Flawed perceptions and a sense that the organisation is not relevant to them has led to many FE lecturers shunning the GTC. But now membership is set to be 'almost automatic'. Emma Seith reports
The General Teaching Council for Scotland has dismissed as "a myth" the belief that "unreasonable demands" are placed on further education lecturers wishing to register with the body.
At present, only 1,049 FE lecturers are registered with the council, out of a total of 6,660 permanent lecturers.
The GTC's education committee, which has been reviewing the situation, confirmed that the only qualification needed by college teaching staff wishing to register is the Teaching Qualification in Further Education, not a degree, as is often believed.
The proportion of the 4,690 permanent lecturers with a TQFE or equivalent at the most recent count was 70 per cent, although that falls to 50 per cent if part-time and temporary lecturers are included.
The only other condition before full registration can take place, according to the committee, is sufficient experience. In line with the teacher induction scheme, it stated: "the length of service required before full registration should be one year full-time equivalent at an appropriate level of professional competence".
The report circulated to council members at last week's meeting said: "There has been a belief for some time that the council has presented an obstacle to the development of school-college partnerships by making unreasonable demands on college lecturers who wish to register with the council and to deliver appropriate programmes of learning on school premises.
"In particular, it was believed that the council requires college lecturers to hold degrees in order to register. On examining existing policy documents closely, the working group found these beliefs to be a myth."
The council now hopes that more lecturers will register in future, making it easier to forge partnerships between schools and colleges, regarded as essential to the delivery of vocational courses.
However, Howard McKenzie, acting chief executive of the Association of Scotland's Colleges, claims lecturers do not see the council as the relevant professional body for them.
At Jewel and Esk College, where Mr McKenzie is principal, only 11 out of 160 have joined - in spite of the fact that he has offered to pay their fees and the majority have the necessary teaching qualification.
"Lecturers belong to other professional bodies more relevant to them," he said. "For instance, a lot of my staff have a qualification from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and belong to it. The GTC is seen as being very much oriented to schools and young people."
Nevertheless, Kirsty Devaney, who sits on the council's education committee and is the first Educational Institute of Scotland president to come from the FE sector, believes registration for colleges will now be "more user-friendly".
She said: "At the moment, once you have done the TQFE and a few years' teaching experience, there are still bureaucratic hoops to jump through for council membership and that can be off-putting. Now, once you have the teaching qualification and experience, membership, if not automatic, will be almost automatic."
The council was also optimistic the re-affirmation in the report that college staff should only teach "subjects which enhanced the curriculum normally offered by the school" will quieten fears among secondary teachers about "dilution of teaching" by unqualified lecturers.
Ms Devaney continued: "In light of school-college partnerships, there has been disquiet about the edges being blurred - who teaches what and where? who does the teaching? and are they qualified to do so? This report goes a way towards addressing these questions."
The Review of Scotland's Colleges last year recommended that a major effort should go into teacher training for new lecturers, and that this should be phased in over three years at a total cost of pound;15 million.
The review estimated that staff turnover would mean an annual requirement for 375 new permanent full-time lecturers, 135 permanent part-time lecturers and 545 temporary lecturers.