A NEW three-level professional qualification for teachers in further education has been recommended to the Government.
Lecturers would be expected to take induction, intermediate and certificate levels under the new framework proposed by the Further Education National Training Organisation.
A new professional body for further education is also being considered. It would in effect mean a licence to practise in the sector - an institute to which FE lecturers would sign up to get the qualifications.
The idea is being studied by a working group including Department for Education and Employment officials, the lecturers' union NATFHE, and principals from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The proposed new qualification is expected to go before ministers this month. FENTO hopes it will be implemented in England and Wales by September 2001.
Geoff Terry, chief executive of FENTO, told The TES: "It will bring some professional status back to the FE lecturer.
"It will also give a sound framework for continuous professional development, which is something that's been sadly lacking for some time."
The new framework is built on FENTO's standards for teaching and supporting learning in FE, launched early this year by Baroness Blackstone, the further and higher education minister.
The first stage would be an induction level, described by Mr Terry as a "survival kit" for new lecturers before they enter the classroom. It would include the basics of classroom management, how to produce hand-outs and put together presentations.
Within a year, staff would be expected to take the intermediate level. Then, after three years, they would complete the certificate level.
The move has been welcomed by NATFHE. But the union says cash must be earmarked for colleges to spend on staff development.
The sums currently spent by colleges on professional development average just 1 per cent of their income.
Sue Berryman, the union's head of colleges, said: "If there's to be new money for FE, then first and foremost we would want to see that go into addressing pay levels.
"But coming a pretty close second is access to professional qualifications and professional development."
The push to get lecturers qualified is likely to be aimed more at those coming into FE.
The Government is believed to be considering exempting those who have been in the profession five years or more.
Judith Norrington of the Association of Colleges said: "We want a unitised, modular approach which can be tailor-made to the needs of the individual.
"But we shouldn't disadvantage people who are currently in the profession. We ought to safeguard them and make sure that what we do is top-up on practice if that is what's required."