Call for subsidies to avert collapse in FE teacher training numbers

15th July 2011 at 01:00
Universities say fee hikes will jeopardise efforts to attract trainees

FE teacher-training qualifications should be treated as a special case, with subsidies to prevent fees of up to pound;9,000 causing a collapse in the number of new entrants, universities have warned.

James Noble-Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET), said the high fees would price potential vocational lecturers out of the market.

He added that FE's increasing professionalisation would be put at risk by the proposed fees for PGCEs in FE and the diploma for teaching in the lifelong-learning sector, and argued that attracting teachers away from industry was already a challenge without the additional costs.

"If you price potentially good teachers out of the market, you damage other people's education. It is as simple as that," Mr Noble-Rogers said.

"Why would someone with a mortgage and other commitments leave a steady career to work in what is already a volatile and uncertain sector and have to pay for the privilege of being trained to do something that society has said is so important?"

He said that in FE, teacher-training graduates faced part-time working, temporary or short contracts and modest pay, rather than high graduate salaries.

Those retraining later in life, after a career in industry, will also have less time to pay back loans.

"They will, in fact, be in the worst of all possible worlds," he said. As well as harming the supply of teachers, high fees risked "a step back from professionalisation, with fewer well-trained and qualified staff".

"After some, but not enough, progress towards parity of esteem with the schools sector, we will soon start to move in the opposite direction," Mr Noble-Rogers said.

The plight of approximately 20,000 trainee teachers in FE had been overlooked in the wider revolution in HE funding.

But the UCET executive director said he believed the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) was working on a solution.

The Government has said that employers should generally meet the costs of training their own workforces.

But Mr Noble-Rogers said college budgets were already under pressure, prompting the growth of unqualified "associate" roles. In any case, he said, the ultimate employer was the Government.

UCET has proposed to the Higher Education Funding Council for England that teacher-training courses in FE are categorised as "strategically important and vulnerable" so that they can continue to attract Government funding.

That would mean adding FE teacher training to a list of science, technology, engineering and maths subjects, quantitive social science and modern foreign languages.

A BIS spokesperson said: "The Government is committed to the continuing delivery of high-quality teacher training that works for learners and offers value for money to the taxpayer.

"We have asked the Association of Colleges to lead a review of the current system and explore future options on behalf of the sector, and are expecting their report later this month."

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