luck with next steps and I am delighted to think that some of JASPER might be translated across to Marathi.

  • Nightmare scenario for anybody advocating short sentences.

  • Oxford English Dictionary!

  • Great! You could remove the word 'indeed' - and I think 'agreed with' is plainer English than 'echoed' - but those are very small points.

  • I think it depends heavily on the context (website, email, article etc). Maybe 1-3 medium-sized sentences? What do people think?

  • That's excellent Srikant! You could remove the words "checking out" from the first sentence, but on the other hand, maybe that sets an informal tone and is worth keeping. It's a long paragraph, so could be split into two or three paragraphs for easier reading if you were publishing it. There is probably a plainer English version of "educational attainment" -...

  • The 'Progress' tab at the top (next to 'To Do' and 'Conversations') should show whether there is anything else to complete. In general the certificate is only available to people who have bought a FutureLearn subscription (or paid for the individual certificate) but there are also some special arrangements.

  • Hi, yes almost all the material is available for free under the Limited Access option, but if you want access to the tests and the certificate, you will need to pay - either for this course individually, or via the Unlimited subscription option.

  • Thanks Laura, that's a great resource!

  • Welcome to the course Pakhtana, thank you for participating! I hope you find it useful.

  • Hi Sakina, welcome to the course! All the very best for your studies, in difficult circumstances, and I hope you find something interesting and useful in these steps.

  • It means focusing on the easier things - or in other words, to look at the fruit you can pick while standing on the ground, not the fruit you need to climb the tree to reach! It's a strange phrase but you hear it a lot in business and government.

  • Hi Sinan, there is good summary of acronyms and abbreviations used on the internet and in text messages at - Would be great to get other people's suggestions.

  • Exactly! Many thanks Peter for your active participation in the course.

  • Hi, I think it all depends on the reader. If you sent me an email using the phrase "Ex-Works" I wouldn't have a clue what it meant! But it would be perfectly understandable within a specific industry. The problem arises when specialists talk to non-specialists - such as doctors to patients, or civil servants to members of the public (or to their new Ministers).

  • That's a great attempt to explain by Ruth. I included these examples because they are almost impossible to understand - and yet they were used in public by a professional services organisation and a Government Department!

  • Welcome Yaiza. We'd be really interested in whether you find anything of value in the course related to your school work.

  • Welcome Ana! To add to the confusion, we usually say 'mother tongue' rather than 'mother/maternal language' - I have no idea why. Hope you enjoy the course!

  • Chief Operating Officer (but there may be others!)

  • Hi Foteini kai kalos orisate, elpizo na vreite kati xrisimo mes' sto programma (big fan of Greek here!)

  • Tbh = to be honest, iirc = if I recall correctly, afaik = as far as I know!

  • Welcome to the course - and thank you for joining!

  • The 's' in 'practise' as well.. hi Ruth! Looking forward to your feedback :)

  • That's very true that households have their own jargon, special family phrases etc!

  • Thank you very much for the feedback Thila, and good luck with next steps. 100% open access would be ideal, but we also accept that FutureLearn need some income to keep this platform going.

  • excellent examples!

  • Hi and welcome to the course! Just to let you know, as a government employee, you could also register for the internal version of this course, which includes a free certificate and unlimited access. However it's basically the same content. If you'd like to do that, you'll need a Civil Service Learning account, then enter 'writing' in the searchbox and go to...

  • 'blue sky thinking' means creative thinking, or thinking beyond today's immediate problems and constraints - but it's become a bit of a cliché!

  • I have seen a Senior Civil Servant send round the record of a meeting with a "tl;dr" section instead of "Executive Summary". I'm not sure everybody getting the email would have understood!

  • Welcome Armaghan. As I expect you know already, FutureLearn has opened its courses to women and girls in Afghanistan for free: Wishing you all the best with your studies.

  • Hi Rokhsar, welcome to the course. The free ('limited access') version of the course doesn't include a certificate, but it does include all the course materials apart from two tests. If you pay for the course upgrade, or are a FutureLearn Unlimited subscriber, you get access to the tests and the course certificate.

  • Hi Shafiq, you might find this resource helpful: How to Start a Course on FutureLearn

  • Hi Hannah, yes the Government Digital Service can take a lot of credit for driving up standards on UK government websites. This blog is a bit old but sets out the rationale nicely:

  • Hi, I'm Jonathan! I'm the lead facilitator on this course, which I designed in 2022 with a lot of help from Civil Service colleagues. Over 2,000 people have enrolled on the internal version but this (January 2023) is the first time we've been able to make it available externally. There are a few modifications but it's 95% the same. I'm really looking forward...

  • I studied English. Glad to say that FCO doesn’t restrict to IR and law graduates, as is the case with some other Diplomatic Services.. @AliceRowe

  • @VivienKeenleyside hi Vivien - the Graduate Internship Scheme (cancelled in 2020) is separate to the Civil Service and Diplomatic Service Fast Streams and the Summer Diversity Internship Programme, which are unaffected I believe - more info here

  • You’re right- it’s per day. There is obviously a scale of languages so eg Spanish will be at the lower end but for Mandarin, Japanese and Korean, it’s pretty much two years of full-time study. The size of the investment reflects the value the FCO puts on being able to communicate fluently in the local language.

  • Many thanks Peter, those are great insights.

  • that's a shame - we know there are some organisations (including in UK government) that block access to YouTube from work computers, for technical/security reasons, and a few countries do as well. Hope you're able to access from another device at some point, or that transcripts can act as partial substitute.

  • Hi, yes "senior leaders" means all grades from Head of Department upwards, which includes the vast majority of Heads of Mission.

  • @AndrewManning Hi Andrew, that's a good question. As Serwah says, there are no quotas or other forms of positive discrimination. The crucial thing here is to look at the BAME figures by grade. The figures are given on p6 of the FCO's Equality and Diversity Report 2018-19...