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Concern at FE 'tweaking' claim

The General Teaching Council for Scotland has challenged claims that the current arrangements for the qualifications and development of further education staff merely need "tweaking".

Speaking at last week's national conference on training FE lecturers, Iain MacRobert HMI said the training review announced by Iain Gray, the Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Minister, did not need to be a "root and branch" one.

"We are getting a lot of things right and it only needs tweaking," Dr MacRobert said.

But Matthew MacIver, registrar of the GTC, told The TESS that, while the council welcomed the increase in the numbers of people attaining the main teaching qualification in FE (TQFE), it has concerns about the range of professional qualifications offered in colleges and whether these addressed the needs of all staff.

Mr MacIver said: "The whole area of professional qualifications in FE has become one of the council's key priorities." It has set up a working group to look at qualifications for staff teaching the post-16 stages.

Dr MacRobert appeared to take a more limited view. He said that awards are not about status but tools to get a job done and that the aim of the forthcoming review is "to keep the tools sharp". The review is expected to take about a year and will consider all aspects of initial and continuing professional development of FE lecturers.

As far as the attainment of the main teaching qualification in FE is concerned, Dr MacRobert said,"we are pushing at an open door", because of the increased opportunities available and the willingness of staff to access the qualification.

Around two-thirds of full-time FE lecturers have the TQFE, while two-fifths of part-timers have some form of teaching qualification. The targets set by the FE funding council are for a sector (rather than college) average of 90 per cent of full-time staff to have the TQFE by next year and for 80 per cent of part-time lecturers to have at least an introductory certificate to teaching in FE by 2004.

Gillean Hoehnke, of Edinburgh's Telford College, told The TESS that more staff are working towards a TQFE because there are now four universities offering the course as well as a variety of delivery models.

She added: "One of the teacher education institutions delivers purely by open learning, a flexible approach suitable for people who find it difficult to attend tutorials, while another delivers locally so that workshops are arranged nearby rather than have staff attending the university.

"There are also credit transfer arrangements where the TEIs recognise the work that FE staff have done in the colleges by gaining a professional development award. We are well on the way to having the PDAs validated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority."

Latest figures show that 32 of the 47 colleges in Scotland offer lecturers the chance to do PDAs. These awards appeal particularly to part-time staff : three-quarters of the 750-plus enrolments for PDA courses this spring were part-timers.

But there have been concerns about how effective the links are between the in-house training and the national qualification, as the Minister acknowledged in his speech to last week's conference, saying: "Talks between my officials and the four universities have made significant progress towards agreeing more transparent credit transfer arrangements and greater flexibility in provision.

"I have every confidence that when these issues are fully resolved we will have put in place a set of arrangements that can rightly be hailed as a trailblazing example of how the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework is intended to operate."

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