Bullied into IfL membership?

A warts-and-all picture of how staff view professional development across the education and skills sector is painted in the first survey of Institute for Learning members.

The survey, due to be published next week, reveals that 47 per cent of the 6,500 respondents - 5 per cent of IfL's total membership - said they had joined because their employers required it. A small group felt they had been bullied or forced into joining.

IfL's member survey 2008, carried out between June and August this year, found that many welcomed joining the institute for the professional development opportunities it provided and the benefits they would derive in terms of improved status.

All further education college staff are required to join IfL and to undertake 30 hours of continuing professional development a year. Those teaching in colleges from September 2007 must also gain Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS) status or Associate Teacher Learning and Skills (ATLS) status through the IfL. Those teaching before then are encouraged to gain QTLS or ATLS.

One respondent is quoted as saying: "I sincerely hope that this is maintained and not watered down by extending membership to persons who could have, but have not bothered, to undertake necessary training."

Another said: "I think that this (IfL) could be a great tool in order to advance our teachers, trainers and tutors into the next decade."

Others felt they had been forced to join against their will. The survey quoted one respondent, described as typical of this group, as saying: "I feel bullied into being a member and totally resent the existence of this organisation.

"I really do not understand how a government-sponsored scheme whose membership exists as a result of threats to their continuing career progression can hope to usefully serve that membership."

Respondents said the majority of staff in their institutions registered with the IfL because the college "persuaded them to do so without providing a satisfactory explanation of why they should do so".

The IfL conceded that it needed to take responsibility for communication membership benefits rather than relying on employers in the sector. Benefits listed by IfL include an online learning space, workshops and e- newsletters. Members said IfL should campaign for pay parity between schools and colleges. They also want employers to take responsibility for providing and funding professional development for their staff.

Responding to the survey, Toni Fazaeli, who writes opposite, said: "It is about being bold and courageous and putting our members first. We have grown very quickly as an organisation and this survey has highlighted aspects of our service that clearly need further work from us."

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