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Five-year plan seeks to deliver status, development and voice

Boosting standing of profession is key to establishing Institute for Learning's credentials as a membership body

The drive to raise the professional status of further education lecturers, trainers and assessors gained new impetus this week with the publication of a five-year plan by the Institute for Learning.

Its strategy for 2009 to 2014 is designed to consolidate its credentials as a professional member body for those who teach in the sector in the way that the British Medical Association and the Law Society represent doctors and lawyers.

Key to this, it says, is giving members more say in the policy and direction of the institute in order to impart a sense of ownership.

The strategy follows, and draws on, a survey last year which indicated that many of its 180,000 members felt remote from the institute, even to the point of being "bullied" into joining.

Toni Fazaeli, IfL chief executive, said: "I think participation is the key message. Building relationships with members is crucial."

She said the institute would improve its communication with members through online surveys and setting up regional networks to give lecturers, trainers and assessors access to IfL representatives at local level.

The institute's online networking site, REfLECT, gives members a personal space and an e-portfolio. Ms Fazaeli hopes this will develop into a useful tool for sharing best practice and asking for, and giving, advice.

"It is often unusual for national bodies to accurately reflect the voice of their members because these voices are often mediated by the leadership," said Ms Fazaeli.

"But it is hearing and acting upon those voices that will make IfL strong."

Three priorities guide the five-year strategy: benefits, professional status and collective voice. Benefits will focus on the institute's role in promoting excellence through professional development.

Practical material to help practitioners meet their 30 hours-a-year professional development targets, as well as gain access to research and discounted journals, are among the specific advantages.

The institute aims to raise teachers' status by promoting and, it says, "celebrating" the achievements of qualified teacher learning and skills, and associate teacher learning and skills for educators.

It has also rededicated itself to the task of upholding professional practice. It promises to promote its code of professional practice as a "benchmark of a highly reputable and professional workforce". The institute has scheduled no disciplinary hearings to date.

The third strategic aim - voice - reflects the institute's preoccupation with members' views, and gathering and using these to enhance its advocacy on behalf of the sector.

It has promised to consult members on which areas of national policy they want the institute to influence. Five core values underpin the strategy: professionalism, development, autonomy, integrity and equality. These were distilled from a member survey.

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