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Refreshers for lecturers

OLDER FE lecturers will be expected to keep up to speed under proposals issued for consultation by the Scottish Executive this week.

The four-month consultative period is intended to cover the initial training and continuing professional development of Scotland's 14,500 permanent and temporary college academic staff.

The Executive accepts that the existing occupational standards which set out the competences required and guidelines issued in 1997 still stand colleges in reasonably good stead as far as initial training is concerned.

But arrangements for ongoing training are still in their infancy, the consultative paper says. The Executive "is particularly concerned to ensure that longer-serving lecturers who received their professional training many years ago have adequate opportunities to update their knowledge, refresh their existing skills and learn new ones".

The paper admits that, while some lecturers are now expected to be first line managers, the national training index for FE has no units that would allow them to develop their skills in managing the curriculum, staff or other resources.

Developments have also occurred which require lecturers to update their skills such as special needs and race legislation, the Beattie committee's recommendations on excluded young people and advances in the use of ICT.

All will require lecturers to become more sensitive to different ways of teaching, the consultative paper says.

Iain Gray, Lifelong Learning Minister, said that one of his main preoccupations is to ensure lecturers are sufficiently skilled to support students who are disabled, disadvantaged or from different ethnic backgrounds. "Students are only likely the realise their full potential if they are taught by committed and highly qualified professionals," Mr Gray said.

The unions believe this can be achieved if the main Teaching Qualification (Further Education) is made mandatory for all lecturers and registration with the General Teaching Council for Scotland then becomes compulsory.

"We wouldn't want to see the TQ (FE) watered down in any way," Marian Healy, further and higher education officer of the Educational Institute of Scotland, said.

Qualifications in FE must carry equal weight with those in schools, Ms Healy commented, particularly if the Government is consistent in its policy of promoting parity of esteem between the sectors and bridging the gap between schools and colleges.

Governments of both main parties have steadfastly refused to force lecturers to have a teaching qualification on cost grounds as well as for fear that the pool of recruits from industrial and business backgrounds might dry up.

The FE funding council now has a target that 90 per cent of lecturers should have the main TQ (FE), but this applies only to permanent, full-time staff.

The Executive suggests that all lecturers must "at the very least" have awareness training on all aspects of the diversity agenda. It is open to ideas, however, on the extent of any in-depth training that should follow.

The EIS believes that these issues will have to be covered in the initial TQ (FE) qualification or by additional units and awards taken later. The consultative paper indicates that ministers have not yet made up their minds and is seeking views.

The paper does not propose any other major changes to the TQFE but it is canvassing views on whether there should be a "streamlined" version, which would appeal to part-time lecturers in particular. It accepts there would have to be arrangements for those lecturers to upgrade to a higher qualification.

The deadline for responses to be received is July 18.

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