IfL must learn how to listen

10th June 2011 at 01:00

The exposure by an elected advisory council member of the Institute for Learning's democratic dysfunction ("Union rejects fee hike U-turn and votes to boycott IfL", 3 June) highlights the progressive isolation of the vocal minority of advocates for the IfL's discredited, managerialist model of professionalism.

The IfL's modest electoral participation rates and invalid member surveys weaken the credibility of its associated satisfaction claims, and are increasingly undermined as thousands of lecturers express their rejection of a sectoral flat-rate stealth tax and refute non-developmental approaches to continuing professional development.

Opposition to the IfL fee is symptomatic of a general malaise: the degradation of pay, conditions and pensions; the casualisation of part- time and agency staff; issues of career development, pay differentials and promotion for women, black, disabled and LGBT lecturers; the widening gulf between lecturers' pay and executive salaries; and the glaring inconsistencies in the wider sector's professionalism agenda.

It is self-evident that professional recognition remains remote and that the sector's highly professional lecturers have not only been failed, but also subjected to additional burdens. Fundamentally, the IfL has set back the debate on the validity of a professional body in the sector.

Whatever the ultimate outcome of the current crisis of confidence, any resolution must be genuinely informed, steered and led by practitioners.

Signed by 41 FE staff members including: Hammud Al-Khatib, Liverpool Community College; Cherry Sandover, South Essex College; James Broome, Derby College; John H Collins, Cornwall College, Camborne; Kathryn Shaw, Cronton Sixth-Form, Widnes; Jeremy Peake, Ely Community College; Yvonne Dunn, adult and community learning tutor; Jago Silver, Truro College; Angie McConnell, Wigan and Leigh College and the IfL advisory council.

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