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GTC wants to take charge of school-college bridge

Thousands of school-age students currently being taught in colleges need the protection of the General Teaching Council for Scotland - according to the GTC.

Talks are under way between the council, the Scottish Executive and the FE sector on developing a professional body for lecturers but it is unclear whether the GTC will emerge as the national agency to enhance the status and standing of staff in colleges.

Matthew MacIver, the GTC's chief executive, believes the council is the logical candidate and already has two lecturers' representatives on its main committee. Mr MacIver says there is no need for a rival body when the council could easily extend its activities.

He told last week's council meeting in Edinburgh that a substantial number of senior pupils are taking Highers through college in subjects such as politics, psychology and philosophy. Similarly, thousands of pupils aged 14-16 are now attending college for vocational courses.

"My main concern is that children are being taught by unqualified and unregistered people because the statutes say that we have to register teachers to teach school-age children. We need a sensible and open dialogue. I know there are conflicting views on this but we feel we have a legitimate interest in being involved," he said.

Mr MacIver accepted the differences between the sectors. "In the school system it is black and white: either you are qualified and registered or not. In FE it is different, where staff are brought in for short-term or specific work. There are big issues here but I want to bring some professional order into this and pretty urgently," he told The TES Scotland.

Bruce Heil, a GTC member and assistant principal at Edinburgh's Telford College, points out that 1,000 of the 14,000 lecturers in Scotland are, voluntarily, council members but believes others have yet to be convinced that the fee will provide professional benefits.

Mr Heil said: "A degree is not an appropriate qualification for some of the vocational areas in which FE staff teach. Further education also employs many part-time staff who work in other professions and are able to bring up to date experience into their teaching.

"These staff, however, are unlikely to ever achieve a full TQFE (teaching qualification). They will achieve partial teaching qualifications through the new range of professional development awards that are available. New categories of membership may be necessary for staff within FE. Overall, the current moves are a step forward."

A starter paper, prepared by Ian Manderson in the Scottish Executive's FE division, identifies key issues for a new body, including the regulatory framework in colleges. Standards and quality would have to be assured, along with procedures for discipline and complaints.

A new body would have to look at entry requirements for lecturers, teaching qualifications and continuing professional development. Are staff, for example, up to date with developments in their occupational area?

In a third area, a new body would take on the professional enhancement of the sector, helping to raise the status, esteem and identity of lecturers.

The Association of Scottish Colleges takes the view that the issue will eventually disappear as more and more lecturers become qualified, although not necessarily eligible for GTC registration.

The most recent figures show that 84 per cent of lecturers are qualified to teach, although that covers only full-time permanent staff and a third of lecturers are not in that category.

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