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Existing staff face persuasion to qualify as teachers

ALTHOUGH lecturers already working in colleges will not be required to gain teaching qualifications in the same way as newly appointed staff, most colleges are expected to insist that they do.

This includes the 20 per cent of colleges which, according to the survey by the Further Education National Training Organisation (FENTO), at present only "encourage" their staff to qualify as teachers. Colleges training existing staff will pay half the cost themselves and claim the remainder from the Government's standards fund.

Geoff Terry, FENTO's chief executive, welcomes the fact that, in future, staff will be contractually obliged to gain teaching qualifications. "It gives the whole thing more weight," he says. "Through the new framework, we will demonstrate that we expect the same standards of teaching from full and part-time staff."

Further details of the new qualifications framework should be revealed during the next few months. It should also become apparent which awarding bodies intend to offer new qualifications, all of which must be based on FENTO's occupational standards for teaching and learning.

Once the introductory or stage one qualification is developed for part-timers undertaking ad hoc teaching, there is likely to be a probationary period for FE staff in the same way as for schoolteachers.

FENTO's survey of 142 colleges showed that 11 per cent of full-time and 28 per cent of part-time lecturers currently working in colleges do not hold qualifications in line with the Government's new requirements.

Part-timers will continue to pose the greatest hurdle to the creation of a fully qualified profession - especially hourly paid lecturers without permanent contracts, along with staff supplied through agencies.

Sue Berryman, an assistant secretary at the lecturers' union Natfhe, admits that some colleges "cannot get their heads around" the problem of how to train hourly-paid part-timers.

But she is optimistic that measures to move many part-timers to fractional, permanent contracts should increase opportunities for development. "As the workforce becomes more stable, it's more likely that colleges will encourage people to gain a qualification," she explains.

Wynne Handley, chair of the National Association for Staff Development in FE, says some part-time lecturers who teach only for a small number of hours do not see teaching as their main profession. While they may be reluctant to undergo training, she accept that they should. "If they want to teach in FE, they should become qualified teachers."

Sheila Nuttall, director of curriculum and quality at the recently merged Westminster-Kingsway College in London, says colleges may have difficulty coping with the sheer number of part-timers requiring training in a short period. "I've never come across anybody who is not interested in getting a qualification because ultimately it benefits them."

The new system is bound to create anomalies across the UK. FE lecturers in Northern Ireland are already required to hold a PGCE, while those in Scotland are encouraged, but not required, to hold a TQFE (teaching qualification in further education).

The National Assembly for Wales has yet to indicate whether it intends to introduce similar requirements to those in England. Within English FE colleges, meanwhile, lecturers delivering higher education will need to be better trained than those taking degree courses in universities.

The Government has still to decide whether part-time agency lecturers must gain qualifications. One major issue is deciding whether a lecturer already working through an agency who moves to a different college in September constitutes a new or existing teacher.

The agencies themselves say they are in favour of staff on their books being teacher trained, although it is uncertain to what extent they will be willing to pay toward the cost.

Education Lecturing Services mostly relies on negotiating discounts for teacher training courses offered by client colleges such as Salisbury. About 15 per cent of the 60,000 lecturers on its database do not hold teaching qualifications.

Richard Eve, ELS executive director, says it regularly offers advice on professional development and is in the process of setting up schemes such as a new teaching licentiateship for part-time lecturers, in conjunction with Leeds University. "It's not in our interest to provide people who are inadequately qualified," he stresses.

Tracey Bovingdon, director of Nord Anglia Education Personnel, believes that agency lecturers should "feel part of the same system" as college employees but says her company would expect colleges to pay toward the cost of training - either directly or through higher charges.

Nord Anglia makes a profit of between 8 and 10 per cent on the lecturers it supplies. "That's not a huge amount of margin to be able to provide a serious amount of training," she adds.

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