The amount of study required for FE teachers to become qualified will be halved under proposals for a new diploma in teaching.
Following Lord Lingfield's criticisms of the FE teacher training regime in his government-commissioned report on the subject, this week the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) unveiled its plans for new qualifications.
Currently the system involves three "nested" qualifications culminating in a diploma to teach in the lifelong learning sector.
Despite this week's announcement, teacher trainers have complained that they still do not know if the new qualifications will be compulsory, adding that the cut in the credit value of the qualification will reduce its effectiveness and undermine its credibility compared with training for schoolteachers.
Lord Lingfield's recommendation for abolishing the intermediate stage has been rejected by LSIS. His interim report said that the Level 3 or 4 certificate to teach in the lifelong learning sector, and the "associate teacher" role that went with it, were redundant. "So few lecturers either understood them or had used them that they were, in effect, a dead letter," it stated.
Instead, LSIS proposes a revised introductory qualification, now called a Level 3 award in education and training, worth 12 credits or 48 hours of teaching, equivalent to the existing qualification in preparing to teach in the lifelong learning sector.
FE teachers will also be able to continue their training with a Level 4 certificate, worth 30 credits, or a Level 5 diploma, worth 60 credits. But the previous diploma was worth 120 credits.
LSIS defended the change, saying that some schoolteacher qualifications have the same credit value, although PGCEs, for instance, are double the size. "The credit value is sufficient to meet its purpose as an initial teaching qualification and supports the transition to a career underpinned by continuing professional development," LSIS insisted.
"LSIS says that once you strip out the optional elements of the existing qualification, it's only moderately smaller," said James Noble Rogers, executive director of the Universities' Council for the Education of Teachers. "But they're only optional in that you choose which ones you want, not that you don't have to do any of them."
He added that it will put another obstacle in the way of efforts to make FE and schoolteacher qualifications equivalent. "I think it will be harder," he said. "The schools PGCE is 120 credits and tends to be at master's level."
Mr Noble Rogers said that teacher training institutions are also in a continued state of uncertainty over whether the new qualifications will be mandatory and how they will be enforced. The old ones will remain a statutory requirement until the reforms of FE professionalism are complete and until the possible creation of an FE Guild.
"It would have been nice to see what the regulations were going to say and what the guild was going to do first. It's all been done the wrong way around," Mr Noble Rogers said.
The plans drawn up by LSIS also include a Level 7 diploma, which would bridge the gap to schoolteacher qualifications as it is also at master's level, although it is intended for teachers "at the FEHE interface". But LSIS said this qualification needs a "longer time frame" to develop than that allowed under the current review.
Specific qualifications in teaching English, maths and English for speakers of additional languages are also proposed, as well as for teaching disabled learners, both as stand-alone awards and as additional qualifications for existing teachers.
The proposals are open for consultation until December.