IfL membership remains optional for support staff

17th June 2011 at 01:00
`Associate' category to be determined by contract, not job title

Low-paid college support staff will not be forced to pay to become members of the professional body for FE lecturers, it has emerged.

The Institute for Learning (IfL) has moved to assuage fears that learning support staff - who voluntarily joined the Institute for Learning (IfL) when it was free - would be forced to pay to keep their jobs.

Following talks between IfL leaders, unions and employers, which were instigated by skills minister John Hayes, it has been confirmed that membership will be optional for "occasional" teachers, who carry out no more than 28 hours of classroom teaching per year.

It has also been announced that the category of "associate" teachers, who are required to be IfL members, only refers to college staff whose contracts explicitly state that they have taken on teaching duties, including "a combination of the responsibilities assigned to teaching roles", which must be specified.

The talks were organised following a furious backlash from lecturers over the IfL's plans to double its membership fee to pound;68 a year, after its Government subsidy came to an end. As revealed in last week's FE Focus, unions and the IfL have now struck a deal to cap the annual charge at pound;38 for the next two years.

Public sector union Unison had previously complained that non-teaching staff with low incomes, such as childcare assessors, (who earn an average of pound;13,000), NVQ assessors (pound;13,500) and learner progress coaches (pound;14,500), had received letters from the IfL telling them they would have to continue to be members - and pay the necessary fees - to keep their jobs.

The new guidance states that whether an employee is required to be an IfL member is dependent on their responsibilities, rather than their job title.

A spokeswoman for the union, which represents 350,000 education support staff, said: "The new definition of an associate teacher now makes it clear that the fees apply only to staff contracted to teach.

"This means that many learning and learner support staff in IfL membership are now exempt from becoming fee-paying members."

Jon Richards, the union's senior national officer for education, welcomed the clarity provided by the IfL.

"Learning support staff were swept into IfL membership as associate teachers, when it was government funded. The new agreed definition makes it clear that a licence to practice is only required by those in teaching roles.

"We are still concerned that the benefits of IfL membership for associate teachers are not yet fully proven and we will continue to raise this issue, as part of the IfL review this summer," he said.

Occasional teachers will still be able to join the IfL on a voluntary basis.

The IfL statement said: "Associate teachers are subject to existing regulations, but it is recognised that there has been confusion about the definition of an associate teacher, and the scope may have been assumed by some to be wider than is the case."

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