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Investing in our single biggest asset

The Scottish Further Education Funding Council initiative to provide "almost all mainstream college lecturers" in Scotland with a TQFE (teaching qualification, further education)is to be welcomed (TESS, February 2).

It is a measure of how little has been expected of further education in the past that new entrants to the profession have not been required to possess any formal teaching qualification. This would not be acceptable in the maintained school sector.

Robert Beattie, the SFEFC chairman, is quoted as saying that "teaching staff . . . are our single biggest asset". As a branch official and a member of the College Lecturers' Association executive, I could not agree more.

I would also observe that lecturers are working harder and longer than ever, in a rapidly changing environment, with an increased expectation that they will engage in some form of continuing pofessional development.

Underfunding, unplanned early retirements, recruitment and retention problems have all taken their toll. Morale is at an all-time low. A few quid for training is not going to solve the problems facing the sector.

If the SFEFC wants to see a real improvement in quality in further education in Scotland, it should facilitate this by funding FE adequately. It should continue by directly spending some money on FE's "single biggest asset", by funding an adequate pay award - Moray College lecturers' real earnings have fallen by about 10 per cent since incorporation.

And finally, the SFEFC should recommend a return to national bargaining in FE. This would promote financial stability and, hopefully, put an end to the poor industrial relations that characterise the sector.

Nicholas Taylor

EISCLA branch convener

Moray College

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