Alarm at 'back-door' plans for lecturers

14th March 1997 at 00:00
The Government wants further education lecturers to do some initial teacher training in the higher education sector, a move which has alarmed the General Teaching Council.

The GTC, which was given two months along with other interested parties to respond to the proposal, has told the Scottish Office that the implications are "a major cause for concern".

The Council has been mounting a major drive to persuade FE lecturers to register following its unsuccessful pressure on the Scottish Office to make registration compulsory for FE academic staff as it is for school teachers. There is now a GTC further education committee.

Hugh Pollock, the committee's chairman, told last week's GTC meeting that any alternative to the FE teaching qualification (the TQFE) which was not offered through the higher education sector would not be under the GTC's control. The Council has a statutory responsibility for approving all initial teacher education courses.

The TQFE is currently available only from the Scottish School of Further Education, which is part of Strathclyde University. But the Scottish Office suggests that up to 80 per cent of the current course could be delivered outside the HE sector.

Mr Pollock said:"That would provide a back door to other providers as an alternative to the TQFE, thereby circumventing the accreditation and review procedures and quality control mechanisms of this Council. That is unacceptable." Although FE colleges undertake part of teacher training for their staff, it is always supervised by the SSFE.

The GTC is also concerned that the Government's plans could undermine its influence in FE by setting up a Scottish Further Education Professional Development Forum, which would accredit other training courses. The Council wants its relationship with the new body clarified.

The draft national guidelines setting out these new arrangements stress that the intention is to allow FE colleges to play a greater role in initial training, which would allow the TQFE to be linked into staff development, appraisal and credit transfer between courses.

This was attacked at the GTC meeting from Ken Johnson, a member of its FE committee and lecturer at the Glasgow College of Food Technology. He said that "farming out training to other providers could mean lecturers undergoing training at the college where they are employed. I'm very suspicious of the motives behind that".

But the Scottish Office proposals were more enthusiastically received by the Association of Scottish Colleges, representing the management. Chief officer Tom Kelly said it approved of devolving more training to the colleges. "It is generally sound policy that there should be an alternative source of supply, " he added.

Mr Kelly welcomed any move to give colleges greater ownership of and commitment to the training and professional development of FE lecturers. Such an approach would also be allied more closely to the VQ framework based on competence measurement and workplace assessment.

But George Livingstone, vice-dean at Jordanhill, urged the Council to be wary of a move which appeared to parallel the attempts, unsuccessful so far north of the border, to force schools to do more teacher training as an "on-the-job activity".

* Comment, page 23

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