Kelly puts lecturers on training treadmill

17th March 2006 at 00:00
Union says staff must be given time off for professional development proposed in new white paper

Lecturers will find themselves on the other side of the classroom desk if the Government goes ahead with plans to make them continuously retrain.

In an effort to raise workforce quality, new principals could also be forced to go on leadership courses before they take up their post.

The measures, expected to be accompanied by new management and graduate training schemes, were put forward by Jane Williams, director of teaching and learning at the Department for Education and Skills.

The proposals are laid out in a white paper which has the personal backing of Ruth Kelly, the Education Secretary, who says the reform of further education and skills is one of her priorities. The paper is expected in 10 days' time.

Ms Kelly sees professional competence as being vital to improving colleges.

Lecturers will now face re-training throughout their careers to prevent them becoming rusty. It is expected staff will be granted five training days a year.

Ms Williams told a conference of the Association of College Managers that this new training regime would coincide with more freedom for successful colleges.

"Quality begins at home, with the provider," she said. "The approach is about how colleges need to drive forward through their own continuous improvement and their own improvement priorities.

"Everything we do nationally has to follow behind that. We want to restrict intervention to where it is really necessary."

But Paul Mackney, general secretary of the lecturers' union Natfhe, said continuous training must not become a new source of red tape.

He said: "We are happy with people keeping up their subject knowledge, keeping up with the exam system, discussing best practice and teaching methods.

"What we are not happy with is using continuous professional development to keep up with excessive administration that sometimes arises from the latest government gimmick.

"Lecturers are totally fed up with filling out forms and going to training sessions on how to fill out forms."

Natfhe has also said that, if training is compulsory, lecturers must be given time off to do it.

"Training just doesn't happen at the moment because colleges haven't allocated time off," Barry Lovejoy, the union's head of colleges, said.

Since 2001, new lecturers have been required to hold a teaching qualification, and by the end of this year, 95 per cent of all full-time staff are expected to be qualified.

The white paper is responding to demands from Sir Andrew Foster in his report on the future of FE to improve the skills of the college workforce.

Sir Andrew proposed compulsory refresher weeks in industry for lecturers to improve professional development. He also put forward a plan to bring more young talent into the ageing FE workforce. Nearly half of lecturers are over 45 with just one in five under 35.

Sir Andrew called for "radical approaches to develop leadership". The white paper will propose more management training and qualifications for principals - which could mean them having to do one of the Centre for Excellence in Leadership's courses.

The Foster report also suggested about 50 new senior middle managers should be recruited from outside FE.

Ms Williams suggested the white paper could also include measures to encourage colleges to provide more degree-level vocational courses.

And she said colleges may be offered cash incentives to build better links with employers.

This could be coupled with inspectors judging how well colleges meet the needs of industry, she said.

Speaking to a conference of the Association of College Managers, she said colleges should be rewarded for success in meeting employers' needs.

"Effective employer engagement is what you do every day," Mrs Williams said. "What we need to think about is about the way the system operates, the way the national funding system rewards colleges."

She said capital funding could be allocated according to colleges' success in adapting to the skills needs of their local employers.

Higher education will face similar pressures to ensure it engages with industry and meets its needs, Ms Williams said.


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