Skills Commission demands single teaching qualification

26th February 2010 at 00:00
Inquiry says division of FE and school staff stands in the way of expanding vocational learning

A single, universal teaching qualification should be created for staff in FE and schools in order to prepare for a growing demand for vocational education, an inquiry has recommended.

The Skills Commission inquiry, chaired by Sir Mike Tomlinson, said the current two-tier system stood in the way of expanding vocational learning to cater for additional students following the extension of compulsory education and training in 2013 and 2015.

It said that the measure would also put pressure on colleges to match the pay of schools, eliminating a gap estimated by the University and College Union as 6 per cent on average. "We cannot continue to perceive vocational education to be second class and inferior to academic education," the report said.

"We can't continue to label teachers of vocational education as a `semi- profession' and not afford them the status of their academic counterparts."

It said that a universal qualification would also remove the need for separate training bodies for schools and FE, and professional bodies for teachers and lecturers, proposing that the General Teaching Council and Institute for Learning (IfL) be merged.

As things stand, the inequality is a barrier to increasing the number of teachers with vocational experience and creating a quality vocational route from the age of 14, according to the commission, which consists of MPs, academics and skills experts.

The recommendations add to the support for FE qualifications to gain recognition in schools. Currently, lecturers must retrain or earn about pound;6,000 less as "unqualified" staff.

MPs on the House of Commons' children, schools and families select committee have said FE staff with Qualified Teacher Learning and Skills status should have an immediate right to teach in schools.

An IfL campaign has contributed to proposals for an "assessment only" route into teaching in schools, although the continuing requirement for a degree presents an obstacle for up to 70 per cent of FE lecturers.

Any changes face a political hurdle, however, with the Conservatives pressing for more stringent degree requirements for teachers in schools.

But with increasing demand for vocational qualifications - the number awarded grew from around 700,000 in 2000 to 5.3 million in 2008 - the commission said it is important that highly skilled and experienced professionals are able to move into teaching without too many regulatory obstacles or unnecessary qualifications.

The report also called for more research into effective teaching techniques for vocational subjects, arguing relatively little was known.

Julia Margo, former senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, told the inquiry: "Early research suggests that teaching vocational subjects successfully may be more challenging and require more training than teaching academic subjects."

Toni Fazaeli, chief executive of the IfL, said she opposed a merger with the GTC despite welcoming some of the report's recommendations.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said it had measures in place to attract vocational teachers without creating a "universal Qualified Teacher Status" for both schools and colleges.

A spokesman said: "We are targeting career changers to teach the Diploma and initial evaluation of recruitment to Diploma-specific teacher training courses shows we are attracting more people from industry and vocational backgrounds."

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