Ministers retreat on registration

Neil Munro

The Scottish Executive has bowed to the divided views of the further education sector and decided not to press ahead with a professional body for college staff.

But Nicol Stephen, Lifelong Learning Minister, has made it clear to unions and management that, while the time is not right now, he supports the idea and will return to it at a later date.

During consultation, the proposal for a professional body proved highly contentious. The Educational Institute of Scotland, the General Teaching Council for Scotland and NUS Scotland are in favour, and believe that the professional body should be the GTC.

But the Association of Scottish Colleges, which has long opposed moves for compulsory registration of FE lecturers to bring them into line with teachers, claims that such a body could hamper colleges' ability to hire staff from industry. Individual colleges were divided on the issue: some strongly supported the idea while others were firmly opposed.

The Executive did, however, find strong support for teacher training for all new lecturers - 216 out of 242 responses to the consultation agreed this was an essential ingredient in improving teaching in colleges.

Ministers have agreed, therefore, that new lecturers should be given time to acquire qualifications. Permanent full-time lecturers should be required to take the teaching qualification in FE within three years of their appointment, and permanent part-timers within five years.

Temporary lecturers whose contract lasts for at least an academic year and includes nine or more hours of class contact a week will be expected to have a basic grounding in teaching methods gained through completing the Introduction to Teaching in Further Education.

No time-scale is put on this, other than the suggestion that temporary lecturers should start their training as soon as possible after taking up their post.

Exempting temporary lecturers who teach less than nine hours a week is intended to allow colleges to bring in experts from particular industries or occupations, who might be deterred if they had to undertake teacher training.

The Executive stated: "The time-scales that we are proposing to allow for the completion of a TQ(FE) are more generous than those suggested by the respondents to the consultation. Most thought that new lecturers should be required to gain a teaching qualification within two to three years of being appointed."

Officials have sought legal advice to ensure these proposals do not contravene regulations which prevent part-time staff and those on fixed contracts from being treated less favourably than full-timers, and they are content this is not so. But the advice emphasised the importance of the "pro rata" principle in making training available to all staff on an equivalent basis.

There will eventually be a minimum requirement for continuing professional development, but the funding council is being asked to carry out an audit first.

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Neil Munro

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