Decision time over the IfL

18th March 2011 at 00:00

As 1 April approaches, from when the Institute for Learning's membership fee will be raised from pound;30 to pound;68 a year, protests show no sign of abating and everyone is casting around for a solution to the mess.

Everyone in FE is in favour of having qualified lecturers. Most teachers want a professional representative body and the Government wants a licence to practice as a quality mark. But recent surveys and Facebook discussions show that the Institute for Learning (IfL) has failed to convince its members of the need for its increased budget and membership fee.

Revelations about its pound;2 million cash reserves seem to echo FE minister John Hayes's words at the Association of Learning Providers' summer conference last year: "The easiest way for politicians to show that they care about a particular area of policy is to throw money at it . some aspects of publicly funded adult learning have certainly seen their coffers swell as a result of that approach."

This leaves employers and unions with a problem. Many of their representatives sit on the IfL advisory council, but their employees and members are asking them to speak out against the IfL and support a campaign of non-payment. If they oppose the IfL, how can the professionalism agenda, which they support, be maintained?

There are two options: either seek wholesale reform of the IfL or support an end to compulsory membership, thus leaving it free to serve its voluntary members as it chooses. Given the depth of feeling expressed, wholesale reform is unlikely to satisfy protesters.

An end to compulsory membership is in the hands of Mr Hayes, who has shown a willingness to sweep away needless regulation by scrapping the principals qualifying programme. Most people in FE would argue that the same approach should be taken to the qualification and licensing of lecturers by ending compulsory membership of the IfL.

Martin Ellison, FE lecturer, Stamford, Lincolnshire.

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