Lecturers in Scotland are about to be handed a set of occupational standards that will dramatically reshape training for current and future FE staff north of the border.
Scottish lecturers have been able to gain a teaching qualification for more than 10 years. Although optional, the qualification helps to put FE staff on a par with teachers in primary and secondary schools and allows them to register with the General Teaching Council for Scotland. It is normally taken within the first two years of lecturers accepting their first post in an FE college.
Four years ago, a committee chaired by Professor Kathleen Anderson, recommended that all full- and part-time lecturers should receive better professional training and that the qualification should become competency-based.
A set of draft occupational standards, agreed by all 43 FE colleges in Scotland, was unveiled in January this year, but publication of the final standards was delayed by the general election.
The draft standards involve 12 core units and seven optional units, covering advice and support for learners, the development of teacher-learner relationships, the design of assessment methods and identifying prior achievement.
It is estimated that just over half of full-time lecturers possess the qualification while a further quarter have gained it in either primary or secondary education before transferring to the FE sector. But the take-up of professional qualifications among part-time staff is far lower.
Alistair Aitken of the Scottish education department's post-16 division said the standards represent a new approach to the FE qualification and to in-service training. Qualified staff will be able to gain some of new units as part of their continuing professional development.
"The new guidelines will ensure that it is fully up to date and will help to increase the overall quality of teaching in colleges," he said. "We are trying to provide a framework for staff to develop their teaching skills throughout their career.
The Scottish School of Further Education at Strathclyde University will no longer be a monopoly provider. Further and higher education colleges will be able to run programmes leading to the qualification, providing they apply to become an approved provider of the new professional development units.