EIS says training for lecturers is just a 'fig leaf'

14th April 2006 at 01:00
The current approach to continuing professional development in Scotland's colleges is no more than a "fig leaf", according to the leading union figure in the sector.

Marian Healy, national officer for further and higher education in the Educational Institute of Scotland, said: "The status quo of one-day workshops and seminars on specific topics cannot continue."

She said that this fig leaf approach to CPD "leaves colleges and their staff open to criticism".

Ms Healy suggests that professional development should be a mandatory requirement for colleges, just as it is for schools. Otherwise, "college principals might prefer to continue investing in new buildings rather than the CPD needs of those who have made Scotland's further education colleges a world class educational service".

Writing in the FE journal Broadcast, Ms Healy criticises the Association of Scotland's Colleges for paying lip-service to the value it says it places on those who deliver FE, yet without spelling out how colleges should meet the professional development needs of those same staff.

She continues: "Should colleges not provide for the CPD needs of their staff, they run the risk of making a career in further education less attractive and of being incapable of attracting the best staff to the sector."

Drawing attention to a perennial FE union complaint, Ms Healy notes pointedly: "Colleges will want to ensure the growing disparity in pay between colleagues in schools and higher education does not become a major factor in choosing FE as a career."

The EIS believes that the Scottish Executive's key policy of encouraging school-college partnerships makes the different approaches to pay between the two sectors even more glaring - as it will the much better CPD arrangements for schoolteachers.

Ms Healy's remarks are timed to reinforce yet again lecturers' complaints that they are being treated as second-class citizens, with no requirement to be teacher trained and without a professional body such as the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

The EIS is highly critical of the failure by ministers to promote the idea of a professional body for FE staff, after a consultation concluded that "the time was not yet right to establish this type of body".

The Executive has agreed, however, to move towards increasing the number of lecturers who are teacher trained, requiring a minimum amount of professional development and improving training for support staff.

Ms Healy argues, however, that there is no indication of how this is to be brought about. A way forward is expected to be one of the key recommendations from the current review of FE in Scotland.

She says CPD needs will be the major challenge facing Scotland's colleges over the next few years. But she acknowledges that increasing the number of lecturers who are teacher trained "will place strains on college finances".

Confirmation that the Executive is beginning to take FE staff needs seriously has come from Ian Manderson, an official in its lifelong learning department. Mr Manderson points out that the induction and initial teacher training of college lecturers has already produced a set of standards covering the use of ICT in teaching, teaching young people and managing a curriculum team. Achievement of these standards will lead to an advanced diploma.

The Executive plans to back up these and other CPD awards with teaching material and assessment tools from the next academic session. "Though the proof of the pudding is in the eating, the new units and awards should significantly improve provision for the training and development of college lecturers in Scotland," Mr Manderson believes.

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