Just try revoking my licence to skill
Now here's a riddle - though I doubt you'll find it in any crackers this Christmas. Question: What can be taken away from you before you've even got it? Answer: Your licence to teach.
After years of lurking in the educational closet, the Government has taken out and dusted down the Institute for Learning and stood it in pride of place on the further education mantelpiece.
Described as the professional body for practitioners in the learning and skills sector, it is in fact FE's version of the General Teaching Council, which has been happily handing out slaps to our colleagues in schools for years.
Just as doctors can be struck off, priests defrocked and lawyers deprived of their briefs, so we too can now look forward to being - metaphorically at least - publicly degowned.
Perhaps I'm putting too negative a slant on it. The body itself - revamped and relaunched back in September this year - proudly proclaims that it will raise the status of all who teach in the sector, as well as ensuring that they regularly update their knowledge and skills.
Everyone who's anyone in FE supports it: Government, management and unions, not to mention any number of other worthy and esoteric bodies that few have ever heard of.
But still I can't quite get this thought out of my head. If I do something dreadful at work, the first thing that will happen is that my employers will clobber me. No doubt, if it's really dreadful, they will turf me out on my ear. Then along will come the institute and clobber me all over again.
If they follow the GTC model, I could get anything from a reprimand to a two-year ban from teaching. And for this I will have to pay them pound;30 per year!
Actually I won't have to pay. As a sweetener to those of us already in the job, the Government has said it will pay our registration fees - although whether this will continue indefinitely is unclear.
From next year, though, those coming into the profession will have to cough up the pound;30 themselves. Why they have to pay and we don't will no doubt be a question many will want answered.
That same issue of unequal treatment lies behind the question with which I began this column. As an old-timer, I am not required to apply for what is being called a "licence to teach". I can do if I want, but I don't have to. But the new kids on the FE block will have no choice. They won't be allowed to operate as teachers without the "licence".
So, in theory at least, the first time I might see my "licence" is when it is being taken away from me! If I'm lucky maybe they will just endorse it. Or perhaps there will be a points system: six for careless lecturing and three for parking my teacherly arse in the principal's chair!
There is another compulsory element to being a registered member of the institute: 30 hours a year of "continuing professional development" - or "community service", as the wags are already dubbing it.
This should be a boon, but somehow that "compulsory" label knocks off some of the gloss. What if I only manage 29 hours in a year? And will my idea of what constitutes "development" necessarily tally with that of the institute? In short, is that non-existent licence in danger of being pulled once more?
No doubt we will soon find the answers to these and other as yet unforeseen questions. All existing FE practitioners have to register with the institute by the end of March 2008. It's hard to believe there won't be some laggards. On April 1, listen out for all those P45s thudding on to staffroom desks.