Licensed to skill

29th June 2007 at 01:00

New standards supremo has the power to sack

LECTURERS WILL be forced to pay for membership of a professional body with the power to ban them from teaching if they break its code of conduct.

From September, new teaching staff will be obliged to register with the Institute for Learning, which so far has just under 2,000 voluntary members. Existing staff must join by April 2008 - and membership will, in effect, be a licence to practise as a lecturer.

Disciplinary hearings will be held where staff are reported for failing to meet the IfL's standards on professional behaviour, care of students under their supervision, or even maintaining their knowledge of developments in teaching.

The ultimate sanction would be to bar them from the IfL - meaning they would be unable to teach at any college or organisation funded by the Learning and Skills Council.

The institute will also support lecturers' new right to 30 hours a year professional training and development. Membership will cost about pound;30 a year, but the Government has pledged to pay the fees until 2011.

Sue Crowley, chairwoman of the institute, said it would be equivalent to the schoolteachers' body, the General Teaching Council, which has struck teachers off its register for everything from stealing six-figure sums from the budget to pouring toxic waste onto a hedge on a school property.

She said: "We have a code of professional conduct we expect people to follow and there will be ways of ensuring compliance via disciplinary procedures. The ultimate sanction is that you can no longer be a member of the IfL, so you can't do any LSC-funded teaching."

Mrs Crowley is a former science lecturer and teacher trainer who has also worked at the Centre for Excellence in Leadership and the Learning and Skills Development Agency. She said the institute's main aim is to support teaching staff in their efforts to maintain and improve subject knowledge and their teaching practice.

"Hopefully they will be looking to us for support, for challenge and for advice to figure out what the next stage is in their professional development," she said.

The University and College Union backs the institute and has a seat on its ruling council.

Dan Taubman, FE national official at the union, said the potential for disciplinary proceedings was the price lecturers had to pay for a body that would protect their professional status and prevent jobs being taken by cheaper, unqualified staff.

"I would call it accountability, not discipline," he said. "If we are professionals, which we definitely say we are, there has to be some sort of code of conduct." He said the union also supports provisions which would ban staff from displaying racist or sexist material.

The code also requires staff to promote professional behaviour in others, keep informed about good teaching practice, and to disclose any criminal convictions as soon as possible. Consultation on the final wording will continue until December.

The institute is intended to be run by its members, with its council drawn from the rank-and-file as well as from organisations in FE, so the union believes lecturers are more likely to be treated fairly.

Mr Taubman said: "We saw the IfL as a way for the professionalism of lecturers to be recognised. It's a profession of knowledge and skills. You can't just walk into a group of students and start teaching, regardless of how good a plumber or a lawyer you are."

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