Labour would make teaching qualifications compulsory for lecturers in the FE sector as well as for teachers in schools, shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt revealed today.
After previously announcing that qualified teacher status would be made mandatory in schools, Mr Hunt outlined similar plans for the FE sector in his speech to the Association of Colleges (AoC) annual conference in Birmingham.
Contrasting Labour’s position with that of a government he described as “far more interested in talking teachers down than they are about training them up”, he told delegates that all FE lecturers would be required to hold a teaching qualification, as well as qualifications at Level 2 or above in English and maths.
The Education and Training Foundation would be tasked with setting “tough minimum standards on qualification and CPD requirements for teachers in FE colleges”, with lecturers also required to spend an unspecified period of time working in their industry each year.
The move was welcomed by Toni Pearce, president of the National Union of Students, which has campaigned for teaching qualifications to be made mandatory in the FE sector. “That’s basically what we think should happen,” she said.
“It’s also important the funding is put in place to make sure [teachers spending time in industry every year] happens. If people aren’t given the opportunity to do that and to be paid to do that and have continuing professional development then I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect them to.”
However AoC chief executive Martin Doel expressed concerns about the move. "Colleges, as autonomous institutions with a very diverse range of provision, should be trusted to appoint the right staff and support their professional development to meet the changing needs of students, making intrusive and detailed regulation unnecessary," he said.
Mr Hunt also announced several other policies designed to “break down the corrosive divide that exists between vocational and academic pathways”.
He gave a scathing indictment of the coalition’s record in office. “They have been in power for three years now and what have we seen? Apprenticeships devalued, work experience scrapped, careers services for young people completely dismantled, and teaching standards in further education unsupported.”
Labour, he added, would strive to improve the “quality and quantity” of apprenticeships. Businesses would be required to offer apprenticeships as a requirement for being awarded “major” government contracts. All apprenticeships would be at Level 3 or above and last a minimum of two years, with all Level 2 apprenticeships being rebadged as traineeships.
Mr Hunt also unveiled a new category of colleges – Institutes of Technical Education – to recognise institutions which “demonstrate strong performance in specialist vocational teaching; strong links with local employers; and high quality English and maths provision”. Institute of Technical Education status would be a pre-requisite for teaching Labour’s new “gold standard” Tech Bacc qualifications, he added.