More than four million 14 to 19‑year‑olds and adults are educated and trained through the FE system each year. Courses and options are numerous and encompass a fully comprehensive range of students. FE does not discriminate – why? It has a range of highly skilled, professionally trained and continually developing lecturing staff.
The government proposes to halt this, to remove the requirement for lecturers in FE to be professionally qualified, through its draft deregulation bill. The key driver for this is on the first page: “Publication of the draft Bill is the latest step in the Government’s ongoing drive to remove unnecessary bureaucracy that costs British businesses millions”.
Leaving aside, for a moment, the notion that this is designed purely to save money, let’s consider the impact this would have.
Learners enter FE to gain a qualification. The relentless drive by this and previous governments to qualify our young, middle aged and old, has resulted in a plethora of qualifications, courses and options. The rhetoric is well known: “You cannot expect to have a worthwhile career without a qualification”. Is lecturing not “worthwhile”?
And yet, the government now proposes that those who lecture in FE do not need a qualification to do so.
I find this deeply insulting and from the overwhelmingly positive response to the topic on #UKFECHAT recently, staff in further education at all levels agree.
At the start of my career as a lecturer, with two degrees and a PGCE, was I “grade one”? No. I had subject knowledge, yes, but more importantly, I had training in, experience of and an understanding of educational methods and pedagogy.
I was miles ahead of those without a qualification. This enabled me to develop learners, bring out their hidden talents, manage classrooms, and identify opportunities for learning in a way that a non‑qualified deliverer could not achieve. Qualifications are a measure of competence.
Those with subject experience can demonstrate how to plumb, wire or cut hair, for example. But the subject aspect is only part of the package. I have witnessed a number of people who are brilliant in their own field, some complete with PhD, utterly unable to connect with learners in their class. This has nothing to do with their subject knowledge, but is directly related to their lack of lecturing qualification.
An FE lecturer is a professional, trained to do a job and do it well for the most part. As new theories, ideas and models emerge, continuing professional development enhances their initial training and continues to prepare them to be better and more effective lecturers.
We have learners from age 14 upwards. In a school they would be taught by professionals with teaching qualifications alongside their subject specialism. A 14 year old in FE would have a ‘deliverer’.
Is the government saying that they do not regard lecturers to be worthy of professional status, but that teachers in schools are?
Are FE lecturers are not equally deserving of professional status? If not, then why are only the highly qualified teachers eligible for Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) allowed to teach in schools? I would say we most certainly are worthy of professional status.
FE teachers and lecturers – whichever name you prefer, or is that is part of the problem? Are ‘lecturers’ somehow not as valued as ‘teachers’? Labelling us one or the other does not change our professionalism, which gives us our ability to teach, yes, teach all the learners in our classrooms. We take on all comers and we are incredibly successful at making their aspirations and dreams come true. We achieve this because we are trained professionals, in both education and subject.
If the government persists with this foolish and dangerous notion, standards of achievement and progression in further education that we professionals have worked so tirelessly to improve will be decimated. Learners will leave unqualified (surely no connection to the recently introduced measure of ‘retention’ rather than ‘success’), numbers of those who are not in education, employment or training (Neet) will rise and the UK economy will suffer the greatest loss of emerging talent for generations.
FE is the engine of the British economy: removing the need for professional status will lead to poor educational standards, lack of future talent, a waste of young people’s potential and economic misery for many years to come. It will also be a betrayal of those who have worked so hard for their professional status and have shown their determination to pass that ethos on to the learners they teach.
Does the government expect future generations to be taught qualifications by unqualified deliverers? Does it expect standards to rise by removing the framework that safeguards those standards?
Don’t remove our professional status: you will be removing the opportunity to gain professional status for every learner in further education for the next 20 years.