Institute for Learning to close over fears it will run out of money

The Institute for Learning, England’s professional body for FE lecturers, is set to close over fears it will soon run out of cash, it was announced today.

The non-executive board has recommended that the IfL close and its legacy and assets be passed to the Education and Training Foundation.

If the body’s elected advisory council agrees the proposals in a vote on July 17, the closure process will begin, with all key functions transferred to the ETF by the autumn.

Sue Crowley, IfL’s elected chair, said the organisation is currently in a “sound financial position” and holds surplus funds in reserve, but that it was not sustainable in future.

“Following a detailed review ... the board has concluded that without further substantial investment or alternative sources of revenue, IfL’s financial position would not be sustainable in the long term,” she said.

“More than anything, we wanted to ensure that the most valued aspects of IfL’s offer, the things that made IfL special, would be protected in the form of a legacy for teachers and trainers in further education and skills, and felt that it would be best to initiate an orderly wind-down of IfL and its operations.”

As TES revealed in April, the IfL has shed members in recent years after its annual government funding of £5 million was cut and it was forced to raise its membership fee.

The increase, from £30 to £68 a year, resulted in a furious backlash from the University and College Union (UCU), with tens of thousands of its members boycotting the IfL.

To make matters worse a critical report by Lord Lingfield concluded that the IfL had not won the backing of the organisations that should be its partners. Since then membership has fallen from 181,000 to just over 33,500, about a quarter of the profession.

Nevertheless its former chief executive Toni Fazaeli (pictured) insisted to TES that the body was “here for the long term” upon her retirement in April.

Sue Crowley said the ETF was chosen to continue the IfL’s work because its aims and objectives relating to the professionalism of teachers and trainers align closely with IfL’s.

IfL’s chief executive Dr Jean Kelly said: “It is vital that IfL members who have made a commitment to their professional practice by joining their professional body are supported and continue to have access to recognition, professional status and support.”

Those who have renewed their membership until 31 March 2015 will become part of the Foundation’s professional membership and will continue to receive access to continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities and support, she said.

“IfL and the Foundation are committed to the professional status of Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills (QTLS), and to ensuring that it continues to be recognised and offered to teachers and trainers in the sector. We are jointly in contact with the government to have the relevant statutory instrument amended to reflect the foundation’s obligations.

“Securing parity, so that teachers with QTLS can work in school settings on the same pay and conditions as those with Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), was one of IfL’s proudest achievements, and is a key part of our legacy.”

David Russell, chief executive of the Education and Training Foundation, said: “We are delighted to be offered IfL’s legacy and welcome the opportunity of supporting teachers and trainers in their professional development and ensuring that they have a voice.

“We believe strongly that teaching and training in our sector should be seen as a high-status profession, and that teachers and trainers should be encouraged to exercise professional autonomy and take ownership of their CPD, in the interests of improved teaching and learning, and for the benefit of learners.”

Related stories:

Toni Fazaeli retires as chief executive of Institute for Learning - April 2014

FE professionalism gets radical shake-up - March 2012

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