THE Government is set to water- down radical proposals aimed at giving all college lecturers qualified teacher status.
Instead of a statutory General Teaching Council for FE - as planned for schools - they will introduce a "professional association" which lecturers can volunteer to join.
Any requirement that lecturers be qualified will be side-stepped in final government recommendations to be published within the next few weeks.
The onus will instead be on the new local learning and skills councils from next April to give education and training contracts only to colleges and other organisations which guarantee trained teachers on specified courses. Ministers have made it clear that they wish to avoid legal minefields that could lead to challenges from employers and unions under current employment law. Requirements on existing staff to become qualified will be phased in over five years from 2001.
In a "carrot-and-stick" approach to the issue of qualified teacher status, pound;50 million for performance-related pay - pledged in the Comprehensive Spending Review announced by Chancellor Gordon Brown - will be skewed towards trained teachers.
Employers and trade unions accept that effective reforms will take time and money and it will be five years before qualification levels start to improve.
But there is concern that the proposed professional association, which it is expected mnisters will ask the Further Education National Training Organisation to create, will not have real teeth.
Nadine Cartner, education officer for the Association for College Management, said: "Why should anyone join such a voluntary organisation unless it offers real value, promotion and rewards?"
Barry Lovejoy, national negotiating officer for the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, said: "There has to be a clear link between qualifications, achievement and good performance. But that does not mean performance-related pay."
In 1998, the Government said it wanted to ensure all full-time FE lecturers and those with a "substantial part-time commitment" should hold or have begun a recognised initial teacher-training qualification within five years.
A year later, Minister of State Baroness Blackstone began backtracking at a FENTO conference, when she said: "It is far too early to talk of qualified teacher status within five years."
A programme to promote QTS in colleges was to start this term.
Now results of consultations are unlikely to be seen before next month.
Research released by FENTO last month shows that most part-time lecturers want the same qualified status as full-time colleagues.
Two-thirds of the 400 staff questioned believed they needed teaching qualifications, and 29 per cent were in favour, with reservations.